Joshua Chatham Pate sometimes has an audience when he does his volunteer work for Adopt-A-Stream.
Last week, the high school senior was ankle deep in mud in the creek that runs beneath the East Beach causeway when he saw a stark white object in the outgoing tide under the bridge. He balanced it on his long-handled sample net and tossed it up on the pedestrian walkway on the bridge where a woman and child watched.
Seeing the intact rib cage and spine of what was once a very big fish, the excited youngster said, “It’s a dinosaur.”
It held no interest for Chatham who went back to collecting barely visible shrimp, snails or whatever other tiny organisms were in the mud and water.
Chatham is one of the seven active Adopt-A-Stream volunteers in Glynn and McIntosh counties that Maggie Van Cantfort has trained and oversees as a “coast to confluence” watershed specialist for the Altamaha Riverkeeper. The Riverkeeper operates the program along the Altamaha from north of Baxley to the ocean for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Chatham is her youngest volunteer and gives all indications of some day pursuing a career in environmental science, she said.
His work in Adopt-A-Stream includes collecting water samples to test for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and salinity of saltwater streams. In freshwater streams, there are also tests for conductivity.
On freshwater streams, the Adopt-A-Stream program also collects macroinvertebrates. Chatham has taken it upon himself to do the same at his sample sites, but he does under Database of Estuarine Macroinvertebrates, or DEMI, a program of his own creation. Chatham said he does so to measure the diversity and population of the tiny organisms in the streams.
He does it by collecting samples in a net and screening sediments, usually mud.
Van Cantfort said Chatham is among her most enthusiastic volunteers and she could use more like him. The program is open to anyone, and she will conduct another round of training for new volunteers in the coming weeks.
“We’re happy to get them out there and get more eyes on our waters,’’ she said.
There are nearly 1,300 Adopt-A-Stream volunteers statewide. More information is available at Georgia Adopt-A-Stream.