"We noticed that we had two really accomplished young people who stood so far outside the crowd, so we decided to honor them with special youth achievement awards," said Courtney Beckel, Johnson Creek Watershed Council's volunteer coordinator.
The two young men, Phil Nosler and Adam Nayak, both 17, received their awards at JCWC's annual celebration held at Reed College on May 25. Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish was the keynote speaker.
Nosler is a Clackamas County resident who has interned with JCWC and participated in the organization's dragonfly survey program, Beckel said.
"It was an honor to receive the youth achievement award from the Johnson Creek Watershed Council. It felt nice to be recognized for my work, and I am glad to continue volunteering for their organization," Nosler said.
He recommends volunteering with JCWC because the programs are "full of enthusiastic support, engaging activity, and have apparent and beneficial results."
He further noted that the organization's ongoing battle to help salmon would not be possible without all of their volunteer salmon-monitoring programs, native-vegetation plantings and creek cleanups.
New discoveries, plans
Beckel said that Nosler recently made the first Multnomah County observations of two species of dragonfly and also discovered a new millipede species.
The dragonfly program is set up to monitor the health of the watershed by monitoring the biodiversity of dragonflies in the watershed. "Dragonflies directly depend on aquatic systems for their life cycles, so it follows that a healthy watershed will support more species of dragonflies than an unhealthy watershed," Nosler said.
"I'm interested in dragonflies because ... they are colorful, charismatic, constantly active, and are best watched on beautiful summer days by meadows, ponds and streams."
The two species that Nosler observed are the black meadowhawk and the autumn meadowhawk, both seen on a single day at Westmoreland Park, one of JCWC's recent restoration project sites.
Nosler said it did not surprise him to see the red autumn meadowhawk, but he described the sighting of the black meadowhawk as a totally unexpected find for the Willamette Valley.
"It is somewhat strange for this species to be found in the Willamette Valley at all, since it is usually found at high elevation in the Cascades or out east," he said.
"It stood out because it was a very aggressive and fast hunter, viciously chasing down newly emerged variegated meadowhawks. It didn't catch any, but the two came to blows in midair several times."
Nosler also discovered a new millipede species that has not been named yet; he found it on Gabbert Butte, one of Metro's properties in Gresham.
"The animal is probably about 1.5 centimeters long, white and has neat ridges on the upper surface of its segments, which are characteristic of its family," he said.
Nosler, who was home-schooled, is enrolled at Clackamas Community College. He said his long-term future plans include getting a doctorate degree in entomology at either the University of Oregon or Virginia Tech.
He added, "Short-term plans are to participate in the planning of Gabbert Butte Park in Gresham and the upcoming JCWC dragonfly monitoring season."
Nayak is a senior at Cleveland High School in Portland. He has been working on a stormwater management program for JCWC since November of 2016 and is "also very accomplished in the visual arts," Beckel said.
"Winning this award from the watershed council has meant the world to me. The council inspires me every week, and I feel so grateful to work there and to be honored by the people I know and love," Nayak said.
"I am committed and dedicated to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and hope that my work with the council continues for as long as I'm here in Portland. I'm so thankful for the council and for all of their support and guidance."
Nayak said he has been doing independent research this past year on the effects of urbanization on flooding in four stream basins near Portland.
"Through my work I was able to calculate the areas of green infrastructure that needed to be implemented annually within each stream basin to counteract the effects of yearly development on flood severity," he said.
He is trying to implement these change and noted that green infrastructure is "important not only for flood mitigation, but also to water quality and stream health."
Nayak added that "large concrete spaces prevent infiltration of rainwater into the ground, leading to extreme high flows during storm events."
Parking lots carry oils and anti-freeze directly into streams after heavy rainfall, which can be detrimental to river health.
"By implementing green infrastructure such as bioswales, we can retain these pollutants and allow for increased infiltration within heavily impervious spaces," he said.
In addition to his achievement award from the JCWC, Nayak recently was honored at both Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair and the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environmental Project Olympiad for his research on the effects of urbanization on freshwater ecosystems.
At ISEF, Nayak won the Best of Category Award in Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency's Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award. The latter includes a trip to Washington, D.C., next April to present his research at the EPA's Sustainable Design Expo.
At ISWEEEP, he won the Grand Award in Environmental Pollution and Management, as well as special awards for scientific achievement.
"All of this came as a surprise to me as I went into these international fairs expecting to come home empty-handed. I feel deeply honored for the support and positive reception my work has garnered and hope to continue to promote sustainable practices within my local community," Nayak said.
After Nayak graduates from Cleveland High School, he plans to attend college to pursue a degree.
"From there, I hope to continue in a career surrounding environmental conservation. As a student, I am trying to learn as much as I can in order to promote positive change in the world through conversation and collaboration," he said.
"Overall, I am passionate about applicable science and working together with communities to create environmental impact."
The best part about working with the JCWC is the community, he said.
Nayak added: "Everyone is so positive and supportive. Working there always brightens my day and gives me hope. I love working for positive change within the community, and through my work with JCWC I feel I have been able to do that."
Other awards given out on May 25 at the JCWC annual event include the Riffle Awards, which volunteer coordinator Courtney Beckel said are "presented to individuals and groups whose actions in the watershed in the past year best exemplify our mission to promote restoration and stewardship of a healthy Johnson Creek Watershed through science and community engagement."
The awards are divided into five categories: Nonprofit or Community; School and Youth; Jurisdictional Partner; Business Partner; and the Ernie Francisco Award for an individual who has left an indelible legacy on the council for the year.
This year's Community Partner Riffle Award winner was the Crystal Springs Partnership, while the School and Youth Riffle Award was given to North Clackamas School District's Sabin-Schellenberg Center. Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District won the Jurisdictional Partner honor and the Business Partner award was presented to Moda Health's Milwaukie office.
The last award of the night was the Ernie Francisco Award, named for one of the council's founders. It is always given "to a single outstanding individual whose contributions have left a lasting impression on our work," Beckel said.
This year's winner was Alan Lumpkin, a volunteer for the council since 2014.
For more information about the JCWC, visit jcwc.org.