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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program - 2013-10-16

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Five questions with John McLeod

by Lindsey Smart, APNEP Project Coordinator
October 16, 2013
 
Several weeks ago, John McLeod joined the APNEP team as the Virginia Watershed Coordinator. In addition to his duties as Watershed Coordinator, he also serves as TMDL Coordinator for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. Receiving his undergraduate degree from Virginia Polytechnic and State University and graduate degree from Old Dominion University, John brings with him a variety of skills - program management, scientific research, marketing, and outreach coordination. As an introduction to our partners in the region, we thought we would let John tell us a bit more about himself and his experiences in the environmental field.
John McLeod portrait 
John: In 2001, I graduated from Virginia Tech (VT) earning a B.S. in fisheries science. While attending VT, I worked for the U.S. Forest Service, surveying trout and eel populations in remote mountain streams.  After graduating, I worked for the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center at VT, where I developed experimental aquaculture techniques to culture more than 50 species of federally listed freshwater fish and mussel species. I have spent time snorkeling in search of rare fish and mussel fauna throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. I left VT in 2002 to pursue a career as a high school teacher, where for six years, I taught environmental science and coached football and wrestling. I left teaching in 2010 to earn a master’s degree studying hydrogeology and wetland science at Old Dominion University (ODU).  Joining ODU’s wetlands research lab, I assisted in the development of a comprehensive program to model constructed or restored wetlands in the Virginia Piedmont region. In the spring of 2012 I joined The Elizabeth River Project, where I managed the River Star Home social marketing program. I went back to Virginia Tech in June 2013 as a special research faculty member on contract to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and APNEP.
 
Lindsey Smart: Tell us a little bit about your job duties within the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 
 
John: I coordinate development of TMDL Implementation Plans (TMDL IP) for waterways that fail water quality standards in Southeast Virginia and the Eastern Shore. To encourage stakeholder involvement in the TMDL IP development process, I manage grants that support regional watershed roundtable meetings and contractors involved in TMDL IP development. In addition, I serve as a liaison between Virginia and North Carolina to facilitate communication and data sharing between the regions. I also attend APNEP board and committee meetings and assist in implementing APNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP).
 
Lindsey:  APNEP’s ecosystem-based management approach requires coordination and strong partnerships. Tell us how your background has prepared you for building these partnerships in the APNEP region.
 
John: As a program manager for the non-profit organization, The Elizabeth River Project, I frequently participated in a variety of meetings and workshops to address and overcome water quality issues. Many projects resulted from the partnerships created during these public meetings. Projects ranged from wetland restoration and oyster reef construction to remediation and removal of toxic river bottom sediments. The success of these projects can be attributed to the power of diverse partnerships. I can use the experiences gained through these projects to help build similar relationships in the APNEP region. 
 
Lindsey: You have spent some time teaching. How are education and healthy estuarine ecosystems connected?
 
John: When asked, I have never had a person admit to intentionally harming the environment where they live, yet every day, many people unintentionally harm estuarine ecosystems without knowing it.  Simply over-fertilizing their lawn or not properly maintaining their septic system can affect the water quality where they live. Education and social marketing are critical to inform the public about the activities that can negatively impact our estuaries and the activities they can participate in to improve the health of the estuarine ecosystem where they live. Our goal as educators should be to go beyond merely educating the public about water quality issues; rather we should inspire a permanent change in people’s behavior, a change that will help restore and maintain healthy estuarine ecosystems.
 
Lindsey: Research was a large component of your graduate studies. What was the most valuable aspect of your research that you foresee applying to your APNEP work?
 
John: In graduate school I studied and modeled the hydrogeologic relationships between watershed uplands (recharge zones) and rare carnivorous plant bogs occurring at the hill toe-slopes (discharge zones). From my studies, I have come to realize the many ways that land use in watersheds directly impacts the health of wetland ecosystems. Understanding how the entire watershed is truly connected gives me the ability to see the big picture of the puzzle, yet also focus on the small-scale pieces needed to build the picture.
Lindsey: Do you have plans to explore the North Carolina coast anytime soon to get a lay of the land and fully appreciate all the APNEP region has to offer?
 
John: I plan to enjoy the beautiful scenery and pristine North Carolina waters as frequently as possible. I love to fly-fish from my kayak and plan to visit Merchants Mill Pond for some fishing/photography opportunities. Also planned is a fishing trip to Oregon Inlet for some specks and drum. My family and I will camp in Corolla this fall so my little girls can see the wild ponies.
 
NOTE: Our partners will be able to interact with John at workshops, Science and Technical Advisory Committee meetings, and outreach events throughout the watershed. If you would like to contact John directly, his e-mail address is John.McLeod@deq.virginia.gov. His full bio can be found at the following link: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/apnep/staff.
 

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