The nonprofit AuSable River Association (ASRA) is looking to broaden its scope of work in coming years, and Brendan Wiltse expects to play a key role in that as its stewardship and outreach coordinator.
Wiltse, 30, joined the river association last month after working in recent years for the Adirondack Mountain Club, as a chief summit steward and most recently as the Johns Brook Lodge coordinator. In recent years, he also helped provide the club with a strong social media presence. A talented nature photographer, Wiltse's images often garnered attention from the public on Facebook.
Wiltse also hopes to finish up his doctorate in biology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in the near future. Specifically he has focused on aquatic ecology and paleolimnology, which involves the study of sediment cores of inland waters. He became interested in that subject when he studied under professor Curt Stager at Paul Smith's College.
Photo courtesy of ASRA
Brendan Wiltse is the new stewardship and outreach coordinator for the AuSable River Association.
Wiltse plans to rely on all of those skill sets for ASRA. His first big tasks will be to plan the organization's roles in two upcoming events: the Great Adirondack Trail Run in Keene Valley Saturday and the Ride for the River in August.
The trail run is organized by The Mountaineer, an outdoor gear store in Keene Valley, but proceeds go to the AuSable and Boquet River associations. The Ride for the River is a cycling event organized by ASRA. It was started in 2012 to encourage tourists to return to the AuSable Valley after Tropical Storm Irene. This year's ride will be based in Wilmington. The location changes every year.
"My role with outreach is more reaching out to the businesses and building partnerships with them so that they know that we're there as a resource for them, and that we want to support them and make sure that they're as successful as possible on the river," he said.
Once he gets some time under his belt, Wiltse hopes to focus on tasks that are more scientific. One of those is to launch a citizen science water monitoring program next summer. ASRA had a water quality monitoring program a few years ago, but not in recent years. The goal is to train people how to take water samples, measuring things such as pH and temperature.
"Our real hope with that is, if you can get people out and teach them about the ecosystem and get them involved, they'll care more about it, and they become a trusted resource within their smaller community," he said.
Wiltse said that having a long-term water monitoring program could help scientists understand how the river is responding to things such as climate change and disturbances such as Tropical Storm Irene.
"It will give us a better baseline before the event happened as to what the status of the river was and how that event affected it," he said.
Wiltse is one of three employees with ASRA, a jump from recent years when it just had an executive director. With the bigger staff, the organization hopes to work with river issues farther downstream than it has in the past, when it has been focused mainly on the Wilmington area.
The other employees at ASRA, all recently hired, are Executive Director Kelley Tucker and River Steward Curtis Baker. Wiltse and Tucker are full-time, and Baker is a seasonal summer worker. Tucker handles many of the administrative duties that go along with running a nonprofit group while Baker will spend a great deal of time on the river this summer, educating anglers about issues affecting the river, including invasive species.
"I think it shows that they're doing really good work and something a little bit different than everyone else, so I'm excited to be involved in that," Wiltse said. "We realize that you need to have sustainable and economically viable communities in order to have a healthy river, and that healthy river should help you have strong communities. So just as much as we're about protecting the river, we're about figuring out way to make the river an asset to the communities that will help them economically."