Written by Jessica Provinski. This article was first published in County Lines Magazine, November 2017.
Stars at The Water’s Edge
Taken literally, the water’s edge is the place where the water meets the land. But, at Stroud™ Water Research Center, The Water’s Edge is the annual gala that recognizes leading names in the fields of environmental science and conservation.
Since 2003, The Water’s Edge has honored some of the world’s most renowned environmentalists and water experts at an inspirational evening of cocktails, dinner and a lecture in an elegant setting celebrating the importance of freshwater research, education, conservation and watershed restoration. The honorees are poised at the water’s edge to make a difference in the world of fresh water.
The bar was set high in 2003 with the inaugural honoree, Dr. Jane Goodall. Guests who attended that lecture will never forget when Goodall entered the Longwood Gardens’ stage imitating the call of the chimpanzees she’s devoted her life to.
A few years later, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai visited the Stroud Center for the second time, after her 2002 Joan M. Stroud Memorial Lecture. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for founding the Green Belt Movement, Maathai was the 2006 Water’s Edge honoree, when she challenged the audience to focus on little things they could do — the “do-ables” — to help causes of civil, democratic, human and environmental rights.
“Once you know what you know, there’s no way you can turn your back on the destruction of wild nature and wild creatures,” said Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia and the 2007 Water’s Edge honoree. Along with her husband, Tompkins fought to protect, create and expand national parks throughout Chile and Argentina.
Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence
After eight years of incredible speakers, the Stroud Center created the Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence in 2011. Presented at The Water’s Edge gala, this award honors individuals, institutions or organizations whose work contributes to the conservation and protection of freshwater resources and ecosystems, improving the quantity and quality of fresh water on the planet, or developing policies and practices that perpetuate clean fresh water for future generations and wildlife.
The first recipients were Olivia Newton-John and her husband, “Amazon” John Easterling for their work in conserving the Amazon River Watershed.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the 2014 award recipient, told a sold-out crowd at Longwood Gardens about his inspiration for the environment. Kennedy recalled bringing an ailing salamander to his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, to see what could be done for the creature. It was released to die peacefully in the White House Rose Garden. President Kennedy later introduced his 8-year-old nephew to Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 book, Silent Spring, which exposed the dangers of the pesticide DDT. RFK Jr. was so inspired that he developed a lifelong passion for environmental advocacy.
Other notable Freshwater Excellence award recipients include Alexandra Cousteau, founder of Blue Legacy and Young Global Leader, and Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service.
The 15th Annual The Water’s Edge took place this September at Winterthur, where His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco was awarded the 2017 Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation encourages the implementation of innovative and ethical solutions by fighting climate change, safeguarding biodiversity, and promoting access to clean water for all. Though geographically small, Monaco is globally significant, and the prince has used his worldly influence to promote bold environmental and ecological ideals.
Beyond The Water’s Edge
Not only do those attending The Water’s Edge learn about the important work of each honoree, the honorees also find inspiration from the groundbreaking research at Stroud Water Research Center.
Goodall received the Leaf Pack Experiment Stream Ecology Kit to take back to Roots & Shoots, the international youth service program she founded in 1991. The kit uses tree leaves and aquatic insects to monitor the health of streams. The Leaf Pack Kit also traveled to Kenya with Maathai, where she started the program in several schools.
Stroud Center scientists have collaborated on projects with Kennedy and Waterkeeper Alliance, recently on a trip to Bhutan to set up water-monitoring protocols and sensor stations. Prince Albert’s visit led to talks about a collaboration between the Stroud Center and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation in Monaco.
The Water’s Edge is more than an annual fundraising gala. It also serves to connect the Brandywine Valley to the important work of individuals on a global scale to better protect our fresh water. Mark your calendar for next year’s event.