By Diane Huskinson
Among colorful displays of lavender orchids, Chinese hibiscus in lemon and burnt orange, lollipop plants, and towering ferns, over 200 guests came together on Tuesday, October 11 to support the Stroud™ Water Research Center and celebrate its main focus, fresh water.
Longwood Gardens once again served as the beautiful backdrop for the Stroud Center’s annual fundraising gala, The Water’s Edge. A series of enchanting, secret-like passages bursting with foliage and floral blooms led guests to the Main Conservatory and Exhibition Hall. Inside this majestic glass greenhouse, they enjoyed an evening of fine food and fresh ideas.
In the past, The Water’s Edge has featured some of the world’s most sought-after speakers — like Peter Gleick and Jane Goodall — to share their views on the importance of fresh water. This year, Dr. Bern Sweeney, director of the Stroud Center, shared what’s happening with many of the exciting projects underway, including Leaf Pack, and presented the first ever Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence™, also known as the SAFE Water Award™.
A Momentous Occasion
Just hours before the event, the Stroud Center had initiated memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research Foundation (ACEER). The MOUs set a plan in motion to further expand and market Stroud Center’s Leaf Pack Experiment Kit as a teaching and water-quality assessment tool in schools in North America, Latin America, and beyond.
“Tonight is really a celebration of Leaf Pack,” said Sweeney. Indeed, this simple yet ingenious tool that was first pioneered by Stroud scientists over four decades ago is giving students, teachers, and communities the ability to inexpensively monitor the health of their streams and rivers. Students learn about water science and ecology. Communities and policymakers can make more informed decisions that impact water quality.
“In the same way that streams and rivers are part of a larger watershed,” Sweeney later explained, “the relationships we’re building with NWF and ACEER work to complete the big picture. We have common goals and unique talents.”
NWF is America’s largest conservation organization with over 4 million supporters. It has been working to protect and restore wildlife habitat, confront global warming, and connect people with nature for decades.
ACEER specializes in rainforest conservation and community education in the Peruvian Amazon.
“When you couple those individual strengths with the innovative science, research, and education Stroud brings to the table, you have a powerful team of players making our world a little bit better,” he added.
Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer of NWF, and Roger Mustalish, president of ACEER, were present when Sweeney made the joyous announcement.
Mustalish commented, “We were floored by the elegant simplicity of Leaf Pack. To bring Leaf Pack to the Amazon and watch people learn about their environment in an entirely experiential way is really transformative.”
That transformative power was evident during recent Leaf Pack workshops in rural areas surrounding the towns of Pucallpa and Iquitos in Peru. When villagers discovered bugs in their leaf packs, they thought it was a sign the water was dirty, and they admitted they sometimes poison the bugs. It was a teaching moment. Center scientists know there are many bug species that are indicators of clean water.
“To the extent that we can carry the message to South America, we’re thrilled to do that. It’s quite an honor,” Mustalish said.
Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence
Also present were ACEER board members and recipients of the Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence Olivia Newton-John and her husband, John Easterling. The award is given to those of outstanding achievement who contribute broadly to the conservation and protection of fresh water. The couple was chosen for their unwavering commitment to rainforest conservation in the Amazon River basin.
“As individuals, they are both deserving of this award, but as a team they are especially strong and set a terrific example for all of us as to how much we can accomplish,” Sweeney announced.
Together they have embraced the Amazon and its people. Easterling, also known as Amazon John, has also started the Amazon Herb Company, which makes products from the natural ingredients found in the Amazon rainforest and provides support to many indigenous communities in the Amazon. Some fruit of that labor of love, the drink Zamu, was served as a special treat to guests that evening.
As everyone dined under a soft nighttime glow and beneath colorful parasols suspended from the ceiling, Sweeney presented the couple with an exquisite handcrafted SAFE sculpture. Simon Pearce Inc. specially designed and created the glass sculpture to resemble the flow of water.
Winden Rowe was a guest and had this to say: “Tonight has been enlightening and motivating. Learning more about the impact that Stroud, ACEER, NWF, and people like Olivia and John are making to benefit our local and global communities is exciting. I’m so glad I came and am part of such an incredible event.”
The Water’s Edge was made possible by generous sponsorships from premiere sponsor Dansko Inc.; full-table sponsors Curran Foundation, DuPont Company, Exelon, Marilyn and Nathan Hayward, John Lazarich Foundation, Alice and Rod Moorhead, Wilmington Trust, and Diana and Bill Wister; half-table sponsors Franny and Franny Abbott, Glenmede, Merrill Lynch, NewSpring Capital, and Barbie and Jerry Riegel; young friends table sponsors Jock Hannum, Anne Stroud, and Mayra and Steve Stroud; and event sponsors Yeda and Dave Arscott, Hankin Group, Moira and Ken Mumma, Longwood Gardens, and Wild Thyme.