How the Colorado River Still Reaches Me in Maryland


By Maddy Adams

Earlier this year, I was looking up data on the USGS website for my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class when I found the Grand Canyon citizen science story map and a link to a video about GCY’s citizen science trips. This sent me sprawling down memory lane as I remembered the two trips I took that changed my career path and life goals. In the days leading up to my college graduation, I find myself thinking about GCY even more.

It has been nearly five years since I first went to the Canyon, and I have thought about it every day since. Now I am in college, majoring in environmental science and anthropology. In almost all of the classes for my major, I have done a project on the Grand Canyon. These projects include: a case study on uranium mining in the Canyon, notable features along the Colorado River, and conservation efforts to protect the humpback chub.

In one of my classes last year, I had the opportunity to work with my local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to create an environmental initiative that could be implemented in a nearby community. When coming up with an idea, I thought about the two GCY trips I went on and how getting to do hands-on science inspired me to want to pursue it as a career. I thought about how important it is for kids to be able to learn about the environment and how to care for it.

So, after several months of planning, we came up with a science camp that could be run at St. Mary’s College of Maryland over the summer, with a special focus on helping kids from Title I schools. There was unanimous support for the project from the St. Mary’s County NAACP.

While river science helped shape my career path, the experience and feelings of the Canyon changed me in a deeper way that I can’t even describe. Something about rafting down the Colorado and camping under the stars reached into my soul and pulled something out. When I think about formative events in my life, the Canyon is the first thing to come to mind. The amount of impact it had on my life is incredible, and it’s all thanks to the guides, scientists, leaders, and fellow youth on those trips.

Although I live across the country in an environment that cannot be more different from that of Arizona, the feeling of those hot summer days on the river will never leave me. From making butt dams and flame throwers to catching and tagging humpback chub, each and every moment had an impact, and I cherish them more and more each day. In a perfect world, I would take every youth in the country down the river and teach them about science and the beauty of our world so they too could experience something so completely unforgettable.

Maddy Adams is a proud GCY alum who treasures the Canyon everyday. She is currently studying environmental science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and spends every day on the St. Mary’s River. She spends time rowing, paddle boarding, and doing her homework while listening to the sounds of the water.

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