June 27, 2012


As of Friday of this week I will be taking the recycling posters off of my desk, putting in my final data for Farragut's Adopt-A-Stream program, and saying my goodbyes to all of the wonderful people I have met on this leg of my AmeriCorps adventure.  To, as of next week, no longer speak of my AmeriCorps service in the present tense is strange to say the least.  After two years of adventures, friendships, traveling, and daily doses of elbow grease I have few stories to share that don't involve me being in a gray t-shirt with an AmeriCorps logo on the sleeve.

My NCCC experience framed my State/National year here in Farragut so well.  Not only was my supervisor also a NCCC Fire Management Team alum, but from a personal development perspective, my time working in team based national service really prepared me for the challenges and opportunities that living and working alone in this job would provide.  It also provided me with the self-confidence and assuredness that I lacked coming immediatly out of college.  AmeriCorps has been good to me - but I suppose I don't need to tell you that if you have ever frequented my blogs before.

I cannot think of anything I would have rather done with my life this year aside from this job.  I know that may sound like exaggeration to some but it is nonetheless true.  Not only was Farragut an amazingly supportive and enjoyable site, the work that entailed always proved to feel important and of value to the community.  Never did I feel that I was squandering my or my sites time with the work I was doing.  I have been proud to be an important cog in the maching that is this municipality.

As a sentimental person, goodbyes are hard for me, so I think I'll just leave this blogpost as it is for now and try to come up with a little more closure later :)

Now it is time to delete about a kajillion emails off of this work computer to set it up for next year's AmeriCorps!

June 22, 2012

A License to Serve

I am featured on the national AmeriCorps Alums blog!  Check it out!

Final Report

I had to submit my final report to my AmeriCorps heads this morning.  I wonder if this is what they were looking for...


The Day that Unicorns Saved Turkey Creek

And other Tales of Environmental Stewardship in Farragut, Tennessee

AmeriCorps does things differently a few miles west of Knoxville Proper.  Sure, we participate in things like recycling measures just like the rest of the corps.  However instead of a gray clad AmeriCorps member coming to your car to collect your electronic waste you encounter a large dinosaur named Recyclosaurus.  We too throw our name into the hat concerning water quality education and outreach, but instead of putting together a PowerPoint presentation, we create a rap battle video starring benthic macroinvertebrates.  And yes we too coordinate an Adopt-A-Steam program but most of the promotional images you’ll find surrounding it involve a unicorn in waders.

That single horned beast has come to embody what my AmeriCorps year with the Town of Farragut Stormwater Matters program means to me. Though Mr. Unicorn and his roster of whimsical friends were fantastical and at times off-putting to those with limited imaginations, they were nonetheless purposeful and acted at the tip of the spear for getting positive results in water quality and all of the other environmental issues that AmeriCorps CAC tackles.  Simply put, I believe my cartoonish way of thinking got results in the way that I hoped it would. 

Contrary to what one might expect in hearing about the whimsical frolicking of unicorns, much of my AmeriCorps year has been about the dirty fingernail, sweaty t-shirt kind of work you’d expect.  There wasn’t a moment of it however when I didn’t try to embrace a sense of whimsy in it all. Afterall, whimsy was my outreach tool that got people on board with my projects.  When I needed to up the amount of committed recyclers at special events and at Town Hall, I created a series of posters and recycling bin wraps that featured pop culture icons such as Super Mario, LOLcat, and Lady Gaga.  Though I physical carried the sum of 2,820lbs of refuse to be recycled, I believe Gaga herself carried a good 50% of that on her back.

 Stormwater inlet GPS mapping was the kind of work I really fell in love with.  It had everything – a chance to spend all day outdoors, and emphasis on technology, a quantifiable workload, and a chance to commune with a most misunderstood character – the storm drain.  Getting to be an important cog of a system that allowed a comprehensive view of the stormwater system in place within the town was an awesome experience.  In was so awesome in fact that I tore through it.  By the end of my AmeriCorps stint I was supposed to have the first quadrant of the town’s stormwater inlets mapped and assessed for health.  The 2012-2013 AmeriCorps would then map quadrant two and so on until AmeriCorps member number four mapped the last section of town in 2015.  Much to the displeasure of  the future Town of Farragut AmeriCorps members, I loved mapping so much that I mapped not only my goal, quadrant one, but mapped the entirety of the Town of Farragut.  3,387 stormwater inlets later I am a bit more tan and possess a robust sense of accomplishment.

Field work didn’t just mean working around Turkey Creek however.  I certainly spent my fair share of time walking, and often falling, in Turkey Creek itself.  In coordinating the Adopt-A-Stream program for the town I have worked with several groups including a local Boy Scout Troop, a JROTC program, and students from the University of Tennessee.  Together we removed 1,470lbs of refuse from the Turkey Creek watershed.  It wasn’t all just trash bags and waders though.   Through my winning of a grant for the town, 350 trees have become citizens of Farragut whos primary job includes strengthening the riparian zones of Turkey Creek.

Another aspect of my AmeriCorps position that placed me in thigh-high water was dry weather screening.  An important stormwater management housekeeping practice, this screening had me collecting GPS points of manmade discharges into Turkey Creek and using testing kits to test all active discharges into the main body of water.  One hundred percent of the target areas of the creek was mapped and tested for levels of chlorine, phenols, sediment, detergent, ammonia, copper, and chlorine.

When I wasn’t hanging out with storm drains, mapping outlets, or keeping trash out of Turkey Creek, I was helping to run the special event circuit with the rest of my AmeriFriends.  Special events were the time for my love of whimsy to really shine.  The best example of this being my participation in the Southeast’s largest environmental festival, EarthFest.  When charged with coming up with a creative education and outreach tool for the festival’s scavenger hunt I pulled out my roster of whimsical characters without hesitation.  With help from my fellow AmeriCorps CAC members I enrolled a variety of environmental characters into the festival.  I wrote scripts, developed costumes, did photo shoots, and created blog entries for characters such as Latch the Green Garden Tick, Kelly the Water Quality Crayfish, and a new dinosaur character, Franklin Fossil Fuels.

The EarthFest cast weren’t the only ones to make online appearances.  A YouTube rap battle was created from the ground up – lyrics, music, costumes, and videography – to teach middle schoolers about benthic macroinvertebrates as part of the Adopt-A-Watershed program.  Another video followed a spork on his adventure through being recycled as part of the America Recycles Day video competition.  And to name just one more, Mr. Unicorn found his way to the AmeriCorps photo contest promoting Farragut’s Adopt-A-Stream program.

Needless to say I got a lot of attention for my antics.  I often felt like a one man show for the local newspapers.  If you do a few Google searches you can find more than a few newspaper articles covering my AmeriCorps year, videos of me in costume talking about local water quality, and general pieces speaking about the importance of AmeriCorps in general.  I have also been featured more than once on  Knoxville community television and have even been featured on the National AmeriCorps Alums blog.

It was personally very important for me to chronicle the major points of my year via my blogspot page, Storm Drain Superhero.  I did my best to chronicle every major accomplishment, every education and outreach character created, and every 500th storm drain mapped.  It is my hope that future Farragut AmeriCorps will be able to look back on my blog for ideas and maybe even inspiration.

I can’t begin to say how much I enjoyed my time as the Town of Farragut’s premier AmeriCorps member.  I have worked with so many wonderful people and have gotten to participate in so many compelling environmental projects.  In short, this often felt less like a short-term national service experience and more like a chance to live out a dream job for ten months.  I will leave this position with happy memories, a feeling of accomplishment, and a bolstered sense of the most important thing in the world…whimsy.

June 21, 2012

Rap Battle!!!

The Benthic Rap Battle is here!!!

Produced from scratch - music, lyrics, costumes, videography, etc - we created this project as an education and outreach tool for the topic of water quality. Follow Caddisfly and Dobsonfly on their whimsical adventure through the conveyance of hip-hop.

YouTube thumbs and comments appreciated!

Based on Nice Peter's Epic Rap Battles of History, SWRHHCoWQ pairs together two water quality related characters in a battle of wits. This episode focuses on two water quality indicator species of benthic macroinvertebrates - the Caddisfly (a Jewel-esque earth warrior) and the Dob$onfly (the devil may care Ke$ha party girl).

This project was put together as a water quality education and outreach project helmed by the AmeriCorps member of the Town of Farragut, TN Stormwater Matters program in conjuction with AmeriCorps members from Knox County Air Quality and Tennessee Yards & Neighborhoods.

June 20, 2012

Loose Ends

In less than two weeks I will be taking down the spork and unicorn decorations that adorn my desk and this blog will come to a close.

I can't even begin to write a comprehensive post on this year and how much I have enjoyed it.  So until then, enjoy these articles from the Farragut Shopper and Farragut Press.

June 7, 2012


Just for the record, I have never lived in San Fran and my Costa Rican adventures were not part of my AmeriCorps experience.  Nonetheless, here was my last appearance in the news :)

June 5, 2012


As I am writing this I am converting about sixty AVCHD into MPEG2 files to ensure a smooth playback mode when I edit these files down, am uploading an SD card full of raw footage into a shared server that will probably take overnight to complete, and have enough programs running between two computers to make toast in between the very busy hard drives.  And this is just day two of my video editing.  You weren't even here for the debacle that was the very first day of uploading.  My physical and PC desktop alike were dumping grounds of music, still shots, storyboards, and scripts.

"Somewhat Remarkable Hip-Hop Conflicts of Water Quality" was a project that was brainstormed about two weeks into starting my time here at the Town of Farragut.  With my supervisor Jason and myself both interested in completing compelling, hip, and at best, weird, education and outreach projects paired with a shared fandom of Nice Peter's "Epic Rap Battles of History," a project so strange and creativity based was bound to happen. 

At the beginning of the year it all seemed so simple.  Write lyrics, compose music for the rap, cast rappers, shoot the video, and paste all of the pieces together.  I was so confident at the beginning of this that I was pretty sure that at the very least come time for me to leave in June that we would be on episode three of SWRHHCoWQ.  Alas here I am on June 5th still in the middle of a somewhat intensive editing process of the very first (and last should the torch not be passed forward) episode of our rap battle shenanigans. 

Looking back on the entire process I can't help but be proud of myself and my Hip-Hop cohorts for what we have put together so far.  We designed the background stories and characters all on our own, wrote lyrics from scratch, learned how to use video/music/green screen equipment with very little prior experience, composed and edited down a unique musical track for the production, made superstar rappers out of two friends, created whimsical costumes from whatever we could find....and the list goes on.

A year that has been full of unicorns, sporks, and dinosaurs should end with one last big project about two rapping benthic macroinvertebrates don't you think?  Even if it doesn't turn out quite as well as something Nice Peter might produce, I am proud of what I have been able to paste together with the resources I have been given.  This project has been my baby right from the start so it will be a relief to show it to the stormwater world here in a few weeks when editing is complete.

But for now...back to file conversion.

Dob$onFly gets some wig help.

Caddisfly is all shelled out and ready to rap.

The editing process begins.

Green screen editing for Dob$onFly.