Volunteer Interview: Kathryn Von Rueden

Published: June 14, 2023

1. How did you hear about the Severn River Association?

Honestly I am not certain how I first learned about SRA. Definitely, I became aware of the SRA mission and work in the late 90’s from articles published in the Annapolis Capital describing some of the SRA initiatives.

2. What initially inspired you to get involved and dedicate your time to this cause?

My family has had a cottage on the Severn since 1926 and my parents brought us here from Pittsburgh every summer from the time I was 2 months old. I’ve been a “permanent Severn River resident” most of my adult life. The River has been such an important part of my life, and the culture of the community I live in, as long as I can remember. It’s where I learned to swim (and race), sail (and race), canoe, crab and fish. Thus my inspiration to become involved in SRA has been to “give back” to the Severn; to learn more about how we each personally impact the River; to participate in initiatives to improve our river water quality and help increase awareness of others of how our actions, or inactions, impact the water quality of river.  

3. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a volunteer for SRA?

Tough question, there are many. Probably the most rewarding aspect is that I feel I am helping to make a difference in the quality of the water through monitoring oxygen levels, salinity, acidity/alkalinity, etc.These metrics quantify the health of the river and knowing that the data is subsequently used to support environmental legislative initiatives, educate the public, determine the areas/creeks where improvement activities should be focused, and provide evidence as to the best locations for new oyster reefs or the addition of more oysters to current reefs. Other truly rewarding aspects for me also include meeting environmental experts, learning about oysters, SAV, algae, etc. and spending time on the water with really interesting, like-minded people of all walks of life, even on the very cold, blustery or very hot mornings. There is a real sense of camaraderie among the volunteers.

4. What advice or message would you like to share with others who are considering volunteering with SRA?

Just do it! There are so many opportunities to volunteer, something for everyone, and it’s fun and interesting. The time commitments are flexible and depending on one’s interests or availability you can do a little or a lot.

5. Could you share a memorable experience or achievement that you’ve had while volunteering with us?

I’ve had a number of “memorable” experiences (aka very funny experiences) on the water with other volunteers and the SRA staff, too many to relate. And not although an achievement, but most assuredly an honor and memorable experience – I was given the Green Heron Award a couple of years ago for setting up the early WQM database/conducting analysis/graphing data trends, recruiting other volunteers, helping to maintain WQM through the pandemic, and a few other things.

6. How have you seen SRA make a positive impact in the community through your volunteer work?

On a very local community level, our avid crabbers have learned, and more importantly understand, why they need to keep their crab pots off the bottom of our creek due to lack of oxygen. This helps to garner support for some of the erosion mitigation efforts. 

7. Any closing remarks?

I love our river and sincerely hope that others who also love it will join SRA and become involved – just doing a little makes a difference! (and did I say it’s fun too?!)