ABOUT CI:
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Background and Mission

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Strategic Plan Overview

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Facilities

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Board and Staff

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History

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Achieving Our Mission

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Support CI

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Partners

 

Background

The Cacapon River, located in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia's eastern panhandle region, is a beautiful and scenic river known for its outstanding fishing, boating, wildlife, and scenery.  The Cacapon, and the Institute, gets its name from a Native American word meaning "healing waters".  As part of the Potomac River watershed, it is an American Heritage River

Cacapon Institute was formed in 1985 in response to concerns that increasing development, industry and agriculture were harming the Cacapon.  Over the years, CI's interests expanded well  beyond our "home" watershed to encompass a much larger region. 

Our mission today: From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.  Click here to see how a small organization located in West Virginia is pursuing, both locally and regionally, a mission that includes the entire 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.

You can read a brief history of Cacapon Institute below, or take a more comprehensive look at our Science and Education programs elsewhere on this website. 

 

Strategic Plan Overview

Board and Staff

CI currently has 2 full-time and two part-time staff members and a eight member Board.  

Board

bulletPaul Armington, Ph.D., President
bulletRobert Knisely, J.D., Vice President
bulletPaula Piehl, Secretary
bulletHenry Kopple, Treasurer
bulletJonathan Putnam
bulletShawn Walker
bulletJoseph "Josh" Alexander Ph.D.
bulletMahlon G. "Lon" Anderson

Board Contact Information.

 

Staff

bulletFrank Rodgers, Executive Director
bulletemail to Frank
bulletNeil Gillies, Director of Science
bulletemail to Neil
bulletTanner Haid, Urban Forestry Coordinator
bulletemail to Tanner

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Neil Frank Tanner
   

Facilities

After the Cacapon Institute's humble beginnings in Pine Cabin's kitchen and then barn during its Pine Cabin Run Ecological Laboratory days, the Institute has moved to a modern facility and laboratory not far from the original Pine Cabin.

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Pine Cabin, location of original lab (Click to enlarge) Lab moves to Barn (Click to enlarge) Lab in "hayloft" of barn (Click to enlarge) Current facility

 

CACAPON INSTITUTE

A History

In 1985 CACAPON INSTITUTE, then called Pine Cabin Run Ecological Laboratory (PCREL), was founded by husband and wife team Dr. George Constantz and Nancy Ailes.  The institute's mission was dedicated to teaching and research on Appalachian natural history. Scientific equipment was installed in a small smokehouse, and in 1986 school groups visited the Lab and Cacapon River water quality studies began.  

In 1989, CI began assembly of the Cacapon River ecological baseline with the help of a $25,000 grant from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and substantial financial support from the Cacapon watershed community.  Also at this time, the first issue of Cacapon, the Lab's river journal, was published, and the first Cacapon River bird census recorded 58 species.

By 1990, early baseline data revealed the Cacapon River to be generally healthy, with some polluted "hot spots". Countryside Magazine named Constantz and Ailes to a national list of 20 environmental achievers "who have made a difference". Using the Lab's data, government officials took action against a polluting business.  As a result of CI's success, Constantz left his high school teaching post in 1991 to become full-time Director of the Lab. The Lab won the Sierra Club Seneca Award for Environmental Stewardship, while the Baseline study of the Cacapon continued, and space in a small barn was dedicated for a larger laboratory.  

The year 1992 brought more attention to the institute when the Lab's science-based conservation strategy received broad attention: citizen groups on the Greenbrier and Opequon rivers requested assistance. The Lab won the WV Environmental Council's Mother Jones Award. 

In the same year, the Lab adopted a new mission statement: "Dedicated to using science and education to help concerned citizens protect and restore Appalachian rivers." Working with the Lab, developers and landowners began improving their stewardship of riparian lands. This was also the final year of the Cacapon baseline data collection, and CI began data collection for the baseline of the Greenbrier River.

In 1993, after four years of work, the Lab published Portrait of a River: The Ecological Baseline of the Cacapon River. The response was extraordinary -- almost 2000 copies distributed, local and national media run stories, and requests for copies were received from across the country. The ecological baseline of the Greenbrier River field work continued. The Lab staff designed the "Science with a Smile" program to distribute Cacapon baseline results to all riverbank property owners and improve protection of the river. In the summer, over 250 river lovers attended River Roll On! benefit concert. Also in 1993, Constantz accepted an offer to become West Virginia's first watershed planner, the Lab's new technician, Andy Rogers, began Cacapon tributary water quality survey, and a record number of people -- over 50 -- enjoyed the Lab's five natural history float trips.

The year 1994 began with the Lab researching potential non-point source impacts associated with the rapidly growing poultry industry. Data collection also continued for the Greenbrier River baseline study -- over 60 sites were sampled. Cacapon tributary sampling continued, and the Lab continued lectures for schools, civic organizations, and others.

 By 1995, the second edition of Portrait of a River was published. The Lab and the National Biological Service conducted a joint survey of freshwater mussels in the Cacapon River.  Monitoring continued on the Cacapon, Lost, and North rivers. The Greenbrier River ecological baseline data collection was completed, the Lab held its first open house in celebration of the 10th anniversary of PCREL and over 300 attended. Tributary sampling continued, and Natural History Float Trips continued to expand.

The Lab hired a new Science Director, Neil Gillies, and Bernie Olson was hired to replace Andy Rogers in 1996. The tributary survey was completed, and Cacapon water quality monitoring continued -- five permanent monthly monitoring sites were established. Work began on the Greenbrier River ecological baseline report. The second annual Riverfest was held at Buffalo Gap Community Park. Also in 1996, the Lab held a watershed meeting to discuss voluntary conservation easements.   

In 1997, the Lab moved to a modern facility. Work on the Greenbrier baseline report and Cacapon monitoring programs continued.  The Institute began a new project investigating the impacts of poultry farming on in-stream nutrients in the Lost River; the Lab received widespread recognition for early findings in this study. Using the Lab’s data, the major source of pollution in the Lost River was cleaned up. The third annual Riverfest was held at Camp White Rock in Capon Bridge, and  more than 1000 attended. River float trips and education programs continued.

Not only was our name changed from Pine Cabin Run Ecological Laboratory to Cacapon Institute in 1998, but we adopted our current mission and are: dedicated to using science and education to help concerned citizens protect and enjoy the Cacapon, Potomac, and other Appalachian watersheds.  The Greenbrier baseline report — Greenbrier: a Scientific Portrait of a West Virginia River- was published and widely distributed in the Greenbrier watershed. The Lab received three year funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for nutrient and bacteria research in the Lost River, North River and South Branch of the Potomac River and received additional funding from Potomac Headwaters Research Alliance to expand South Branch studies. Results from these studies were presented at scientific conferences. The Benthic macroinvertebrate supplement to the Cacapon baseline study was published.  The Cacapon River Watershed Advisory Council held its first meetings.  

In 1999 the Institute hired a full time research assistant, Nicole Navis and Education and Outreach Coordinators, husband and wife team Peter and Robin Maille. Research on land use influences on water quality in the Lost River, North River and South Branch of the Potomac continued as the major program, along with the Cacapon River monthly monitoring program. The education program was expanded with help from the West Virginia Stewardship Collaborative.   This year, the Cacapon River Watershed Advisory Council installed watershed signs and ran well water testing program.

Research on land use influences on water quality in the Lost River, North River and South Branch of the Potomac continued in 2000 as the major program, along with the Cacapon River monthly monitoring program. CI began a cooperative project with area farmers, extension agencies, and local businesses to raise eco-friendly Headwater Farms Petite Beef.  In partnership with WVDNR and WVDEP, CI conducted a follow-up benthic macroinvertebrate study and periphyton (algae) studies in partnership with Shepherd College.  We also began computer mapping of land use using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software, and the website opened for business.

In 2001, the WV Environmental Institute honored  the Headwater Farms partnership with their top award for demonstrating “innovation, creativity, and the ability to think 'outside the box'.”  We were selected because our project was deemed an outstanding model to emphasize the theme of the 2001 Conference on the Environment: “A match made in ‘Almost Heaven.’  In November 2001, the WV Watershed Network praised CI as the group that has “best implemented agricultural land use practices” in pursuit of conservation goals.  Also in November, CI Director Neil Gillies gave a presentation on Marketing Beef Using a Land Stewardship and Clean Water Label  at the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council 2001 Annual Conference.  Research Assistant, Nicole Navis left CI in pursuit of a masters degree in Environmental Science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  

In 2002, the USDA-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program chose the Headwater Farms program as one of twelve projects (out of more than 200) to profile in their SARE 2002 Annual Report.  The Headwater Farms partners, including CI, were individually honored in Washington DC "for innovative collaboration and good stewardship in developing the Headwater Farms Petite Beef Program."  In May 2002, Neil Gillies gave two presentations at River Networks National River Rally, one on "Partnering with Farmers," the other on using biocriteria to assess streams.  CI completed water quality studies of the Lost and North Rivers for the USFWS.  Final report posted here

Funded by National Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program, the Stream Flow Restoration Project began its pilot project in September 2003.    Began working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Stakeholder team.  The first Making Science Real Summer Camp (funded by the WV Department of Education) was held in July, and the first Stream Scholars Summer Camp was held in August.  Eight students from partner schools in Grant, Hardy, and Hampshire Counties participated in the three day non-residential camp for 7th to 9th graders.  The goals of the Stream Scholars camp were to promote environmental leadership, increase college enrollment in West Virginia, and increase student interest in environmental careers.  The camp was made possible with support from US EPA, MARPAT Foundation, CI members and partner schools.  In late December CI hired its first membership coordinator, Claire Pitner.        

The Stream Flow Restoration Project  continued in 2004, along with the two summer camp programs (Making Science Real & Stream Scholars). That year, CI received grants from USEPA and Canaan Valley Institute to build an internet based environmental school.  Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Stakeholder team; receive contract to serve as primary author of Tributary Strategy document.  Monthly Cacapon River water quality monitoring continued, and we began to investigate revisiting the Cacapon baseline study.

 In 2005, CI opened the Potomac Highlands Watershed School, our internet-based environmental school.  Hold first PHWS Environmental Forum on deer overpopulation issues.    In addition to continuing our Stream Flow Restoration Project , began Revisit the Baseline study, and continued Cacapon monitoring project.  Cooperative project studying effect of improving water quality on a wild rainbow trout stream.  we ran Stream Scholars Summer Camp for a third year, including 2-day trip to the Chesapeake Bay.  Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Stakeholder team, beginning work on implementation of tributary strategy - including oversight and monitoring of two riparian buffer demonstration projects.  Began work on Lost River Watershed Based Plan.

CI developed its first ever strategic plan in 2006, and in the process decided to update its mission statement to: From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.  Hired new Education/Outreach director Frank Rodgers.  Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Implementation Team.  Continued Stream Flow Restoration Project , began Revisit the Baseline study, and continued Cacapon monitoring project.  Cooperative project studying effect of improving water quality on a wild rainbow trout stream.  Continue work on Lost River Watershed Based Plan projects.  Continue operating internet-based the Potomac Highlands Watershed School.  Hold two PHWS Environmental Forums: Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum modeling the effort to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay; and Oh Deer! Environmental Forum on deer overpopulation issues.   Fourth year of Stream Scholars Summer Camp including 2-day trip to the Chesapeake Bay.

2007  Continued Stream Flow Restoration Project, began Revisit the Baseline study, and continued Cacapon monitoring project.  Begin deer exclusion fence experiment for riparian plantings.  Begin Farmers as Producers of Clean Water economic experiment with WVU.  Continue project studying effect of improving water quality on a wild rainbow trout stream Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Implementation Team.  Continue work on Lost River Watershed Based Plan projects.  Continue operating internet-based the Potomac Highlands Watershed School.  Hold two PHWS Environmental Forums.   Fifth year of Stream Scholars Summer Camp, including the now institutionalized (thanks to funding from the WV Conservation Agency) 2-day trip to the Chesapeake Bay.

2008  Continued Stream Flow Restoration Project, Revisit the Baseline study, Cacapon monitoring project, deer exclusion fence experiment for riparian plantings, and Farmers as Producers of Clean Water economic experiment with WVU.  Completed project studying effect of improving water quality on a wild rainbow trout stream Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Implementation Team.  Continue work on Lost River Watershed Based Plan projects.  Continue operating internet-based the Potomac Highlands Watershed School.  Hold two PHWS Environmental Forums.  Sixth year of Stream Scholars Summer Camp.

2009  Continued Stream Flow Restoration Project, Cacapon monitoring project, deer exclusion fence experiment for riparian plantings, and Farmers as Producers of Clean Water economic experiment with WVU.  Continued  working on Chesapeake Bay issues in West Virginia as member of the WV Potomac Tributary Implementation Team; begin Urban Tree Assessment study for PTS.  Continue operating internet-based the Potomac Highlands Watershed School; eSchool adds benthic macroinvertebrate lessons.  Hold two PHWS Environmental Forums.  Seventh year of Stream Scholars Summer Camp.

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Achieving our mission in 2007/2008

 

From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay,

we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

 

From the Cacapon

·         In the headwaters of the Cacapon, the Farmers as Producers of Clean Water partnership with WVU and farmers in the Cullers Run watershed is going well.  Half of the farmers in the watershed are participating in this unique economic incentive experiment.  They have taken a leadership role and are using CI’s water quality data to make land use decisions that produce cleaner water. 

·         After documented severe deer damage to riparian tree plantings for several years, CI developed a new low cost electric fence design.  It is being tested at two sites in the Cacapon watershed.  Results from the first year are posted on our web site.  Outside the fence 100% of trees continue to be browsed at least once a year but inside the fence less than 20% of trees were damaged.  We are excited by these early results, as it is not the number of trees planted but the number of trees grown that will protect our rivers.  Read about it here.

·         Our hallmark water quality and water quantity projects continue.  Neil gave two presentation at the 2007 Virginia/West Virginia Water Research Symposium in Blacksburg last month: the Once There Were Beavers stream flow restoration study and the Effects of Pollution Reduction on a Wild Trout Stream study on Spring Run in Grant County.

 

To the Potomac

·         We continue to serve on the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy Implementation Team working on restoration initiatives and Watershed Based Plans for impaired streams.  Watershed Based Plans are a key first step in bringing Federal resources to restore our streams.

·         We’re a formal partner in the Potomac Watershed Partnership, an initiative of the Potomac Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service.  For the second year we participated in Growing Native working with local volunteers and students to collect native tree seeds to donate to public tree nurseries in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

·         Thanks to the WV Corporation for National and Community Service we have launched PHLOW – Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds PHLOW is reaching out to middle and high school students, 4H, Scouts, and church youth groups to engage teens in watershed-based service learning projects.  We are providing leadership to new and existing youth groups interested in tackling watershed restoration projects.  Members who work with youth can read more about PHLOW on our web site.

 

To the Chesapeake Bay

·         Use of our online Potomac Highlands Watershed School continues to expand.  The Oh Deer! and Stream Cleaner Environmental Forums engaged more schools then ever in 2007, with 22 schools across 14 counties in three states taking part.  High school students spent weeks as part of a community of learning debating real life issues relevant to their lives and building consensus on solutions to complex problems.   After the 2007 Oh Deer! eForum, science teacher Susan Settle (Rappahannock High School, VA) told us:  “Your help and support was excellent – thank you.  It will be a highlight of the year for many of the students.”

·         CI participated in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Bi-Annual Education Summit.  Frank presented on CI’s initiatives.  Kevin Schabow, a Summit organizer and NOAA Education Specialist, said:  “The Cacapon Institute is using technology to engage students about their watershed and the Chesapeake in new and exciting ways.  CI's website and online forum, both showcased at our 2007 Chesapeake Bay Education Summit, are prime examples of how innovative technology can help us reach the goal of providing all students in the region with a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience.”

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For the second year we participated as planners and organizers for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, WV.  This year Frank moderated an engaging panel discussion on how small watershed associations can engage their local schools in Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences, a requirement for D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia schools. 

·         We are encouraging teachers to develop hands-on projects that building on the lessons of the Potomac Highlands Watershed School.  We have successfully pooled technical and financial resources that are now available to support on-the-ground projects at schools throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  If you are working with a local school let us know if we can help.

 

We protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

In 2007, local youth from Hampshire and Hardy counties participated in the 5th Annual Stream Scholars Summer Camp.  They literally lived our mission by learning stream science in the Cacapon watershed and then traveling downstream to learn about the Chesapeake Bay aboard the UMD’s Research Vessel Aquarius.  The Scholars visited the Calvert County Marine Museum for a behind-the-scene’s tour of how the aquarists maintain the living things on display and experienced life in a historic lighthouse.  Hank Saville, a Stream Scholar parent and supporter, said:  “What a great opportunity for the kids of our area.  We are all lucky to have the folks at Cacapon Institute share their vast knowledge in such a hands on and friendly manner.”

 

Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
#10 Rock Ford Road
Great Cacapon, WV 25422
304-258-8013 (tele)

Click here to send us an email
Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

Website  made possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation,  the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous members.