Doctoral Student, 'River Hero' Wins National Scholar Award

As she pursues her doctorate in biology, Saint Louis University graduate student Danelle Haake spends hours crawling through storm water tunnels and exploring streams in an effort to discover how common chemicals used to treat roadways, like road salt, impact the St. Louis region’s streams and freshwater supplies. She's now received a national award for her efforts.
Amelia Flood | Mon Jun 17, 2019

My initial interest in the field of Biology stemmed from my appreciation for nature.  As an undergraduate, I participated in the Missouri Stream Team program which fostered my love for rivers and the ways that they connect habitats, species, and communities.

With my master’s degree, I was able to evaluate and reduce stream pollution as an Environmental Scientist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  I moved to St. Louis and became a Restoration Ecologist with the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG).  In this role, I restored habitats and educated students and volunteers about the connections between people and nature in their own neighborhoods. 

In 2012, while I was working for MBG, I began coordinating 40 Stream Team-trained water quality volunteers to sample winter chloride and study stream pollution being caused by road salt.  Unfortunately, use of Stream Team data by state management agencies was limited by the methods available to us.  I saw a need to increase knowledge and awareness of the problems of road salt, both in the general public and in the scientific community.  I jumped at the chance to meet this need by pursuing my PhD at SLU. 

The Missouri Stream Team was my first real connection with water science as an undergraduate and this connection has developed into a great fascination and respect for the complexity and beauty of aquatic ecosystems.

I continue to be very involved in the Stream Team, largely through the non-profit Stream Teams United.  I served for four years as the treasurer of this state-wide organization and another four years (recently completed) as president.  During my time in these leadership roles, Stream Teams United has grown from a small group of individuals who would share their stories and knowledge with each other, into an organization that works to protect streams through education, stewardship, and advocacy. 

As far as the Stream Team and my research, I couldn't ask for a more supportive group.  Both the program staff in Jefferson City and the 40 local volunteers are thrilled with the partnership we've developed on this project.  I have done several presentations for outreach: many for the general public that were well attended by Stream Team partners.  I've also done a lot of outreach to the cities and consultants in the St. Louis area, including the American Public Works Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers.