Monitoring the River

A Riverkeeper is a full-time on the water advocate for your right to protect and defend the environment. On any given day a Riverkeeper serves as a detective, an educator, a river ambassador or a scientist. The goal of this important core program is to maintain a constant vigil on the James River, monitoring its conditions, identifying problems and ensuring that solutions are executed properly.

The James Riverkeeper Program was launched in 2001 when JRA joined the Waterkeeper Alliance. The Waterkeeper Alliance is a growing international organization with over 153 local “Riverkeeper”, “Baykeeper”, and “Coastkeeper” programs, all dedicated to protecting local waters from pollution. The idea for this program stemmed from a concept dating back to old England, and was started in America in 1983 with the Hudson Riverkeeper.

JRA's Riverkeeper monitors the length of the James River and its more than 15,000 miles of tributaries. You’ll find them on the water in a jon boat, kayak, canoe or doing river reconnaissance on foot and by vehicle 2 to 3 days each week.

Upper James Riverkeeper
Pat Calvert
(434) 964-7635
Upper James Riverkeeper FacebookUpper James River Keeper

Pat Calvert, Upper James RIVERKEEPERPat Calvert, the Upper James Riverkeeper monitors the James River and its many upland tributaries from the fall line at Richmond to the headwaters in the mountains. His territory includes the non-tidal portion of the river. This area is comprised of a vast number of small streams, many of which cannot be floatedby kayak or canoe and must be patrolled on foot. Only 20 percent of the watershed’s population live in the Upper James, but its waterways drain approximately 88% percent of the watershed’s land mass. Land use in this portion of the watershed is largely agricultural, with extensive poultry and forestry industries.

Prior to joining JRA in 2011, Pat served as an on-the-water educator and manager of the Virginia Watershed Education Program of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a position he led for 13 years. He was recognized as the 2011 Water Education Leader by the Virginia Resource-Use Education Council (VRUEC) for his education work. He earned his bachelor’s in environmental science from Auburn University and has worked in the nonprofit environmental education community sector for his entire professional career. He is a 2005 graduate of the Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute and has served on the board of directors of Rivanna Conservation Society. In addition to his official duties as a Riverkeeper, Pat is an avid fisherman and advocate for healthy waterways.

Open Source Interview with Upper James RIVERKEEPER, Pat Calvert.

The podcast of JRA's Upper James RIVERKEEPER, Pat Calvert's, Earth Day interview on the Open Source program, radio channel WRIR 97.3 FM is available here. A few highlights from the broadcast are also listed in the James River Hub Blog.

Upper James River keeper keeps an eye on feeder streams
Lynchburg News and Advance -23, 2012

Educators recognized at Spring VRUEC Meeting

Lower James Riverkeeper Title
Jamie Brunkow
Upper James River Keeper

Jamie BrunkowJamie Brunkow monitors the tidal portion of the James, from the fall line in Richmond to the river’s mouth in the Chesapeake Bay. His stretch of the river is heavily traveled by ocean-going cargo vessels coming upriver to the Deep Water Terminal south of Richmond, and barges and other commercial traffic serving industry along the river. The lower James is a mix of agricultural, industrial usage and includes 80 percent of the watershed’s population.

Jamie joined JRA in May of 2012. He previously served as Riverkeeper at the Sassafras River Association on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As the eyes, ears and public voice for the Sassafras River, he expanded water quality monitoring to track hazardous algae blooms, worked to implement SRA's watershed action plan, and garnered citizen and local government support for clean water policies. Jamie began his career as an environmental educator working with teenage youth, and went on to work at Friends of the Rappahannock, leading restoration, education and advocacy projects such as "Get the Dirt Out" - a citizen based effort to reduce pollution from construction sites. A native Virginian, Jamie grew up in Stafford County with a love for all things outdoors and earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech. From an early age his love for nature and wild places grew into a passion for protecting our natural resources, and Jamie brings to JRA a commitment to improving water quality in America’s Founding River.

James River Sturgeon
Virginia Wildlife - April 2011


Our Projects

Mud Busters

Two sets of eyes are never enough to spot threats to the river from pollution and erosion. That’s why there are “Mud Busters.” Through this innovative program JRA’s Riverkeepers train citizen volunteers to identify and report potential problems when they see them.

Public Speaking

Anyone who spends time on the river has some good stories to tell. As ambassadors of JRA and spokespersons for the river, JRA’s Riverkeeper is frequently asked to address civic and service organizations. Through these presentations audiences learn about how such topics as sedimentation and water quality; the threat of pollution and what it means to fish and wildlife; the importance of controlling stormwater runoff; the economic aspects of a cleaner James; as well as a river conservationist’s perspective on issues such as acid rain and air pollution on water quality. Through this outreach, the Riverkeeper helps people see our water resources in a new light and offer them a new prospective on protecting the James River.

Fish Kill Poster Fish Kill Task Force

Each spring since 2007, smallmouth bass, sunfish and other fish in the Cowpasture, Jackson, Maury and James Rivers, and several tributaries, have been affected with lesions, fungal infections and fin rot.  A specific bacterium is now being studied as the potential cause of the deaths. Working with the state’s Fish Kill Task Force and the Department of Environmental Quality, the Upper James Riverkeeper has been conducting field work to determine locations, timing, species and the geographic extent of the problem. He has also enlisted the help of local residents in reporting the sighting of sick or dead fish.


Sturgeon Restoration

The James Riverkeeper and other partners in the scientific community are working to monitor and restore the Atlantic sturgeon population in the James River. The James River’s sturgeon is often called “the fish that saved Jamestown” because this large fish was so numerous that it kept the early settlers from starving. By the first half of the 20th century, overfishing and pollution, particularly sedimentation had decimated their numbers. After almost a decade of tagging and monitoring the James’ sturgeon population, an ambitious program is underway to help increase the number of Atlantic sturgeon in the river. Through a partnership that includes the James River Association, up to three artificial spawning reefs will be constructed in the Lower James.  These reefs reproduce the ideal spawning ground conditions that once existed in the river. The reefs and the river will continue to be monitored for the presence of eggs, juvenile fish and mature adults. More on this project »

Poultry Waste Legislation

Sometimes the most important work of a Riverkeeper takes place far from the water.  In the region of the Upper James, large scale poultry producers have more waste than they can use. This valuable high-nitrogen fertilizer is then trucked to other agricultural users. According to Virginia, Department of Environmental Quality, in 2005 more than 250,000 tons of poultry litter was moved across Virginia. Improper transport, storage or application of poultry litter can lead to excess runoff entering streams and rivers each time it rains. The James Riverkeeper is working to make individuals aware of this growing threat to the river and the need to require proper management of poultry waste.  

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