Museum of Life and Science
Thriving Earth Exchange Fellowship
Max Cawley is an educator, researcher, evaluator, and science communicator with the Museum of Life and Science.
He is a firm believer in participatory, democratic, and responsible science and dissemination, that engagement with science is a matter of democratic right, and that building a more climate-engaged public is key to maintaining a healthy democracy in a warming world.
Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association is working to widen the water movement in Durham and beyond. The Ellerbe Creek, Durham’s largest urban watershed, is one of North Carolina’s most polluted water bodies and is also a vital source of clean drinking water for more than half a million people.
The association works to protect and restore the land within the watershed and to engage area neighborhoods to join in advocating for the community’s most vital natural resource: water.
The project team worked with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and community and neighborhood associations abutting the Ellerbe Creek to understand and serve the needs of economically, socially, environmentally, and politically disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities, who bear a disproportionate burden from urban flooding events.
The project focused on understanding the needs of these communities, determining what information the communities needed in order to effectively advocate for themselves, and then developed and shared appropriate tools, materials, and information.
The project goals were to ensure equitable engagement and collaboration in order to build mutual literacy about the issues. The team then focused on co-producing novel materials that community members could use in their advocacy work.
Through a steering committee and community listening, they learned that more data on current flooding issues, alongside publicly available flood reporting data, was needed to identify reporting gaps, and that more involvement in understanding and solving water issues was needed. The team also learned that future planning for climate change-influenced flooding was needed.
Through their initial efforts, they established a longer-term collaborative project, CreekWatchers, which is a community-driven monitoring and advocacy group within creek-abutting neighborhoods that aims to pay community members to increase creek literacy, understand creek issues, and work towards solving them.