Youth Conservation Leadership Institute- Seth Hatfield

Seth Hatfield

Seth Hatfield

Seth Hatfield, an 11th grade home-schooled student in Prince William County, has developed much interest in water quality monitoring and the protection of the health of NOVA streams through the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute program.

Seth attended the 2015 Youth Conservation Camp (YCC) last summer at Virginia Tech where he became interested in learning more about the water quality in local streams and waterways. As a follow-up program to YCC, he joined the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute (YCLI) where he was tasked to select a specific area of study and volunteer service. From his studies and hands-on activities at YCC, he thought it would be interesting and enjoyable to pursue his YCLI project titled: “Keeping Our Water Clean”.

04c4972c-70fa-4b82-9e90-06140b421a8dSeth had learned that increasing development leads to more stormwater runoff, more water pollution and lower water quality. His involvement with the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District (District) Water Quality Monitoring program has definitely helped him to see the relationship between population density and lower numbers of healthy organisms in the local streams. The stream data collected during his project has also helped him to better understand the how and what in stream monitoring: how it’s done and what is being looked for.

“It’s one thing to discuss something theoretically, it’s another to get in the water with high boot waders, collect the water samples, and start identifying and counting the organisms collected. This opens up a whole new understanding to the process,” Seth reported.

Seth also volunteered with the District for the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) at Windy Knoll Farm. He led the aquatics station, explaining to local third grade students what is involved in water quality monitoring.  His hands-on experience acquired during his volunteering with the District has given him knowledge and insight into the importance of water quality and conservation.

8f2f6dbf-69d6-4832-8190-b14ae5cd2185“Overall, the lack of public awareness regarding the importance of maintaining the health of our waterways is a concern,” said Seth.

Seth also took the opportunity to volunteer with “Friends of the Occoquan” in its cleanup efforts of the Occoquan River, during which he was amazed at the amount of trash and debris collected. These included tires, bottles, cans, and construction materials, just to name just a few.

He further points out the fact that many organizations in the county have “Adopt A Highway” programs with roadside trash pickup campaigns. He strongly believes that “Adopt A Stream” programs through citizen and local club involvement, that include stream monitoring, is something NOVA needs to promote to help protect the health of its local streams. 

“Get involved! Sign up to attend the Youth Conservation Camp. Protecting our environment, which includes clean water, is imperative to our future, ensuring NOVA remains a healthy place to live,” is Seth’s message to other students. 

Seth also recommends the YCLI program because it is a broad scale program that enables students to select a particular area of study of interest in conservation and the environment. He further noted that the YCLI program has opened doors for him to participate in other educational programs; among them, the Envirothon team. He strongly believes a program like the Envirothon which has water quality monitoring as an integral part, will likely become more streamlined and demanded as it continues to evolve. This will also promote and help create more opportunities in efforts to protect NOVA streams and natural resources.

Seth enjoyed working with the District programs and greatly appreciates the experience he gained through the Youth Conservation Camp and the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute (YCLI). 

For more information about the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute contact Beth Sokolik at the VASWCD office or visit


Source from the Prince William SWCD Newsletter January 5, 2016.