By Jessianne Castle EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – In January, nonprofit Gallatin River Task Force welcomed two new staff members to their ranks. Valerie Bednarski and Brandy Moses Straub will assist the task force with water stewardship projects.
Bednarski, a graduate of the marine science program at the University of California, Berkeley, came to Big Sky from Southern California as a part of the Big Sky Watershed Corps, which is an AmeriCorps program that connects young professionals to Montana’s watershed communities.
Having conducted research on coastal waters, including the turquoise currents of Tahiti, the warmer flows of the Outer Banks, and the kelp forests off of California, she said she’ll be glad to learn about the Gallatin’s freshwater. “I like winter sports and snowboarding, but I look forward to when it’s warm enough for us to go out and really examine the waterways and learn more about this watershed,” she said.
Bednarski was first attracted to Montana after taking a course at UC Berkley, taught by Arthur Middleton, who researches elk migrations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. “I just saw how beautiful Montana was,” she said. “And I was excited to live in a place with so many outdoor activities.”
Working for the task force, Bednarski will assist with data analysis and river monitoring, preparing the information in a way that can be used by the public. Currently, she is assisting with the analysis of water samples and data collected during the algae bloom that occurred late last summer.
Brandy Straub, who has lived in Gallatin Gateway for about 10 years, is stepping in as the new conservation project manager, and will help lead restoration and conservation projects pertaining to water quality and quantity.
She said over the next year, the task force hopes to begin work at the Deer Creek bridge, approximately 3.5 miles north of Lone Mountain Trail on Highway 191. In a similar fashion to their restoration work at Moose Creek Flat Campground, Straub will help arrange for parking lot improvements and restoration of the stream bank. This work is anticipated to begin in the fall.
With over a decade of experience working for Tetra Tech, an environmental consulting and engineering firm based in California, Straub said she looks forward to applying her skillset in Big Sky and on the Gallatin River, where her daughters each caught their first fish on a fly and where her husband, Patrick, operates his fly-fishing business, Gallatin River Guides.
“For me, it was just about being able to use my professional skills and background in a very local environment,” she said. “I’m most excited about the water conservation possibilities and all the collaborative effort that seems to be happening around Big Sky.
“The community as a whole seems to be working really hard to preserve water quality and quantity,” she added. “They’re setting priorities on conservation, which is a really great thing as the community continues to grow.”
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