Clean Water Champion: Chris Keeley

PREP’s Clean Water Champion
Chris Keeley – UNH Cooperative Extension, NH Sea Grant & Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
PREP’s Clean Water Champion is a monthly feature that profiles people and partners working to make a difference around our watershed.
This month we caught up with Chris Keeley who works with both UNH Cooperative Extension and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Chris’ current projects range from climate adaptation planning with Exeter, to green infrastructure projects with the Southeast Watershed Alliance to studying nitrogen sources and pathways watershed-wide.  He’s just started an exciting project calledResilient NH Coasts which looks at salt marsh migration as an effect of sea level rise.
In addition to his valuable work with communities he’s a phenomenal photographer and his work “Journey to Tanzania” will be on display atNewfields Main Street Art the month of March. Check out his fantastic photos on his website or Facebook. Chris is a young, energetic and very capable champion in our watershed and we’re lucky to have him!
Chris Keely
PREP: How long have you been a champion for clean water?
Chris: Since I was a kid! I grew up in Midcoast Maine and spent many childhood adventures on canoe trips, sailing, and swimming at the lake or the ocean. As a teenager, there were several years where my best friend and I succeeded in bass fishing almost every single night (sometimes in the morning, too) from spring into fall. We’d tie my canoe on the roof of my car and visit half a dozen lakes each week (we had favorites, though). The experience provided incredible insight into the rhythm of the seasons, how fish and bird behavior changes, and how the lakes change. We met a lot of anglers and shorefront property owners over the years, and you come to find a real sense of community around a waterbody. I think that we have that around the waters of the Seacoast, too.
PREP: How’d you get started in protecting clean water?
Chris: Well, I began working at UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant at the same time that I was finishing graduate school at UNH. My thesis research was focused on how coastal communities in New England are planning for and adapting to climate change. Prior to that, I started meeting people in the field while I worked at the Maine Coastal Program and later through a fellowship with Clean Air – Cool Planet, which is where I joined with the NH Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (NH CAW). I feel very fortunate to continue to be a part of this team through my work with Cooperative Extension, Sea Grant, and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. I wear many hats!
PREP: What’s your favorite thing to do with or on water?
Chris:  Wow, as I think about it I realize my whole life has been connected to the water. I’ve been a skier since I was a child. There’s nothing I love doing outside more than skiing. I did a lot of whitewater kayaking in high school, and since moving to the Seacoast transitioned into surfing. And of course, as a photographer, I also enjoy bringing my camera to the water’s edge. Waterways offer so much for photographers, from long exposures and scenic vistas to birds, beavers, bugs, and boaters. There’s always something to see and do on the water!PREP:What’s been your proudest moment as a clean water champion?
Chris: Last April I traveled to Denver, CO for the first National Adaptation Forum. Myself and a few colleagues from NH CAW delivered a presentation about what NH communities are doing to plan for climate change. Over the course of the three day event I attended many sessions from speakers all over the country, and I felt so proud because what I discovered was that NH’s communities are farther ahead than much of the country. I think it speaks to the forward-thinking of our community leaders, their dedication, and the residents that support their decisions.
PREP: What’s one simple thing you would tell somebody to do to protect the places around the Seacoast they love?
Chris: Share those places! Celebrate them! Bring people to your favorite places, post photos on instagram (#seacoastnh), and help people understand why the Seacoast is such a diverse, fun, and special place to live. At the same time, though, it’s a fragile area, which is why fostering connections to the Seacoast is so important. Effective stewardship comes from having a personal connection to the land and water.  There are so many pressures from land use to climate change that can and will change this place we call home. To prepare for these changes, and to reduce changes that are undesirable, we all have to feel a connection to the Seacoast. And what better way than to get out there and enjoy all that the Seacoast has to offer!

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.