University of Alabama students Chris Cochrane and Collin Williams recently completed a 340-mile paddling trip from Tuscaloosa to Mobile. 

Their reason was to raise awareness for river conservation efforts in Alabama. The two traveled down the Black Warrior River and Tombigbee River for a total of 15 days.

Cochrane, a recent graduate of environmental science, and Williams, a marine science student, wanted to highlight the importance of freshwater conservation to Alabama’s ecosystem, which contains 38 percent of North America’s fish species and more species of freshwater fish, crayfish, mussels, turtles, and snails than any other state in the U.S.

Cochrane said,

People don’t usually talk about freshwater conservation until something terrible happens, so we really wanted to expose the citizens of Alabama, and the country as a whole, to this important concept.

Though both students have a considerable educational background in environmental science, they wanted to take some of the lessons they have learned and apply them outside of the classroom.

Williams said,

I have always been very passionate about freshwater ecosystems, and about a year ago, I had a dream that inspired me to start planning this long distance kayaking trip.

Proceeds raised from the journey, titled “Kayaking for Conservation”, are being donated to Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Mobile Baykeeper, two of eight organizations in Alabama affiliated with Waterkeeper Alliance.

Charles Scribner, Executive Director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper stated,

Through river exploration, a great American tradition, these students have highlighted the connectivity of Tuscaloosa and Mobile, while also supporting the two Waterkeeper groups who protect that vital nexus.

Donations are still being accepted to support this cause. To donate or learn more click here or check out their Facebook page.