Rice Rivers Professional Development

Professional development

Contact for more information:

Anne Wright at

We have designed workshops for teachers and professional environmental scientists that can be tailored to suit any audience or experience level. Contact us to find out if we can offer an event that suits your needs.

Sturgeon tracking

Our annual “Students Collaborating to Undertake Tracking Efforts for Sturgeon (SCUTES)” workshop takes place at the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The workshop highlights the curriculum, kits and adoption program used to learn more about iconic but endangered Atlantic sturgeon — and a pontoon trip on the James to see research in action.

The workshop is a collaborative effort between VCU Rice Rivers Center, NOAA Fisheries, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the James River Association. Dates and details will be posted each July.

Vernal pools

This workshop provides a crash course in vernal pool ecology with a trip to a pool for in-the-field training. It highlights Virginia’s obligate pool residents, amphibian and crustacean species whose survival depends on these increasingly threatened habitats.

Teachers and their students can request to join the VA Vernal Pool Cooperative on CitSci. Org at  to contribute to a statewide project identifying and monitoring vernal pools on public lands. Follow the project and the vernal pool season on Facebook:

Aquatic mesocosms

Learn how to set up a simple experimental system for exploring biological and ecological concepts. Aquatic mesocosms can be set up in any container that holds water. They simulate real-world environments and can be manipulated to study a variety of scientific questions. Our mesocosms have been placed in diverse habitats (including forest, wetland and open field) and are being monitored over time for water chemistry, vertebrate and invertebrate colonization, and carbon dynamics.

Aquatic macroinvertebrates

Examine the ecology and taxonomy of aquatic macroinvertebrates, animals that can be seen without magnification and lack backbones. Macroinvertebrates are valuable indicators of water and habitat quality in aquatic ecosystems. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies monitor macroinvertebrates for official water quality evaluations as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Our expert biologists can tailor workshops to suit any level of experience and include lessons on field and laboratory methods, as needed. We can also serve as official examination proctors if participants are interested in taxonomic certification by the Society for Freshwater Science. Past workshop participants include school teachers, biologists from state and county agencies, and environmental consulting firms.


Fish workshops focus on the ecology and taxonomy of Virginia fishes. Whereas macroinvertebrates are most commonly used for water quality assessment, fish are also valuable indicators, and may indicate conditions over longer time scales and larger spatial scales than those represented by macroinvertebrates. Fish workshops can include field and laboratory instruction, as required by participants.


Bioassessment is the use of living or once-living organisms as indicators of environmental quality. Bioassessment workshops give participants a comprehensive understanding of the field, laboratory and data-analytical methods used to evaluate water and habitat conditions.

Living organisms are affected by virtually all types of pollution. Pollution can leave traces in an organism at any time in its lifespan and any location within its range. Therefore, living organisms provide more comprehensive water quality indicators than one-time measurements.