All photos courtesy Kevin Jeffery, except where noted.
 In Education and Learning, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Budding Seeds of Stewardship

Reflections by Inaugural River Network Emerging Leader Award Recipient, Kevin Jeffery

Winning the Emerging Leader award in 2019 was an amazing experience, and a positive reinforcement of all the hard work Blue Index took to administer. Being acknowledged by your peers, especially those in water advocacy, is very special and I, as the Blue Index Founder and Project Director, am very appreciative of that. Since receiving the award, I have moved from Austin, Texas, to the far upper northwest part of the nation.

I am now located in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, where I’m practicing landscape urban design. A chance networking encounter allowed me to gain employment with a local architecture firm and enabled me to utilize the new skills I obtained from my landscape architecture graduate degree in a new geographic region, southeast Alaska. Along with living in a colder place, it has taken some time to get used to living in the Tongass National Forest, a temperate rain forest. The amount of moisture in the air makes majestic clouds that create new picturesque landscapes every day as they weave in and out of the mountains and evergreen trees covering them.


The waters around Juneau are called the Alaska Inside Passage. This is the southeastern strip at the bottom of the state that hugs British Columbia. In this area there is approximately 11,000 miles of coastline. Alaska’s portion of the Inside Passage extends 500 miles long (north to south), 100 miles wide (east to west), and encompasses 1,000 islands.

Work on the Blue Index Austin Final Report is near completion. Blue Index was an experiment in using a public communication platform to amplify the voices of community members about shared waterways. It uses photography and a short assessment on emotional observations to create a planning tool for municipalities to improve their care of the environment. In Austin, this type of study in had never been done before, conducted in this particular manner, therefore it is okay if the process takes a while. Though the process has taken a long time, it is important to disseminate, document, and complete this body of work for the city of Austin to help improve policies, practices, and design of urban waterscapes. Once complete, the plan is to return to Austin to present the findings to Austin’s City Council and city administrators. I remain always open to pursuing new and creative ways to continue the Blue Index work.

RN Board Member Lynn Broaddus and Kevin Jeffery. Photo by Benjamin Colon.

Receiving this award from River Network has made me reflect on how there are so many other young professionals working hard to protect their part of our planet. There are countless budding water warriors who advocate for this precious natural resource. It is pretty cool that as the first recipient of this award, I have the honor of doing my best to shine a light on other young professional advocates wherever I can. At River Rally 2020, I am excited to share some of these leaders’ important work in a short piece of visual storytelling, based on those values. I am also co-presenting with my fellow Blue Art Collective members in a workshop titled “Weaving Together Art, Water, & Social Justice.”

Winning the Emerging Leader award has enabled many opportunities however, these are not as successful if I do not pass them on for others to utilize so that the sustainability movement can become more robust and diverse. If you are eligible for the River Network 2020 Emerging Leader award, I strongly recommend you apply. This accolade can enable your work to receive the solid support it deserves and put it on a national platform for others to learn about.

The 2020 Emerging Leader award self-nomination deadline is 2/28. Nominate yourself today!

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