Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Meet an 'Ologist

David Hercher, Paria River District

Get to know a Monument 'ologist on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Meet Dr. Hannah Bonner! Hannah is an environmental scientist for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Hannah works with Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Soil Scientist Raven Chavez in monitoring recreational water at Calf Creek Falls in Escalante, Utah.

Hannah is a Utah native who started her career as scientist in 2016, and together she and her team are dedicated to safeguarding public health in Utah's renowned lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.

Together they diligently identify harmful waterborne pathogens (E. coli) and harmful algal blooms (HABs), which pose a serious health risk to recreating visitors and their pets. In collaboration with local authorities, they issue timely advisories to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.

"I’ve always been curious about the natural world both personally and professionally, and this job has a little bit of everything! I get to be a scientific researcher, a public educator, and a cooperative policy maker. But I'm happiest when I'm in the field getting to interact directly with harmful algae and the public.”

As an Environmental Scientist at Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality, Hannah gets to travel around the state to ensure public safety in and around Utah’s waterways.

“The work I do has real and immediate effects on public safety. It's a lot of responsibility, but it also makes my efforts meaningful. Watching folks become empowered and informed on how to stay safe from harmful algal blooms is particularly rewarding. Utah has incredible waterways and I want everyone to know how to enjoy them.”

There are three different advisory levels: Health Watch, Warning Advisory, and Danger Advisory. To learn more about each advisory level and current conditions, visit About & Check Utah Recreational Water Quality. When visiting the Monument, visitors planning to recreate in bodies of water like Calf Creek are encouraged to Know Before You Go! Advisories are also hyperlinked on the Monument Homepage under Monument Travel Information.

To learn more about the science on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, visit https://bit.ly/3StR2eO, and to learn more about Citizen Science on the Monument, visit https://bit.ly/3Ss4tfb.

Looking for harmful algae mats on North Creek, Zion National Park. Credit Hannah Bonner.
Looking for harmful algae mats on North Creek, Zion National Park. Photo credit Dr. Hannah Bonner, Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Finding harmful algae mats. Photo credit Dr. Hannah Bonner, Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
“I'm notorious for finding harmful algae on vacation! At this point I just carry around a sample bottle with me whenever I'm outside. This was a patch of harmful algae mats I came across partway through a technical canyoneering route near Hanksville, Utah.” Photo credit Dr. Hannah Bonner, Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

 

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