I have an ongoing fascination with southern West Virginia. It began with rock climbing at the New River Gorge. But I soon learned to appreciate the region's other natural assets. Spend some time here and you will discover gorgeous mountain landscapes that can rival any in the east and many in the west. Todd Petty (West Virginia University) once described the region to me as "infectiously beautiful" and he was right. Sadly, these landscapes are also being spoiled by mountaintop removal coal mining at a disturbing rate.

I am currently conducting a multi-year study of fish and invertebrate biomass and production within three minimally impacted, southern West Virginia streams. My intent is not to assess mountaintop mining effects per se (others are doing this already), but to document natural or baseline conditions within some of the region's best remaining streams. I spent some time looking for quantitative data on ecosystem structure and function within these streams and found very little. I am therefore filling that knowledge gap myself, with the hope that knowledge and power go hand-in-hand; by thoroughly documenting the "life" within southern West Virginia streams, I hope to increase motivation to protect them.

My three study sites include Slaunch Fork, a tributary of the Tug Fork River in McDowell County; Cabin Creek, a tributary of the Guyandotte River in Wyoming County; and Camp Creek, a tributary of the Bluestone River in Mercer County. With funding from the Eppley Foundation for Scientific Research, I have been able to visit these sites on a quarterly basis. Once finished, I will disseminate a complete, quantitative account of fish and invertebrate biomass and production within these streams. Then ignorance of what is being lost as similar streams are eliminated by mountaintop mining will no longer be a reason not to act.