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Documenting the Anacostia

By October 12, 2017No Comments

Story and Photography by Krista Schlyer


Great blue heron on the Anacostia River, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens National Park, Washington, D.C. © Krista Schlyer


As the 2016 recipient of the Philip Hyde Grant, I encourage all NANPA members engaged in a conservation photography project to apply. I was awarded the grant from the NANPA Foundation in support of my Anacostia Project, which aims to help residents of Washington, D.C. better understand and get engaged in restoration of the beleaguered Anacostia River watershed.

The Anacostia River, long known as the forgotten river, has, like so many of our urban rivers, suffered centuries of abuse and ecological insult–from deforestation for tobacco production in the 1700s, to toxins and sewage that accompanied a rapidly growing population ever since.

Muskrat eating a flower near a plastic bottle, Anacostia River. © Krista Schlyer

But it wasn’t always this way. This river was once a vibrant community of plants and animals and people living in balance around a deep crystalline river. Even today remnants of that natural community survive, thousands of wild species who continue to depend on this landscape and river just as they did millennia ago. The Anacostia Project aims to help residents remember what this river once was, what it still is, and what it could be again.

Pollution on the Watt’s Branch of the Anacostia River. © Krista Schlyer

Since 2010 I have been photographing the river, its wildlife and plants, the pollution that plagues it, and the people who have been committing their lives to its restoration. The Philip Hyde Grant will help me buy and rent underwater photography equipment to help document the river more intimately and show watershed residents the hidden aquatic world that few of us ever see or even think about.

Freshwater mussel in the Anacostia River with submerged aquatic vegetation. Both of these are indicators that the water quality in the Anacostia is improving. © Krista Schlyer

I’ll be using the photos over the next couple of years for a series of outcomes, including: a coffee table book, an online, multimedia story map; an oral history project that gathers the memory of long-time watershed residents; a traveling exhibit; and a photo database that can be used by Anacostia advocates on a royalty-free basis.

All of this work depends on collaboration with partners, including the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), a developer and supplier of geographic information systems (GIS), the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, Anacostia Waterfront Trust, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, NANPA and the Anacostia Watershed Society.

If you are committed to a conservation project using your photography and could use some support from the NANPA Foundation, don’t hesitate to apply!


Applications for the 2017 Philip Hyde Grant are being accepted until October 31st at 11:59pm EDT. Apply online today!

To support future Philip Hyde Grant recipients, donate a tax-deductible gift to the Philip Hyde Grant fund through the NANPA Foundation.