My River POV: Shaun Donovan

The River Authority
Jul 20, 2021

The “My River POV” series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of our creeks and rivers.

Shaun Donovan - Manager of Environmental Sciences

 Shaun Donovan, Environmental Sciences Manager

Growing up on the far west side of San Antonio, I never had a connection to the San Antonio River. My only exposure was taking out-of-town family to the San Antonio River Walk Downtown Reach for a boat tour or going to the Alamo and passing by the river on school field trips. My passion and love for the river and its tributaries started when I became an Aquatic Biologist at the River Authority. In my more than eight years with the River Authority, I’ve had the pleasure of paddling nearly the entire 240-mile San Antonio River and getting to see and learn about all the natural beauty this incredible watershed has to offer. Nature-based parks and paddling trails throughout the San Antonio River Basin provide opportunities for people to enjoy these treasured natural resources. My favorite park is the San Antonio River Walk Mission Reach. As residents of Southtown, my wife and I walk our dog there daily and it’s a great place to go for a long run. But the most interesting stories on the Mission Reach can be found underwater.

River Authority's Environmental Sciences Department Manager Shaun Donovan holds an Alligator Gar on the San Antonio River

Holding a Spotted Gar on the San Antonio River.

The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project, completed in 2013, has provided the River Authority with numerous opportunities for proactive ecological restoration. The first initiative undertaken to restore a native population was the reintroduction of Guadalupe Bass. This endemic species, meaning it only exists right here in Texas, has now spread all the way down to Goliad State Park! Beginning late this year, River Authority staff will begin the reintroduction of four freshwater mussel species into the Mission Reach. The San Antonio River will be the first waterbody in the state to have an assemblage of mussels reintroduced. These organisms are ecologically and culturally relevant and were a food source for indigenous peoples. By reintroducing this filter feeding Liver of the River, we will help bolster the ecological foundation of this stretch.

In addition to proactive ecological restoration, the Environmental Sciences Department (ESD) conducts numerous other activities to help keep the creeks and rivers throughout the basin safe, clean, and enjoyable. Our watershed monitoring staff collects routine and stormwater samples, conducts fish, aquatic insect, freshwater mussel, and habitat surveys, and spearheads the monitoring and removal of invasive species such as apple snails and zebra mussels. The staff in the ESD Regional Environmental Laboratory analyze water samples for myriad pollutants including bacteria, metals, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Quality assurance staff ensures that the data produced is of the highest quality and the data management and analysis team digests all the information produced and allows River Authority management to make science-based decisions.  

River Authority Environmental Sciences field staff conducting a fish survey.

River Authority Environmental Sciences field staff conducting a fish survey.

While these activities are not always the most visible, we hope the passion and pride our dedicated scientists and environmental professionals have in the river inspires others to get out and experience the San Antonio River and its creeks and tributaries. These shared resources are precious commodities that need help from every individual to ensure they are there to be enjoyed for generations to come. By working together to Be River Proud, we can ensure that San Antonio always maintains its special sense of place to those of us lucky enough to call it home.