Meredith and Mira Loughlin at People’s Pier in Washington. During the summer, Mira has taken water samples for Swim Guide; this year, she’s helping with microplastics sampling.

MEREDITH AND MIRA LOUGHLIN, WASHINGTON

When Meredith and Neil Loughlin moved to Washington in 2009, they were looking for a slower pace and to make an investment in their future — theirs and downtown’s.

“Neil and I have always been drawn to the water. Neither one of grew up having a boat, but we find being on the water so peaceful, which is why we moved from Greensboro to Raleigh, then back toward the coast. I guess we were working our way back East,” Meredith said.

More than a decade later, their business, Lone Leaf Gallery and Custom Framing, is thriving; their family has grown by one with the addition of daughter Mira; and their passion for enjoying and protecting the waterways is now being passed down to the next generation.

The Loughlins’ involvement with Sound Rivers started with one of its signature events — the annual Oyster Roast — and a donation from Lone Leaf for the silent auction, usually oyster knives, crafted from railroad ties and made locally. As their familiarity with Sound Rivers grew, so did their appreciation for the work it does.

Mira Loughlin’s environmentalism started early; pictured, Mira collects trash from the banks of the Pamlico River.

“I guess I started to realize just how important it was to have a Riverkeeper and someone whose primary focus is the health of the water,” Meredith said. “If Sound Rivers isn’t there doing that, whose job is it? I really love everything they do, from the stormwater mitigation to monitoring where pollution comes from. River basins are so complex, and the water comes from just everywhere. They use the data to inform the public of what effects our rivers, but also make rules for building practices and industry. They do so much to gather information so we can make wise decisions in our planning and in our developing.”

The Loughlins are now putting the science of Sound Rivers into personal practice. For the past two summers, Meredith and 8-year-old Mira have volunteered for Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide, collecting water samples for testing, the results of which are shared to let the public know where it’s safe to swim. This year, mother and daughter will be sampling for microplastics, helping with a two-year-long, statewide program in which Sound Rivers and 15 other Riverkeepers are taking part, and now, a new lesson in Mira’s education.

Mira Loughlin on the job taking water samples in downtown Washington.

“Microplastics sampling — I thought it was really cool, because it’s like hands-on, citizen science. It shows her how to gather data in the field; how scientists gather data to form a bigger picture,” Meredith said. “I want to her see how it plays out in her local community. Science is really cool, but it always seems like it’s farfetched unless you see it applied in your community. … It’s great for her, just meeting the people who have these jobs like (Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell) and the interns. She can see people who do this for a living, and maybe when she’s thinking about what she was wants to do for her career, she can think back to the people she’s met at Sound Rivers.”

Sound Rivers intern April Turner shows Mira Loughlin test results from water samples that Mira provided.

The Loughlins, as a family, are dedicated to promoting sustainability and protecting the waterways in all aspects of their lives.

“Whether I know I’m doing it or not, it’s just what we gravitate toward,” Meredith said. “It’s almost like a hobby: where art is my job, science and sustainability are my hobby.”