Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One of the great pleasures of this mapping trip has been living with and exploring with such an interesting and talented crew of trash scientists. We are all on this trip because we love the Missouri River and want to know it more deeply. That is a bond that can’t be broken by simple campsite squabbles, and our bond has grown deeper as the river miles pass by.

Here’s a little bit about the folks on our crew:

First Week:

Charlotte Overby (Char): Charlotte has been an integral part of River Relief since our second clean-up. She’s a traveler, an excellent writer, an upright-bass player (or, apparently, any instrument she touches), a steady boat driver and a great cook. Although she moved to California with her partner Amy (also on our crew) last year, we still benefit from the creative energy she left behind for us to feed off. She now works with outdoor clothing company Patagonia, and arranged for all of us to get donations of free Patagonia gear. Charlotte is the voice of reason and compromise on our crew, and is always up for a good swim. Now she can add a new vocation to her diverse resume: she’s been filming us for a video that will be shown on the Patagonia website. Her fear of bugs meant she was the only one that put up a tent almost every night. Char also came up with the idea of spray-painting the river mile and date on every appliance we could get our hands on. Graffitti for science!

Amy Salaveter: Amy has been our resident naturalist. “What’s that bird, Amy”, “How many eggs do turtles lay?” “How can you tell a bighead carp from a buffalo”. She would answer questions like that almost nonstop every day, and we are all so much smarter now! A biologist by training, she was most recently employed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service working on saving desert tortoises in California. We are so lucky she and Char came back to the Midwest to join our crew, and our knowledge of this river ecosystem is much deeper now because of it. Check out her MegaScout Bird List elsewhere on this site. Over 100 birds of an amazing diversity!

Vicki Richmond: Vicki is the River Relief “West Coast” (Kansas City) Coordinator. She is magic with the press, and with Char and Tim has put together media contacts all along the river. She left her husband, two sons and dog “Pyrite” to join us for a week, and we are so glad they let her come. Vicki has been working for years to clean-up the Blue River in Kansas City, and her skills have really come in handy for River Relief’s mission. She is coordinating three clean-ups this year, in Omaha (our first in NE), Atchison, KS, and Sugar Creek, MO (near Kansas City). She really showed off her skills as an archivist and photographer this week.

Nancy McKenna: Nancy is a psychiatric nurse in Columbia, MO…a skill that this crew definitely benefited from! She’s been in love with the Missouri River since she moved near it 30 years ago. She’s the most likely to hop on an inner tube for a seven-mile float on the Big Muddy, with no idea how she’ll get back. She had to work back in Columbia on Friday and just started hitch-hiking right from the boat ramp. Two rides later, she decided she didn’t want to leave, and hitch-hiked back to the river. Thanks to Nancy’s shopping, half our diet was sweet little snacks, but the nurse in her made sure that we took swimming breaks to cool off when the weather was dangerously hot.

Both Weeks:

Tim Nigh (Science Guy): Tim is the visionary behind the MegaScout project. Tim works with the Missouri Department of Conservation, and has been with River Relief since the idea was first born. He has made a career of identifying and mapping the diversity of ecotypes and natural communities in Missouri. His understanding of the power of maps as educational tools is the inspiration behind the MegaScout. Tim is an excellent camp cook and bartender, and makes an incredible “Key Lime Carp” cooked in the campfire coals. He instantly finds his way into the hearts of the people we meet along the way. There is no better PR than this guy!

Dan Belshe: We would have nothing to show you if not for Dan, our “intern”. Dan created the maps and databases we are using to map trash. He’s been fine-tuning this blogsite and managing the massive amount of photos we are taking. With Tim Nigh and Kim Horton (of Mo-RAP), he created the color-coded lines that show the trash rating for each river mile. Every night, he sits around the driftwood campfire and fills his laptop (“Betty”) with the data we collected during the day, trying to make sense of our weird trash descriptions. Dan is a world traveler, having been to South and Central America, Europe and the Middle East, and his hilarious stories spill out as the night passes on.

Anthony Pettit (Buodreaux): Anthony can figure out anything. He’s been a steady boat driver, a student of GPS, a super hard-worker and is willing to do whatever needs to be done. He’s always the first one up in the morning, cleaning up the boats and making coffee, and often the last to crash around the campfire at night. If we need to find something on the boats, Anthony usually knows where it’s at, and he’s always making sure our batteries are charged. He’s actually arranged his job so that he can do any River Relief event we have and is always one of the happiest people around. He's also come up with a unique fishing style: do donuts with your boat behind a wing dike until the carp start jumping; direct your boat underneath jumping carp; bash carp on head with stick; serve as dinner.

Steve Schnarr: Steve began working on the MegaScout project several months before the trip. Along the way, the concept of the trip kept changing, and Steve tried to flow with the changes (or at least keep his head above water). When planning a river trip, it's best to think like a river, and leave all options open and flexible. He had the misfortune of doing "ground crew" in most of the big cities, where your time evaporates into a blackhole of wrong turns, checkout lines and bad directions. He can now be seen looking for any opportunity to get out on that crazy river and will often be caught expounding on the river as if he is some kind of expert or something.

Second Week:

Sienna: Sienna is another world traveler, but she’s pretty new to the Missouri River. She’s a Thai masseuse, a Yoga instructor and an environmental educator. The sight of Sienna doing a sun salutation with the rosy sunrise river behind her greets us each morning. She brought along her game of “Scruples”, and now we all know more about our ethical make-up than we ever wanted to know.

Melanie Cheney: Melanie has been doing every River Relief clean-up for a couple years now. This spring, she was one of the backbones of our River Fest benefit carnival down at Cooper’s Landing. She’s become a heckuva boat driver, negotiating the long wing dikes of the lower river perfectly. She’s all about swimming breaks whenever possible and her inquisitive nature and smiles keep us optimistic. She was a relentless journaler and many of her thoughts are elsewhere on this blog.

Dave Stous: Dave and his wife, Fran, joined us on our second week for their annual houseboat trip down the Big Muddy. His ideas on campspots and knowledge of the river were indispensible. Dave is a hydro-engineer, and has worked on several power plants and municipal water supplies along the Missouri River. As we neared Kansas City, he was able to share with us some in-depth knowledge of what we were seeing as we passed several inflows and plants. Typical radio transmission: "Saskia to Stousboat - what is that nasty orange stuff coming out of that pipe on river-right?" Reply: "Stousboat to Saskia - it looks like the stormwater retention drain from the powerplant, possibly coming off of their coal piles". Other times he pointed out that certain very strange looking outflows from water treatment plants were mostly heavy in calcium carbonate and silt, and were much less polluted than they appear.

Fran Stous: Fran was our "bottle messenger" for the second week. She took charge of unleashing our messages in bottles, recording and GPS-ing their launch points. Another psychiatric nurse, she has a highly developed spiritual but scientific outlook on life. Once she felt comfortable with us, she joined right in on our night-time swims and campfire conversations. She joined our mapping crew as we went through Kansas City (in a daylong rain) and performed perfectly.

Auxilliary Crew:
Many folks joined our crew for a day or two, helped us shuttle vehicles and crewmembers, or helped in our journey in some way. Here's some (not all) of them!

Racin' Dave Stevens: Dave is the River Relief mechanic. He joined us for our first couple of days on the river. He realized that we would be camping mostly on sandbars and should use our boats, not our van, to carry all of our gear. Thanks Dave! He and John Brady mounted our bimini shade cloths (which were crucial!) and ran through some basic motor repairs with the crew (all of which we needed).

Admiral John Brady: John is our Quartermaster. A long-time river rat, he generously shares his river stories and expertise with all of us. He shuttled folks for our one-week crew change and ran through the boat motors to make sure everything was working well. He has been an endless source of advice and help as some of us have been trained in boat operating. And he was the only one with the energy to force us all to clean out the boats on Friday afternoon, before our La Benite Park event.

Jim Karpowicz: Jim is the founder, idea-guy and fundraising lifeblood of Missouri River Relief and is currently serving as our Executive Director. Although no one will take direct responsiblity for it, but he may also have come up with the idea of the MegaScout. A documentary filmaker and producer, he joined our flotilla for several days, filming the action on and off the river. He also arranged for Tom Newcomb, of Missouri Outdoors to film us for a small piece he will be doing for the MDC show.

Michael Richmond: Michael was the brainchild behind our "message in a bottle" side project. He also shuttled the "Stousboat" trailer back to Kansas City, brought a supply of watermelon and corn for our bellies and bulldogged the "Boats and Brats" event at La Benite Park with his super-wife, Vicki. Michael offers his help at all times, and his thorough and thoughful nature always makes things smooth.


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