Annual Skunk River cleanup begins Saturday

Jim Colbert, founder of the Skunk River Navy, shakes the mud out of a tire before he puts it into a canoe on Saturday September 20, 2008 in the Skunk River.

Frances Myers

Fall Skunk River Navy season begins Saturday.

ISU students, faculty and volunteers will collect trash along and from the Skunk River.

Trips down the river will also occur Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

Skunk River Navy was created by Jim Colbert, associate professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology.

As a frequent user of rivers and streams around central Iowa, he became concerned by increasing problems facing these waters.

Colbert started the experience as a community service project for the freshmen biology learning community, BEST — biology education success team.

He saw this as the perfect group to tackle the project, Colbert said, as it’s an educational activity, since students and volunteers learn about issues such as land stewardship, water quality and organismal diversity.

“There’s probably a lot of trash in the river due to the recent flooding,” Colbert said. “We like to minimize the amount of Ames and ISU trash that ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.”

More than 1,000 participants will help cleanup: volunteers, 120 BEST students, microbiology students and faculty doing bacterial measurements, BEST Mentors, members of the Biological Sciences Club and incoming ISU freshmen biology majors as well as Skunk River Navy students who have participated in previous years.

More than 57 tons of trash has been removed since the start of the program in 1998, Colbert said.

“We average about 3,000 pounds of trash every time we go out, which is around 1.5 tons,” Colbert said.