ISU group cleans Skunk River

Heidi Jolivette

Everything but the kitchen sink was recovered by the Skunk River Navy, an ISU group committed to monitoring and cleaning the river.

Established by Jim Colbert, associate professor of botany, the SRN is part of the Biology Education Success Team’s freshman learning community. It is open to anyone who is interested in biological studies, Colbert said.

“It’s an opportunity for those students to get out in the real world and see the [biological] diversity they’ll experience later this semester, as well as help out the community,” he said.

The three goals of the SRN include removing trash from the Skunk River, monitoring populations of fresh water mussels – which are extremely sensitive to pollutants and are becoming extinct in Iowa – and monitoring the amount of pollutants in the river, Colbert said. “The students are participating in a project that isn’t just an exercise; the students are collecting real data that will be used,” he said. “I think the students really like that.”

Some of the information collected by students about the chemical and physical water quality is used for the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s project Iowater, Colbert said.

Eric Schauberger, sophomore in biology, said he joined the SRN as part of his community service requirement for Maple Hall last year, but it has turned into a valuable experience for him.

“[I’ve learned] the value of our natural resources, as well as a good old pair of shoes,” Schauberger said. He said he’s already had to throw out one pair of shoes because they became too dirty from SRN work.

Megan Wisecup, junior in animal ecology, also said her experience with the SRN was beneficial.

“It promoted teamwork, learning about clam populations, a canoe trip, community service and free pizza at the end of a long day’s work,” she said.

The SRN will make six Saturday trips to the river this semester, including the one this past weekend, Colbert said.

He said the river’s water quality is something everybody in the community should be involved with because it contributes to the underground wells used by the city for processing drinking water.

Schauberger said trash pick-up days are always fun. “I can now successfully navigate a canoe with 200 pounds of junk in it through even the most extreme terrain,” he said.