Monday, September 28, 2009

River Clean-Up w/ Phi Kappa Psi & the Ocean Conservancy

On Saturday September 26th, the Rivers Institute organized a river clean-up with the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at RiverScape in downtown Dayton. The fraternity contacted us about potential service work revolved around the Dayton community and its rivers in August and we were happy to facilitate such an event. We were even happier when we realized it was the group's first-ever visit to RiverScape and we hope it is just the beginning to connecting them to the river and the larger Dayton community.
This clean-up was also exciting because it was the first time the Rivers Institute partnered with the Ocean Conservancy in their annual world-wide Inter-Coastal Clean-Up (ICC), to eliminate marine debris. The Rivers Institute met with the Ocean Conservancy two weeks ago, during their visit to Dayton, and realized we had a clean-up scheduled one week after their 24th annual ICC event, which takes place every third Saturday of September. The Ocean Conservancy was happy to include our clean-up and sent us data cards to fill out and submit for their annual report; the only statistical data distributed world-wide on marine debris and litter.
Our group of 20 volunteers collected over 12 bags of trash and became part of over 400,000 people, who all cleaned up litter on rivers and beaches around the world. Please take a minute to check out the Ocean Conservancy's website to learn more about the ICC and to watch the short youtube video on this year's clean up.
We are looking forward to being part of the ICC in the future and helping the Ocean Conservancy celebrate 25 years of cleaning up the world's waterways! A special thanks to Stewards, AJ Ferguson, Alex Galluzo, Dom Miller and Drew Morrison, for their time and effort spent on the clean-up....not to mention the two shopping carts Dom pulled out of the river!!!

Girls of Science at St. Albert Catholic School

Last Monday, some of our very own girls of science (Tracey Horan and Leslie King) were invited to share their enthusiasm for local geology with the Girls of Science Club at St. Albert the Great Catholic School. The club invites a different "girl of science" to share expertise and collaborate with the girls each month, and this particular month, the Rivers Institute was selected. About 15 middle school girls gathered after school to talk about water resources in the area, build a model aquifer together, learn about hypoxia, and then make posters to remind the rest of the school about the importance of water conservation. The girls were fascinated by the aspects of Dayton's water resources they had never heard of, asked great questions, and seemed excited to stump their science teachers with what they had learned! Another successful collaboration!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little motivation

One man organized the planting of a billion trees in a single day.
And has provided for the future care of the trees.
And managed to employ 300k people living below the poverty line.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stews in the News

Theres going to be a Flyer News article about the recreational opportunities available through the metro parks. I'm pretty sure we are going to be mentioned.

Pictures from River Days

Monday, September 14, 2009

Great Miami River Days Festival!

This weekend the Rivers Stewards sponsored a booth at the Great Miami River Days Festival in Hamilton. River Days is one of the largest water education events in the country and shares many of the same initiative as the Rivers Institute. Visitors from around the region come to enjoy educational opportunities, historical re-enactments, water shows, hay rides, music and more.

The River Stewards created educational opportunities for children with several river game stations. Children could direct water through a maze to a treatment plan, fish for a fact, follow water molecules through the hydrological cycle or play with toys on the “water table.” The event was a huge success. The Stewards were able to interact with and teach little kids about the importance of the river. We look forward to participating again next year.

Special thanks to Tracey Horan for organizing the activities and to Leslie King, Gretchen Berkemeier, AJ Ferguson, Bethany Renner and McClean Johnson for their help making this event a success.

"Water is the foundation of life..." -Betsy Damon

Eco-artist Betsy Damon is on campus this week. She will be coming to the River Stewards mini-course on Friday to talk to the Stews about her work. Betsy seems to share a similar mindset that the Rivers Institute posesses. Betsy has said, "I believe that a group of committed people can address any challenge concerning water, and solve the difficulties in ways that respect the dynamic Universe and every individual. The key to our success is relationships!"

Here is a short bio about Betsy from her collaboration's website

"At a crisis in her life thirty-five years ago, Betsy Damon turned to her dreams and visions as a source of imagery and action. Abandoning her traditional training, she initiated performance art projects creating temporary spaces for herself in public ‘unclaimed’ spots. Then, after a seven week cross country camping trip with her two children, Betsy found herself reconnected to primal elements in the natural world – the sound of wind, the flow of water, the forest, the rain.Rooted in the women’s movement of the 70’s, she founded a national network of support groups for women artists. Through the performance work and building of a network, she evolved numerous skills that began to understand the value of relationships as a foundation for initiating new forms. After casting 250’ of a dry river bed and committing herself to water as a central metaphor and theme for her life and work, she moved increasingly away from the artist as individual to the artist as central to community.Since the forming of Keepers of the Waters with the Humphrey Institute of the University of Minnesota in 1991, she moved increasingly towards creating community based models of her own unique vision. These works communicate the essence of water and inspire hope. She sculpts, she mentors, and she leads workshops and lectures. Her work in China includes the first public art event for the environment. The now world known Living Water Garden, numerous award winning master plans, city planning are all a part of her ongoing repertoire. In the U.S., she is no less productive with active green groups modeled from Keepers and public/private art commissions.Her inspiration comes from extensive research of sacred water sites and ever probing knowledge of biologic and earth sciences involved in living systems. Always seeking new ways to articulate the complexity of water and to engage everyone in caring for this precious resource, Betsy continues her passion" (

Read more about Betsy:

LaChute River Walk "celebrates the extraordinary variety of industries that clustered around the waterfalls and rapids that punctuate the river's course through town" (

What is Dayton did something like this? Would people appreciate our rivers more? Let's ask Betsy what she thinks!

Check out more information on the LaChute River Walk:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Eco Art

Art can be used for many purposes besides rendering and beauty; one example of this is activism in the arts. Artists often use their work to draw attention to environmental issues and places. Some artists transform nature to draw attention to the beauty of the area; one example of this is James Turrell.

Other artists use not only their work, but also the process of approving and creating their pieces to engage the community. Christo and Jean Claude created a piece called running fence; they went to many town meetings to get the project approved. During these meetings people argued about the meaning of art, property ownership, and their landscape. Eventually they were able to erect a fence that followed the hills and valleys of the earth and was made of slightly transparent white sheets of fabric. The end result only remained for a few days but beautifully caught the light and drew people’s attention to the splendor of their countryside.

Andy Goldsworthy’s art is not as political as the work of Christo and Jean Claude, but beautiful nonetheless. He immerses himself in a natural setting for a period of time and creates art using only what he finds. Some artists care more about the physical effect of their art then how visually pleasing it is. Jackie Brookner’s art actually helps to filter the air and water while being aesthetically pleasing.

Next week we will all be able to personally meet the “eco-artist” Betsy Damon who works specifically with water issues. In her piece living water garden, "Polluted river water moves through a natural, and artistic treatment system of ponds, filters and flowforms, making the process of cleaning water visible." Later on the Beehive Collective, a political and environmental art making organization, will also visit UD.


Take some time to look through some of the artist’s work and artist’s statements.

James Turrell:

Christo and Jean Claude:

Andy Goldsworthy:

Jackie Brookner:

Betsy Damon:

Beehive Collective:

For more artists:

A great op-ed by Dusty Hall

Guest column: UD certainly isn’t missing the boat(s)

By the Dayton Daily News | Monday, September 7, 2009, 08:00 AM

This column was written by Douglas “Dusty” Hall, manager of program development at the Miami Conservancy District and a former assistant city manager in Dayton.

It’s no secret to the University of Dayton that young adults are full of talent — the kind of talent that businesses lust for.

Young talent is an increasingly sought-after commodity, and tens of thousands of young people are products of the Dayton area’s universities and colleges. So, where is our flood of new businesses? Or, more important, where are all the new young grads?

A recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests that about six out of every 10 of Ohio’s college students will leave, or are leaning toward leaving. This “brain drain” is not good news for a state with an aging work force and stagnant population.

The Fitz Center for Leadership in Community at the University of Dayton understands that a young, talented work force is essential to businesses, and it doesn’t believe Ohio’s and the region’s losses are inevitable. It’s working hard and smart for change that is altering the course of dozens of UD graduates.

Although some graduating students may still leave Ohio, for many that decision will be tougher. And, while a few dozen students staying here won’t trigger an economic windfall, the philosophy that underlies the early success of these efforts can be copied. What is the Fitz Center’s secret? It’s the students themselves — with a little water and a few canoes and kayaks mixed in.

Today, the Fitz Center and the College of Arts and Sciences are basking in the admiration of the McGregor Fund, a private foundation that has committed $180,000 to UD. That money will help develop a multidisciplinary curriculum geared to developing new civic leaders who are committed to the Greater Dayton community and who are good stewards of rivers and our other natural assets.

They can — and should — be new members of our work force.

The cornerstone of this effort is that students are not only leading the process, but teaching and learning in collaboration with Dayton public- and private-sector partners. Connect these dots: talented, civic-minded students; supportive host and collaborating institutions; leaders and leadership; the river; and a growing work force contributing to the economy.

Sound fishy? Maybe not.

Founded more than 60 years before the great flood of 1913, UD is home to a relatively young Rivers Institute. What sets it apart from similarly named institutes around the world is that students have been largely responsible for its birth and evolution. Just like the curriculum development project, the Rivers Institute is a product of student leadership.

Today, the Rivers Institute promotes the mutual interest of more than three dozen river stewards earning degrees in 15 different academic areas. The stewards are enormously talented, and they share an interest in our river.

They are inspired to their cause by the river. In addition to their annual 17-mile two-day river trip, this year’s senior stewards paddled 50 miles from near Indian Lake (the headwaters of the Great Miami River) to just north of Dayton. Elected officials and other dignitaries greeted and welcomed them during their passage.

River trips bring these talented young adults one step closer to the compelling grip of our river cities. In the words of Nolan Nicaise, a 20-year-old biology major: “We’ve formed connections with our place, our city, our Dayton.”

Because the stewards are connected to the community, because they’ve learned to love the river, they will be more likely to stay here after they graduate.

They will be more likely to be an economic force and new civic leaders. Already they are leaders within the university, and some are contributing to policy discussions in city government.

The Fitz Center has discovered a recipe worth copying. Take talented students from a supportive institutional framework, put them in kayaks and canoes, add water, mix in some community partners, and let the creativity flow.

For those of us in local and regional government, the message is clear.

There is a reservoir of local university and college students, many of whom have a desire and the capacity to add value to our communities.

Our challenge is to actively and creatively engage them; to share our experiences, listen to their ideas, provide constructive input, and then to break down barriers so they can do their work.

Although it will take time to quantitatively assess the impact of the Rivers Institute, one thing is for sure, UD and its Fitz Center have not missed the boat(s).