Apalachicola RiverTrek

Meet the RiverTrek Team!

Click on photos to learn about the individual paddler and sponsor them.
Chris Watkins
Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins grew up on the banks of Illinois’s largest dam-built lake and has been in search of clearer, wilder waterways since. Chris moved to Tallahassee in 2020 to complete a Ph.D. in poetry at Florida State University. While here, they fell in love with Florida water and have written extensively about the state’s rivers and springs, sinks and aquifers, the marshes and swamps, sloughs, coastlands, and tides.

Chris’s studies in poetry, eco-criticism, and queer ecology have not only shaped who they are as a writer and a person, but have very much shaped who they are as a paddler as well; in their kayak, Chris views the river not as one binary thing on which they float in a single direction, but as a complex set of ecosystems, a web of connections often mixed and brackish at the edges.

The Rivertrek’s mission to not only enjoy and educate about the natural setting of the Apalachicola, but also to advocate for the river—protecting through advocacy and legislation those more-than-human creatures who need this vital body of water—are the reasons Chris is so excited to raise funds this year and to paddle the 100+ miles downstream.

Roy Stanley
Roy Stanley

Roy joined the RiverTrek this year because the Apalachicola River is something that means a great deal to both him and his wife, Susan Anderson. They are paddling a tandem kayak together. Roy’s life’s work and passion have always revolved in some way around the water. A RIVERTREK 2023 Team Bios hunter and fisherman, Roy says, “My brothers and I even gigged frogs to sell to restaurants to make pocket change when I was a teenager.”

Roy worked in fisheries research for FWC at Blackwater Hatchery where countless thousands of striped bass fingerlings were hatched and put back into the system over many years.hav Roy spent much of his professional time on the river doing fisheries research, sampling for water quality, and measuring water flow; finally retiring from the US Geological Survey a few years back.  He also spent a time volunteering with Apalachicola Riverkeeper in its beginning days.  Roy looks forward to this adventure and the opportunity to support the continuing good work of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper.  Ray says, “My wife reminded me that we are doing this not only as a way to honor the river, but in celebration of our 33rd wedding anniversary on October 3.” Happy Anniversary Roy & Susan!

Dani Davis
Dani Davis

Dani has had her hands in the dirt and feet in creeks for as long as she can remember. Growing up in the space between north Georgia and Atlanta, she found her home running through forests and flipping over stones. This love for wild spaces eventually brought her to Tallahassee to pursue a master’s degree at Florida State University, where she studied barrier island ecology in the shores of St. George Island. Since moving to north Florida, Dani has gotten as involved as possible in local conservation and restoration programs, ranging from rare plant surveys in the ravines along the Apalachicola River to scientific diving in the Gulf. The Apalachicola River and its watershed have absolutely captured Dani’s love and affection and she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

As Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s new Director of Outreach, Dani is thrilled to join the mission of this year’s RiverTrek. She wholeheartedly believes that successful conservation requires engagement and involvement of the local community – which is what RiverTrek is all about. She can’t wait to share the stories of the River, and the RiverTrekkers, for the preservation of this incredibly unique river its entire community; plant, animal, fungi, human, and everything in between.

Caitlin McCauley
Caitlin McCauley

Caitlin McCauley is an adventure cyclist with Chicago roots. Her first experience with the wetlands of Florida was when she rode her bike from Jacksonville, Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Captivated by the unique biodiversity and tropical climate Florida had to offer, she detoured north up highway 65 into Tate’s Hell. She pushed her bike past palmettos and slash pine and through puddles stained rich amber brown by pine needles. She marveled at the delicate tendrils of Spanish Moss that hung over, the massive pine cones scattered from long leaves and cypress knees that peaked out from the waters. After hours of exploring she sought refuge along Wright Lake and fell asleep to a lullaby of frogs and crickets. This was the strange new world she was looking for. Eventually, Caitlin made her way around the perimeter of Mobile Bay and into the city of New Orleans. Numerous other rivers, canals and coasts have driven her trails since, such as the Thames River across England, the Danube from Germany to Hungary, the rocky roast of the Irish Sea and the canals that stretch between DC and Pittsburgh. She can’t wait to catch up with the mighty Apalachicola River and learn from other like-minded individuals who respect her (the River) just as much.

Paula Carroll
Paula Carroll

Paula’s passion for environmental conservation was sparked by the iconic “Crying Indian” commercial in the 1970s, which raised awareness about pollution. Despite the commercial’s significant inaccuracies, Paula was deeply moved and made a personal commitment to protecting the natural resources previously owned, inhabited and cared for by Native Americans for future generations.

Her love for the Apalachicola River, where she has enjoyed countless camping trips, searching for pottery, fishing adventures, and explorations, further fuels her dedication. Paula believes in maintaining the river’s beauty and ensuring its preservation by educating others about its significance.

Join her on the River Trek Journey, an exciting adventure that directly contributes to the conservation of the Apalachicola River Basin. This fundraiser supports the efforts of the Riverkeepers, who work tirelessly to protect and restore the river and bay. Together, we can learn about the river’s value and the importance of preserving this precious natural resource.

Rebecca Means
Rebecca Means

Rebecca Means is an ecologist and science educator with a passion for backpacking, travel, and food. She has documented the remotest location of 40 states. She’s had a lot of expedition experience, but almost all has been on foot. This will be her first kayaking expedition! Rebecca just finished homeschooling her daughter through 8th grade and is looking forward to their future time together spent rock climbing and not doing math!

As Director of Coastal Plains Institute, Rebecca spends much time sharing the magic of ephemeral wetlands and the biodiversity of Florida’s Big Bend region with the public. Rebecca is excited to partner with Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the “Trekkers” to learn more about river ecology and to spread the word about the importance of this amazing river and the excellent work the Apalachicola Riverkeeper does. Plus, she will have just turned 50, so what better way to celebrate!

Support the whole team
Support the whole team
Susan Anderson
Susan Anderson

Susan Anderson is a founding member of Apalachicola Riverkeeper and served as the first Riverkeeper in 1998, 25 years ago. She is excited to join the RiverTrek and spend 5 glorious days on the river! She spent so much time in the Apalachicola River when she was growing up that she believes it may actually be muddy water that courses through her veins.

Susan’s family bought a home at the pavement’s end on Bluff Road when she was not quite four years old. Her mamma said that the first time Susan saw the river, she opened the car door jumped out, ran to the end of a 50 feet long dock and was in the water before anyone could catch her. Swimming came naturally to Susan.

For the next several years the water and wetlands were where Susan was most likely to be. It was where she learned to fly fish, gig frogs, hog and gator hunt, water ski, handle a boat and tend bees. She said, “Those were magical days. I feel I was raised by the river, and she will always be my Mother. I thank her for teaching me to see the beauty of a mayfly hatch or a shell cracker bed; to see the mysterious elegance of giant sturgeon and strippers; to feel the breathtaking power of current and wind in a storm; to respect the cottonmouth draped on most every limb and pilling, and to know that every water bug, spider and fiddler crab is a sacred thread in the web of life she sustains.”

Susan worked at the Department of Community Affairs as a resource planner, focusing on the counties along the river. It was her privilege to get to know the people and the issues and to be a part of a team of talented and dedicated agency professionals who collaborated to support and sustain riverine resources. Yet, despite the best efforts of us all, it became clear to Susan that the ability of government to adequately protect and serve the long-term goal of environmental and cultural sustainability was insufficient to the needs the region was facing. She became part of a group who formed a citizen advocacy organization called the Apalachicola Bay and Riverkeeper. She says it was an honor to serve as the organization’s first Executive Director and Riverkeeper and that the work of those who have come after her has been nothing less than inspirational. Susan and her husband, Roy Stanley are paddling their tandem kayak this year as their way of celebrating both the river and their 33rd wedding anniversary.

Georgia Ackerman
Georgia Ackerman

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE TEAM!

Michael Mendez
Michael Mendez

Michael Mendez lives in Tallahassee, Florida. He believes the Apalachicola River is an ecological treasure to be protected. He says, “I am so proud to participate in the 2023 Apalachicola Rivertrek! This trip will be my sixth trip down the mighty Apalachicola River in support of Apalachicola Riverkeeper.” An avid kayaker, Michael has been an outings volunteer with Apalachicola River for many years. He’s also been a support crew member for RiverTrek, providing a homecooked dinner for the team on the second night of their journey. Michael makes a mean paella!

Michael wants to raising funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper because, “they give a voice and advocate for maintaining the health of one of our remaining environmental jewels, the Apalachicola River.” Mike is troubled that many of Florida’s ecological treasures have been plundered, but believes, together, we can protect Apalachicola River Basin—ensuring the river’s ecological health for generations to come.

Shirley Kasser Creech
Shirley Kasser Creech

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE TEAM!

Angie Riviere
Angie Riviere

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE TEAM!

Susan Doyle
Susan Doyle

Susan Doyle is a retired nurse midwife, certified sexuality counselor, and entrepreneur. She owns a sewing business with her sister, making fabric bags and purses. Though she grew up in the Midwest, she spent the bulk of her life in the south, Atlanta specifically. In the late 1980’s, her family began traveling to the Forgotten Coast and they fell in love with St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. They returned again and again. Susan feels lucky to have purchased a piece of property on the St. Joe Bay, near the state park in 2016, where a cabin was later built. She says, “My heart is here but it’s also there in Atlanta.”

Susan has been an avid supporter of Apalachicola Riverkeeper and kept tabs on the “water wars” between Georgia and Florida (also Alabama), because the Apalachicola River links her two lives, one in Atlanta, and one on Cape San Blas. She’s thrilled to have been chosen for the 2023 RiverTrek Team and can’t wait to explore this stretch of Florida. She enjoys paddleboarding on the bay and riding her bike. Susan hopes the RiverTrek experience jump starts her exploration of the amazing rivers and places in the region. She encourages others to cherish and love the natural world around them.

Deb Burr
Deb Burr

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE TEAM!

Mark Yeslow
Mark Yeslow

Mark was born in Hollywood, Florida.  He presently lives in Fort Myers. He has been married to his lovely wife Lisa for 33 years and has three children Jack, Elizabeth, and Joseph. The Yeslows have recently been blessed with one grandchild Riley Ann who just celebrated her first birthday.

In his lifetime Mark has seen Florida change in so many ways.  When he was born, Florida’s population was just over 5 million people and now Florida has over 23 million people. With this rapid growth, Mark has seen the inevitable changes to Florida’s environment. He admires those who seek to preserve and protect what makes Florida beautiful. Mark enjoys open spaces. He loves everything to do with the water. Mark is looking forward to the kayak trip on the Apalachicola River, one of Florida’s finest rivers.  He’s eager to support the work of Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

The annual RiverTrek fundraiser-awareness campaign supports the advocacy, education and outreach work of Apalachicola Riverkeeper–100% of funds raised support our work. The RiverTrek team will travel the 107-mile length of the Apalachicola River, October 4-8. Each night the paddlers camp along the river’s bank. They meet with historians, ecologists and other experts along the way.  Prior to launch, the volunteer paddlers seek donations in their respective communities from friends, family members, businesses and community members. The team also works together in a variety of community events that we hope to see you at. Be sure to sign up for email updates.

Questions?  Please contact Georgia Ackerman,  [email protected]

Enjoy some RiverTrek videos and other related short videos from the WFSU Ecology Blog.

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