Co-Founder Post: Elizabeth and Project AWARE

by Elizabeth Reetz, Co-founder and COO

Although I’m pretty new at the whole startup world, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s often the people and not the products that can make or break a business. So, from time to time, we’ll offer you some insights into who we are and what we do outside of ECR Logic! There’s a lot of overlap between our personal and professional passions. I’m in this business and feel passionate about this startup, because I want to improve environmental compliance efficiency, particularly in a time of political threats to decrease environmental protections. Protecting our natural and cultural resources is what I’ve devoted my career to. So, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to participate in an annual event in Iowa that lets me meet, work, and network with others who also share a passion for the environment!

Through my education and outreach work at the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, in 2014 I got invited to participate in an annual event called Project AWARE. I gave an archaeology presentation in a campground in far northwest Iowa. The attendees at this talk had spent the day on the Big Sioux River picking up trash, ate a huge dinner, and then lugged their lawn chairs into a picnic shelter to learn something about archaeology. My curiosity was peaked! Two years later (I rode RAGBRAI that year in between), I was invited by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to participate in the event for the duration of the week as a “resident archaeologist.” I literally jumped at the chance, and now this is one event that I can’t stop talking about! Over five days in 2016, we picked up 40 tons of trash from the lower Des Moines River. Last year, we hauled 20 tons from the upper Cedar River, which I wrote about in depth here. Just this month, we wrapped up the 16th annual Project AWARE on the Maquoketa River, with 224 tires and over 11 tons of scrap metal alone!¬†The entire event is a team and community effort, and couldn’t be done without its sponsors or volunteers.

Scheming about how to remove an old boat motor from the river.

Scheming about how to remove an old boat motor from the river.

Steering with an ~800 lb motor balanced between two canoes.

Steering with an ~800 lb motor balanced between two canoes.

 

Every year, I continue to meet and make friends with people passionate about conservation from across Iowa and even internationally. There are people who work for agencies such as the DNR, IIHR, and NRCS; geologists, hydrologists, and biologists; environmental educators from Iowa’s county conservation boards; teachers; lawyers; doctors, and more. Every year becomes more like a family reunion, and I’m already looking forward to the 17th annual (and my 5th!) Project AWARE in 2019.

With my partner from the NRCS, after pulling out seat springs from an old car submerged in the river.

With my partner from the NRCS, after pulling out seat springs from an old car submerged in the river.

 

The Maquoketa River's beautiful Pictured Rocks.

The Maquoketa River’s beautiful Pictured Rocks.

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