Georgia River Network Staff
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Read our biographies below.
Dana Skelton - Executive Director
I was the Director of Administration and Outreach for Georgia River Network since 2002-2015, and became Executive Director in 2015. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of rivers. We lived on the Susquehanna and my family often made excursions in a heavy, powder-blue canoe. It was me, my mom, dad, brother and our St. Bernard, Max. Staying upright in a canoe with a large dog standing in the boat was my first lesson in balance – in a physical sense. When we weren’t using the canoe, it was tied to the tree next to our rope swing. Hugger, the cat, would jump in when it drifted close to shore and bask in the sun like cats do. I would sit and watch cat and canoe sway with the currents. The river flooded this house twice in the early 70’s when the hurricanes came and the river rose way out of the banks. My brother and I made a jungle gym out of the stacks of furniture that made it out of the house in time. The table in my dining room bears scars from the water damage from 40 years ago.
Growing up in Roswell, I played in the streams and rivers close to home, watching them slowly become less accessible as development consumed the area. I got involved in river work as a volunteer after seeing Joe Cook’s inspirational slide show on his trip down the Chattahoochee River at an Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper event. The next week I started as a volunteer for Riverkeeper. I eventually left my job in the Zoo Atlanta Wildlife Show Theatre and became Director of Education and Monitoring for UCR. I also became involved with Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and Rivers Alive. I later served as the coordinator of the Georgia Stream Buffer Initiative and volunteer president of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, learning the ins and outs of a small volunteer organization. I feel lucky to have meandered down this career path.
When I graduated from Clemson University with a B.A. in Spanish and International Trade and a Masters in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, I knew two things for sure - I liked the outdoors and I didn’t want to get stuck in a job where I had to sell anyone anything they didn’t need. Things have a way of working out. I have enjoyed handling the accounting and databases for Georgia River Network, and many of you know me from learning about GRN’s Water Trails Project or from Paddle Georgia. Paddle GA participants, please don’t fret that you don’t see me on the river each day. My first love is hiking. I am a daily practitioner of balance as I manage a full time job, indulge my many hobbies, and try to lavish enough attention on my relentless cat.
Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, I have always been passionate about the outdoors whether hiking,bicycling, birding, camping, horseback riding, or scuba diving, however I have a special place in my heart for paddling down a river. I received my first kayak with a wooden paddle wrapped in a blue ribbon at the age of 6 and have been a river rat ever since. With my father owning the Broad River Outpost, a canoe and kayak business, I spent many a vacation growing up paddling and camping along Georgia rivers, which in turn gave a me strong sense of admiration, respect, and sense of responsibility towards these ecosystems that we depend so much upon.
Although Georgia is where my heart will always remain, my B.A. degrees in Geography and Anthropology from the University of Georgia with certificates in Global Studies and Environmental Ethics piqued my curiosity about other cultures and landscapes and sent me on adventures to over 30 countries around the world. It was through these travel explorations both at home and abroad that I came to realize that a career that focused on environmental education and outreach by spreading knowledge and enthusiasm about the importance of our natural resources was and still is where I feel I have the greatest strengths and can be the most instrumental in making the largest contribution.
And so I set out to accomplish these goals, first through earning a Master’s degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development from the University of Georgia and then becoming more familiar with the state of Georgia through a Naturalist position for Sea Island Company on the Georgia coast and subsequently as the Ecology Manager for North Georgia Canopy Tours, a zip line company in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. These experiences gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of the awe-inspiring natural diversity of the beautiful state of Georgia. I am now the Community Programs Coordinator for the Georgia River Network and can enthusiastically say – here I am, where my heart and soul belongs, promoting the health of rivers from mountain to sea!
I also have a creative side that has always been encouraged by my mother, a local glass artist with Blue Heron Glass Art, which has led to my love of arts and crafts, and Afro-Haitian and aerial (silks) dancing. I am also a Salsa dance instructor with SALSAthens.
Joe Cook - Paddle Georgia Coordinator and Author of River Guidebook Series
Joe Cook is the creator and coordinator of Paddle Georgia and author of GRN's River Guidebook series. He also serves as the advocacy and communication coordinator for his local watershed group, The Coosa River Basin Initiative. He is a nature/landscape photographer and writer whose work has been published in numerous national and regional magazines and is featured in five books, Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail, Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, River Song-A Journey Down the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers, Etowah River User's Guide and Chattahoochee River User's Guide. He has studied and reported extensively on water resource issues in Georgia since 1994. He and his daughter and her mother spent 26 days canoeing the 160-mile length of the Etowah River in 2002. In 2007, he was the recipient of a national River Hero award from River Network. He is a 1988 graduate of Berry College where he studied communications and agriculture.