About Us


Much of our impetus for this project was derived from the pleasure inherent in the concept and the exercise of canoeing the entire navigable length of a river. In the summer of 2001, three of our party canoed the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers from Milledgeville to Darien. The experience spurred a desire not only to do the same trip again, while putting in higher in the hills where the Oconee rises, but also to paddle the Ocmulgee and its tributaries, so as to cover most all of the basin of the mighty Altamaha. Add to this the great diversity  in physical province, habitat type, and degree of human impact, that is so clearly illuminated by a look at where all of Georgia’s rivers flow, and you have much of our reason for wanting to do so much paddling. Navigating a single river (or a whole basin) from source (or close to it) to sea is exciting; traveling several rivers this way provides for useful comparisons and contrasts.

Our Previous History:

As a group, we share interests in natural history, ecology, conservation, and literature. Of the four core members of our group, all are recent graduates of the University of Georgia. Taken together, our previous employment in the realm of biological fieldwork has involved fish sampling in the north Georgia mountains and Piedmont, woodland songbird surveys in the Piedmont and on Sapelo Island, work in the salt marsh at Sapelo, stream ecology studies in Puerto Rico, USGS sea bird study in Alaska, marsh bird study in the upper Midwest, tropical bird study in Hawaii, and an NPS riparian vegetation study in Utah. In addition, we are Quality Assured/Quality Control certified volunteers for the Adopt-a-Stream program of the Georgia EPD/DNR, although we hope to do water quality monitoring that is more intensive than that defined by those protocols. Dean also worked for a time at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in southeast Georgia, an edifying experience not irrelevant to our present concerns. These experiences capture our original essence at the outset of Georgia River Survey, yet we all continue learning about and promoting a nature ethic through various avenues, including, but not limited to, teaching and writing about nature and its conservation.


Ben Emanuel

Richard Milligan

Bryan Nuse


Dean is involved with projects including sea level rise on the Georgia coast and education and conservation in both Uganda and Ecuador. He holds a B.S. from the University of Georgia in  ecology, biology, and marine sciences. In 2009, he completed his M.S. in conservation priority area mapping in ecology at UGA. For this research, Dean worked closely with the Oconee River Land Trust and Athens Land Trust. In 2010 he will matriculate to the UGA Anthropology PhD program. Dean is also the cartographer and web designer for Georgia River Survey.

Rick Milligan teaches literature and writing in Montréal, Québec. He began birding in earnest while a student at the University of Georgia where he studied literature, mathematics, and physics. Since, he has shuffled between ecological fieldwork, primarily with GARS but also in Alaska and Tennessee, and academic research on the relationship between literature and the environment (M.A. English, University of Saskatchewan). Right now he spends most of his free time learning French, but would like to devote more time to writing outside the academy and about rivers.

Bryan is currently a Ph.D. student in the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia. He is using the data of Georgia River Survey as part of his dissertation research. Further, Bryan was awarded a two-year graduate student fellowship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). He will be conducting similar type surveys of vegetation, and in particular birds, in marsh hammocks of the Altamaha River estuaries.

Ben is currently the Oconee Projects Coordinator for Altamaha Riverkeeper, Inc., and Administrative Assistant at Georgia River Network. For four years he was the City Editor at Flagpole Magazine, the alternative newsweekly in Athens, GA. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Georgia in 2002.

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