The Kansas Riverkeeper

In 2001 Friends of the Kaw became a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international water protection organization of over 140 members. With our membership we are charged with hiring the Kansas Riverkeeper, a non-governmental public advocate for the Kansas River who holds the community accountable for the health of the Kansas River. Federal, state or county governments cannot be counted on to fund this position but rather we rely on caring private citizens for contributions, donations and memberships to support the Kansas Riverkeeper. Dumping of any type of waste in our streams is illegal and often goes unreported or unchecked by our state health and environment department. If you witness any suspected violations please contact our Riverkeeper. Call the Pollution Hotline: 1-866-RIV KEEP (758-5337) or contact us online to report activities that you would like the Riverkeeper to investigate.



Laura Calwell, Kansas Riverkeeper

The Kansas Riverkeeper is a non-governmental advocate who works as a teacher, scientist, investigator and media spokesperson. The Riverkeeper coordinates all activities of Friends of the Kaw with the supervision and assistance of the Board of Directors. Laura Calwell is the current Kansas Riverkeeper. She holds a BS in Education from Kansas State University and has been a life-long advocate for clean water. Laura is a founding board member for Friend of the Kaw and served for 3 years as the first secretary for the organization, as President for 4 years, and wrote the application to the Waterkeeper Alliance to create the position of Kansas Riverkeeper. In 2003, Laura was chosen for the Riverkeeper position and has served in that capacity for the past 6 years. The Riverkeeper’s successful efforts have met with wide recognition, winning awards from the Kansas and Kanza Chapters of the Sierra Club, the Kansas Natural Resource Council, Bridging the Gap (Kansas City), and the Kansas Wildlife Federation, including an award for “Stream Monitor of the Year” in 2008. Also in 2008 FOK received an Imagination & Place Environmental Award from the Lawrence Arts Center. FOK has also worked with local communities and installed six access points and begun the Kaw River Inventory. Thanks in large part to these efforts, recreation on the Kaw has increased more than 1000% and our membership has grown to more than 400 households and business or over 1,000 people.



Dr. Cynthia Annett, Science Advisor

Dr. Annett received her PhD in zoology from U.C. Berkeley. She has been the Science Advisor for the Kansas Riverkeeper since 2003, and has worked with Friends of the Kaw for more than 15 years. Her responsibilities include researching, writing, and developing online resources for the Kansas River Atlas, Critter Corner, Conservation Priorities and numerous other sections of the voluminous KansasRiver.org website. She is also the chief scientist on the Kansas River Inventory, the first comprehensive survey of the 171-mile Kansas River. Funding for her work has been provided by two EPA grants, the Kansas Health Foundation, Kingsbury Family Foundation, and other nationally competitive granting agencies and foundations. In addition to her scientific work, she writes and implements educational initiatives for Friends of the Kaw. Dr. Annett has experience as a federal fisheries research biologist, university professor, and environmental educator in both the U.S. and Russia, and has over 25 peer reviewed publications.


Virginia Annett MSEd, Education Advisor 

Ms. Annett has been the Educational Consultant for the Kansas Riverkeeper since 2007 and has worked with Friends of the Kaw on several grants. She is responsible for evaluating and developing online resources for the Kids 4 the Kaw, Teens 4 the Kaw, and the Teachers Corner, and assessing the effectiveness of the Riverkeeper's school presentations. She is an educator with experience in administration, curriculum and assessment. Funding for her work has been provided by an EPA Environmental Education grant and a grant from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund. She works closely with the Kansas Riverkeeper, Laura Calwell, to write and implement educational initiatives for Friends of the Kaw and is in charge of aligning FOK lesson plans with the Kansas State Educational Standards. Ms. Annett has experience as a public school administrator and teacher in California Missouri and Arkansas.


Graduate Student Interns


Nasbah Ben is Dine and a certified website designer, who specializes in the use of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4, and Flash CS4. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Kansas, who works to promote the use of freeware and technology to increase the use of online educational material. She assisted in the development of the Kids 4 the Kaw, and continues to manage the Friends of the Kaw website. Ms. Ben received a BS in Environmental Sciences from Northern Arizona University (NAU) where she worked as a student worker with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) in the American Indian Air Quality Training Program.  While working with ITEP, she completed research on the effects of ambient air pollution on Tribal Nations.  She has continued her research into her graduate studies and is currently looking for cost-alternative ways for Tribes to monitor air quality using remote sensing.

Temashio Anderson is Dine and Pomo and is a certified web designer, who specializes in the use of Adobe Illustrator CS4, Photoshop CS4, and Corel Painter Sketchpad. He assisted in the design of the Kids 4 the Kaw website and is currently designing many new materials for the Riverkeeper. He is a current graduate student at the University of Kansas. Mr. Anderson has a Bachelors in Environmental Sciences from Northern Arizona University.  He has been very active in community development work, focusing on community building in Tribal Nations.



Heidi Mehl completed a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a Master’s degree in Global Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas. Ms. Mehl's Master’s thesis, “Water Quality Issues Facing Indigenous People in North America and Siberia,” examined ways to situate scientific information within Indigenous worldviews to help communities become informed decision makers about the quality of their water resources. She has worked as the USGS hydrologist overseeing water testing on the Potawatomi Reservation in northeastern Kansas, and conducted several grant funded projects in the Altai Republic in Siberia, co-developing databases and creating outreach programs with stakeholders in each community to address concerns about their water resources and the problems they are facing. In both communities, she performed water quality tests of local rivers, lakes and streams using both community participatory methods and state-of-the-art scientific methodology. Through her work as a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey she gained technical knowledge about water chemistry, hydrology, and water quality issues. Ms. Mehl is familiar with the proper methods of sample collection and processing, as well as maintaining and calibrating sophisticated equipment such as the YSI 6600 multi-parameter water-quality monitoring sonde. She coauthored three reports and one fact sheet during during her 3 years with the Survey.




Shawna Meyer, Administrative

  Shawna Meyer has a background in underwater documentary film
  making and has been featured on the shows Monsterquest: Giant 
  Squid Invasion and Rogue Nature. She has spent the last 6 years
  studying and researching her specialty, the Humboldt Squid. She has
  assisted the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, in
  researching humane methods of capturing Humboldt Squid and keeping
  them alive in captivity. She is co-founder of The Undersea Voyager
  Project, a non-profit organization that studies the ocean via
  submersible vehicles. She also implemented the Young Ambassador
  Program, based out of Lake Tahoe, California, that encourages young
  teenage girls to get their feet wet and explore the underwater worl.
  These young girls get a chance to don dive gear and help collect algae
  samples. They also get to pilot the submersible vehicle and explore the
  ancient trees of LakeTahoe. Now living in Kansas, she has joined
  Friends of the Kaw, and she assists with their administrative needs and
  continues to find innovative ways to inspire the next generation to get
  more involved in researching and protecting our natural water 
  resources. She is currently a full time student working towards a BS in
  Healthcare Administration.