The 2024 RiverWatch Team

Operational Leadership & Seasonal Staff

At the heart of RiverWatch are our Interpretative River Guides, who bring the science of the river, its watershed, and the city’s history, culture, and geology to life. We are incredibly fortunate to have a team of super smart and highly skilled guides who are passionate about nature, science, and the river and excel in communicating with our students and guests. To become a RiverWatch guide, individuals must complete an intense week of training covering a range of topics, including rafting, emergency response, health and safety, equipment maintenance, water quality monitoring, natural history interpretation, science curriculum, and wastewater tours. This comprehensive training program ensures that our professional river guides are fully prepared to work with students and clients on Alberta’s rivers.

For many, being a RiverWatch Interpretative River Guide is the perfect summer job, particularly for post-secondary students studying environmental sciences. Our team also includes nationally certified nature interpreters and skilled whitewater paddlers, creating a diverse culture that supports one another to provide the best possible experience on the river for our students and guests. Want to become a RiverWatch River Guide? It’s the best summer job EVER!Click here to learn more and apply now!

Expand Names Below to Meet Our Leadership Team!

Joining RiverWatch in the spring of 2023, Michelle is our visionary science lead, managing all CreekWatch water science programs and citizen science initiatives. Michelle is an honours graduate from Mount Royal University, holding a BSc in Environmental Science. Her academic journey ignited her passion for water resources, including hydrology, water quality, pollution, and watershed management. Data analysis, one of her favourites, serves as her tool to uncover the intricate connections between people, water, and the environment. As a former interpretative guide for RiverWatch, Michelle thrived on educating others about waterway importance, its impact, and mitigation strategies. She firmly believes that fostering this understanding sparks environmental advocacy and inspires citizen scientists. Michelle’s fervent goal is to contribute to a sustainable future. A self-professed “data nerd”, Michelle can often be spotted doing water tests along Calgary creeks and rivers in her spare time. A proud Calgarian, Michelle enjoys the Bow River, Fish Creek Park, and creative pursuits at home with her cats, Stevie and Luna.

Chris Girard is now in his 3rd full season with RiverWatch. He is a father, husband, son and an accomplished river, wilderness, alpine and heli-ski guide. He lives most of his life outdoors, constantly on the water, either surfing, paddle boarding or rafting and during the winter months, he’s in the mountains sliding down frozen water, guiding in skis. His passion for learning and teaching is without bounds. Being able to guide thousands of guests through amazing life-changing wilderness experiences safely is his raison d’être. Whether making new friends or seeing the annual arrival of a migratory species of bird on the river, every day there is something new to experience.

River Hoffos joined the RiverWatch team in 2020 as a Guide and is now the team’s Float Operations Manager. He loves sharing his passion for nature, education, conservation, and rafting with the many students, guests, and staff who make RiverWatch a part of their lives. River’s favourite part about his job is fostering a fun, supportive, and effective teamwork environment!

Outside of work, River is a Semi-Professional Ukrainian Dancer with the Viter Ukrainian Dancers in Edmonton. He spends most of his free time hiking, backpacking, camping, and canoeing across the great outdoors! In the moments between work and wilderness, you’ll find River hard at work planning events in the Ukrainian Community.
He hopes to see you on the river!

Now in her 4th year with RiverWatch, Emma Schneider is our Citizen Science and Creekwatch Coordinator for the Northern Alberta region. She is an experienced environmental enthusiast with a diploma in Natural Resource Technology from Portage College. Emma brings her passion and experience in water management, wildlife conservation, and environmental law to the organization. She is committed to practical, hands-on learning, which she integrates into her role at CreekWatch. In her current position, Emma aims to connect science with the community, focusing on water conservation and inspiring others through her passion for environmental stewardship. She enjoys outdoor activities like kayaking and volunteering in community environmental projects. Emma’s prior experience as a lead River Guide for RiverWatch for 3 seasons further solidifies her dedication to our mission and environmental stewardship, showcasing her leadership skills and genuine love for her work.

Lucas has been a RiverWatch guide for four seasons. His passion for water has led him to many adventures and experiences worldwide. Whether that is chasing waves to surf, snow to ride down, or rivers and lakes to swim in, his love for anything water-related has shaped him into the person and river guide he is today. He is also very passionate about sharing that love with people, helping them create their own adventures and experiences with water and the outdoors. He believes in creating meaningful and impactful moments and memories with those around him, always learning and exploring. According to Lucas… every day is an adventure.

Jay Ball was appointed Executive Director of RiverWatch in the summer of 2022. He oversees all operations, including the School Science Float, EcoFloat, and CreekWatch programs. Jay is a member of the Professional River Outfitters Association Of Alberta (PROAOA) board of directors. His diverse expertise in the business, charitable, sports, and hospitality sectors is rooted in his ability to craft compelling experiences and storytelling that forge deep emotional connections between individuals and the brands he represents.

In the brief time since Jay’s arrival, the RiverWatch team has revitalized their culture and set new standards for operational excellence. They optimized river guide recruitment and training, refined float operations, and expanded CreekWatch into private water monitoring. The team also launched “RiverWatch EcoFloats,” an urban guided-river-rafting experience on the NSR and Bow rivers. With 75% of dates sold out and outstanding guest feedback, RiverWatch emerged as a key player in Edmonton and Calgary’s tourism sectors. EcoFloats became a finalist for the Edmonton Tourism Awards in Sustainable Tourism, cementing the organization’s industry standing. Jay has always focused on hiring top-tier talent from within, and he is proud that the entire leadership team has been promoted internally.

Background: Jay Ball is an accomplished executive with over 20 years of experience building great teams as President & CEO in the non-profit education sector and GM in the professional sports/hospitality spaces. Throughout his career, Jay has demonstrated a keen ability to improve operational efficiencies, develop innovative projects that drive growth, and craft compelling experiences that forge emotional connections between individuals and the brands he represents. He has also made substantial contributions to local and international communities, serving as a volunteer leader in various capacities. Instrumental in supporting numerous community and sports events, such as the Tour of Alberta, FIFA Women’s World Cup, and IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, Jay also held a four-year tenure as GM of FC Edmonton in both the NASL and Canadian Premier League. Additionally, since 1995, he has been an integral part of the Edmonton Oilers’ game-night PR team. Jay’s commitment to community service is evident through his involvement as a board member for organizations like Edmonton Special Olympics, Kids Up Front, and the Edmonton Public Library. He is also a member of Leadership Edmonton’s Charter Class.