The 2024 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!
Meet Our Leadership Team
Jay Ball – Executive Director – Jay Ball brings powerful c-suite insights and NFP experience with innovation and CX into the environmental education/tourism world. His strategy for achieving long-term sustainability and growth centers first on building and enabling great teams. Jay fosters innovation through the meaningful connection of emotion to brands via education and positive impact experiences. His fundamental approach to engaging Albertans to understand and protect our rivers and streams is to engage students and the public with distinctive, authentic experiences enriched with storytelling, science and education about watersheds and environmental stewardship. Jay’s track record of leadership and expertise spans across 3 key sectors in Alberta. His extensive career spans 14 years as the CEO of a prominent education nonprofit, a notable 4-year leadership term in the professional sports/hospitality space, and valuable tenure as an Executive Director of a local Business Improvement Area (BIA). He was appointed Executive Director of the RiverWatch Institute of Alberta in the summer of 2022.
Michelle Debruyne BSc. – CreekWatch & Citizen Science Manager – 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.
Emma Schiender – CreekWatch & Citizen Science Coordinator (Northern Alberta) – 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.