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ISU programs aid in Portneuf clean up efforts

As part of an annual effort, students from two ISU programs aided the City of Pocatello in cleaning up the Portneuf River.

This collaborative effort dates back over a decade and this year yielded some interesting finds.

“Last weekend, we had our annual river clean up and it was awesome,” Hannah Sanger, science and environmental administrator for the City of Pocatello, said.

“We had about 60 people come down to, I call it, treasure hunting in the river. So, lots of plastic bags and bottles, a couple of creepy dolls and tires and mattresses.”

For Sanger, cleaning up the Portneuf is way more than a weekend project. She has been working to make it cleaner and more floatable for nearly 14 years and likes what she’s seeing.

“The river is looking better than ever,” she said. “It’s in the best shape that I’ve seen it in all these years of cleaning up.”

For the past 14 or so years, a big part of that effort has come with the aid of ISU’s biology department.

Professor Colden Baxter said it’s specifically important for students studying the biology and ecology of rivers to make a connection to the Portneuf.

“And contribute to its care,” he said. “Learning the science of rivers is important, but entering into a direct sort of care and stewardship of them is part of training as well.”

It’s an experience Baxter believes benefits his students by really putting them in the thick of it.

“You gotta get in there and get dirty sometimes to get things done,” Baxter said, “you know, just talking about it isn’t enough.”

But for new students, some who spending their first weekend on campus, the event gives them an introduction to their new community.

“This year, we were thrilled to go back and help with the Portneuf River clean up project,” ISU’s director of orientation and new student programs, Brooke Barber, explained.

“Students who signed up were excited to be part of nature, to better understand their community, be out and help beautify Pocatello,” she said.

This is the second year the university has sent new students out to the river. Last Saturday, 15 went, with lots of positive feedback reaching barber.

“It is so important that students feel at home, not just on campus at ISU, but also in the City of Pocatello,” Barber said. “This is one of several ways in which we can introduce them into the area, [and] let them know how valuable they are as a Pocatellan.”

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