Boatmen, Scientists, and the Jobs In Between
The completion of the Glen Canyon EIS will bring a
drastic reduction in the need for science in the Canyon. We as a community
greet this coming certainty with mixed emotions. On one hand it will mean less bumping and
shoving and competing for campsites on the river. On the other it means less jobs for us.
For those who have become used to the extra off-season income it will be especially
All the science has been worth it. The final outcome of the EIS, the
implementation of interim flows, the base of knowledge we need to set the river ecosystem
back on a healthy course is based on the many valuable research trips that have plied the
river over the past 12 years. The boatmen that ran these trips deserve a lot of credit for
making that research accurate and efficient. The Grand Canyon is a big place, with
problems and demands that are unique. Knowledge of scientific methods and knowledge of the
Canyon teamed up to save a lot of time and effort. But a disturbing trend has been
developing over the past few years, a trend toward separating and strictly defining the
jobs of scientists and boatmen. Us and them. Oh-oh.
The boatmans job description is a tough one. Few would argue though
that it contains only, Runs the boat..... Were cooks and medical
personnel and storytellers and psychologists and councilors and teachers and garbagemen
and Canyon hosts. Basically were problem solvers. How to make do when the truck
breaks down, the boat gets ripped, a passenger gets sick, the meat gets left, the pump
doesnt work, nobody wants to go in the paddle boat, the last hiker doesnt
show, or the group dynamics crumble on Day 2. And while we do all these things we run a
variety of boats through some of the most entertaining and challenging water in the world.
Yeah, we run the boats, but that isnt the half of it.
The science that continues in the Canyon, the Long-term Monitoring Program
mandated by the Grand Canyon Protection Act and the important research that remains, will
need just this kind of boatman. We dont need scientists and boatmen down there, we
need boatmen/scientists and scientist/boatmen. Running the river and doing science are not
mutually exclusive. Many of our community are more than capable of collecting the data
necessary as well as getting the trip down the river. And they can do it in the most
efficient and least intrusive manner. Likewise there are those scientific types who can
learn to run a boat. And run it well. Nothing about going to college makes you hit rocks.
If that were so a lot of good, though overeducated, Canyon boatmen would spend a lot more
What we should look toward is a cadre of professionals to carry on the
science. The folks must be efficient, hard working, and knowledgeable. They should be able
to run boats, collect data, and give the impromptu lecture to the passing commercial or
private trip. Theyve got to be problem solvers. Above all else this group must have
a deep feeling for the place and how it should be treated. There may be less jobs in the
future, but theyre going to be more important and more challenging. Looks to me like
there will be lots of need for Canyon boatmen.