UMSL Environmental Adventure Organization

UMSL’s new Environmental Adventure Organization offers participants outdoor-oriented exploits near and far. Here (clockwise from upper left), Jacob Beers, Jerry Bosse II, Adela Redzic, Sage Rohrer, Sarah Wyne, Abdul-Kariem Matteuzzi and Oscar Zamora pause for a photo on a recent excursion to Shawnee National Forest. (Photos courtesy Abdul-Kariem Matteuzzi and Sage Rohrer)

Its members organize tree climbs, tour recycling facilities, tend a community garden, camp extensively and regularly assist with stream cleanup in the region. It hasn’t been around the University of Missouri–St. Louis very long, but it’s already making strides on campus and beyond – it being the student-driven Environmental Adventure Organization.

“We’ve been getting students very involved in a lot of different ways,” says current EAO president Sage Rohrer, a junior biology major interested in wildlife conservation. “It’s great to see all the enthusiasm.”

UMSL tree climb fall 2015

EAO hosted a tree climb on South Campus in November. Since becoming a formal student organization the year prior, the group has organized stream cleanup efforts and camping trips, created a campus community garden and even offered a wilderness workshop this past fall. (Photo by Jay Fish)

Formally established about a year and a half ago – with founding president Abdul-Kariem Matteuzzi leading the way – EAO combines a love for the outdoors with a focus on sustainability. The group’s efforts led to New Organization of the Year honors from the Office of Student Life in April 2015 and have proved popular within the campus community.

Matteuzzi, a senior business administration major who transferred to UMSL in 2013 from St. Louis Community College–Meramec, where he founded a similar student organization, says demand for such a group was clear even before he enrolled. It was just a matter of getting something off the ground.

“I ran into a lot of UMSL students at that time who said, ‘We don’t have those organizations here. You have to come here and start them. There’s a need for it,'” he says. “As far back as I can remember my dad used to take me on camping trips and hunting and fishing and things like that, and that’s sort of where my passion for the outdoors started.”

With 18 active, dues-paying members at present, EAO has prompted quite a few fellow UMSL students to participate in a wide variety of activities. One of the most successful events so far was a wilderness workshop presented this past September beside the Millennium Student Center.

“Over 100 people showed up for it, which was groundbreaking for us,” Rohrer says. “We had a lot of people out here instructing on different outdoor activities like fire-starting, knot-tying, casting, orienteering. And we had canoes out in the pond. It was great, because we had a bunch of experienced people in all these different areas.”

Faculty and staff members such as Jay Fish and Katy Mike Smaistrla have supported the students, volunteering their expertise and enhancing initiatives such as the crowdfunded campus community garden that came to fruition this past spring.

“We raised approximately $2,000 and ended up building six raised beds,” says Matteuzzi, adding that a number of different campus-connected parties adopted each of the beds.

Sage Rohrer, Abdul-Kariem Matteuzzi

Founding EAO members Abdul-Kariem Matteuzzi and Sage Rohrer set up a tent rainfly during a trip to Lake Glendale in Illinois.

Recycling efforts have also been a focus for the students, with hopes to increase understanding about the single-stream recycling bins on campus.

“A lot of people are kind of set in their ways as far as how they recycle,” Matteuzzi says. “For instance, a pizza cardboard from the Nosh with a little bit of cheese on it – a lot of people throw those away thinking they’re not going to take it, but single-stream takes everything that can be recycled all in one container. A lot of things that are ending up in our trash can be recycled, and we can cut the waste down just through educating not just our students but faculty and staff.”

For Rohrer, who hopes to one day work as a biologist for the United States Forest Service or Department of Conservation, getting heavily involved with EAO just makes sense given what she already enjoys doing in her spare time.

“I love camping, and I love being able to give back to the community through sustainability and through habitat restoration, and so it was just kind of perfect,” she says.

For more information about the Environmental Adventure Organization, see its Facebook page or OrgSync presence.

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Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

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