Nature Lover/Conservation Biologist/1 Mississippi Outreach Coordinator

So, who is this guy?  I suppose the best way to get to know me is to have a view of my journey through life.  The new Regional Outreach Coordinator for the 1 Mississippi program based out of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, Chris Stangl. 

 I was born and grew up in Southwest Wisconsin, literally 7 miles from Iowa and under 200 feet from the Illinois border.  Some of my very oldest memories involve driving over the Mississippi to Dubuque for groceries and other items as it was the closest town with substantial shopping facilities.  I remember my parents challenging me to count the boats as we crossed the Julian Dubuque Bridge and my excitement in getting to see the occasional large paddle wheel tour boats cruising up and down the river filled with happy tourists.  One pertinent detail of my early childhood that helped to form yours truly would be the ultra-close connection to nature in myself.  That connection was planted and rooted in my family’s traditions of hunting, fishing, and stewardship.  My oldest and most cherished memories all involve myself, under the tutelage of my Dad, Grandfather or Uncles, learning to quietly stalk through the woods searching for small game or learning the best locations to  cast my fishing line in order to catch the particular species fish we were pursuing at the time.  Another critical factor of my personal foundation is the manner in which my extended family makes its living.  The family residential construction business as well as growing and selling Christmas trees have been a constant feature and opportunity for learning in my life.  Beyond mowing my Great Grandmother’s lawn, my first jobs were always some combination of cleaning construction sites, carrying lumber, and simple construction chores as well as planting, caring for, and selling Christmas trees.  Just as soon as I was of an age that my responsibilities outweighed my desire to spend my summer vacations and weekends catching Smallmouth Bass, Chubs, and Shiners in the stream behind my Grandparents Christmas tree farm there always was some type of work I could and was expected to be doing.  Now my childhood was not all work.  Working is what made possible the trips to Northern Wisconsin fishing every June and the pheasant, deer, and antelope hunting combined with sightseeing trip to South Dakota and Wyoming nearly every November.  Working outdoors, relaxing outdoors, old Mother Nature was, and will always be, the bedrock upon which the foundation for the gentleman writing this rests. 

My first indoor job was stocking shelves and customer service at a local liquor store.  I started it just as soon as I received my driver’s license in high school.  My high school years were primarily composed of working when possible, playing football or softball when I could, hunting and fishing at every chance and partying even when I shouldn’t.  Oddly enough, I did not have much of any trouble with my academics, graduating with a 3.25 GPA and nearly a semester worth of AP credits.  Although my experience growing up in construction assured my ability to go straight to work and make a living out of high school, my love for nature and the outdoors was the major factor of my decision to attend college.  I took a semester off, figuring it would be wise to stash away some money, then entered the University of Wisconsin-Platteville as a biology major.  After several semesters there, my skills in biology and my passion for helping to conserve and protect the outdoors, along with several discussions with professors and counselors, I made the monumental decision to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  As a Badger I could directly pursue my hopes for a career in conservation fieldwork.  The transfer was a rough road with much larger class sizes, much higher rent/living expenses and the hustle and bustle of a town much larger than any other in which I had lived.  Very quickly I learned I needed to find work that fit with my class schedule in order to make ends meet.  Before too long I found a job as a bouncer in a dance club in downtown Madison.  Being pretty level headed and not in need of proving how tough I was, within a couple months, I was promoted to security manager.  The amusing stories, life lessons and stresses of working in that position while attending school full time will someday, hopefully, fill an entire book.

 Starting the summer of 2004, I found myself one semester from graduation and about 18 months from starting a position for the Kenyan Interior Ministry in Africa.  On July 23 after working a late night at the dance club I caught a nap and went to work my other job installing siding for a Madison area construction company.  My next conscious memory is of waking up, in intense pain, laying in a hospital bed. My father was sitting next to me watching a Packer game on September 16, 2004.  With no personal memory of the incident, I had to learn from my father that I had fallen about 40 feet off of the balcony upon which I had been working.  Traumatic brain injury, smashed left wrist, facial and cranial fracturing, broken right femur, sternum and five ribs all were now part of my life.   The traumatic brain injury along with the facial fracturing put me into a five week coma.  It also did substantial nerve damage to my face, deafened my left ear and blinded my right eye.  Now instead of quickly graduating and heading off to Africa to chase my dreams, I was the luckiest man on Earth to be alive.  The last fifteen years have been a grinding pain-filled journey surrounded by doctors, lawyers, and nurses while constantly undergoing rehabilitation.

 After meeting me and hearing my story many people have asked me, if it were possible, would I go back and change things to avoid my injury.  Typically they are amazed when I say “No Way”.  To really know me, it is critical to understand the way in which my world view has changed due to this nearly life ending injury.  Every moment of every day, to me, is a gift.  There are so many interesting, inspirational things happening all around us every day that I am ashamed to admit, I completely missed before my injury.  I, like so many others, was always concentrating so single mindedly on my future plans that I simply failed to see and appreciate the great things happening all around me every day.

 I managed to block off enough time between rehabilitation and various surgical procedures to finish up my degree in Conservation Biology in 2006.  Before stumbling into my current job at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, I filled out hundreds of applications intent on finding the best path for me to have a positive impact on the health of this amazing planet.  It took traveling to Alabama for a job at a nature retreat center and a summer as a Biological Science Technician with the US Fish and Wildlife Service before I stumbled upon the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  While selling Christmas trees for my father, I happened to sell one to a talkative Museum staff member whom convinced me to come to the museum as a volunteer.  A couple weeks of enjoying my spot as a volunteer educator I enthusiastically accepted the position I was offered as an education staff member and tour guide.  For the past eleven and a half years I have been very happily teaching visitors about this amazing river system.  Helping people to see the value and amazing inter-connectivity this River system has with so many vital aspects of this planet and all our lives.  When I learned of this position with the Mississippi River Network coordinating outreach for  the 1 Mississippi program seemed to be a perfect fit.

Well, that is me.  Hopefully you enjoyed my introduction.  I cannot wait to meet you soon.  Together, we can do some powerfully positive for the health of the land, water, wildlife, and people of America’s greatest river system, the Mississippi!


Yours Truly,

Chris Stangl  

Looking to get involved? Become a River Citizen today! For further opportunities happening in Wisconsin and Iowa, please email

Become a

River Citizen

Yes! The River can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:

Step 1

Become a River Citizen

Yes! The river can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:


Step 2

Educate Yourself

One goal for 1 Mississippi is to educate the public on the urgent problems facing the River. We are supported by the Mississippi River Network, a group of organizations that are experts in various areas concerning the River. Each section below is intended to provide some basic knowledge about these important issues and links to experts who can provide more detailed information. 

Nutrient pollution

Importance of floodplains and wetlands

Farm bill conservation programs


Step 3

Take Action

There are many ways you can take action. We have a list of 10 actions you can take now, You can volunteer and you can check our action center in order to see what bigger projects we are working on. Here we give you the information you need to call your congressman or sign onto proposals. You can also check out our events calendar to see what events are happening in your area.

10 actions you can take now!

The Action Center

Events Calendar

River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America's greatest River. 

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