The Watershed Council Board of Directors volunteer their valuable time, knowledge and skills to help make sure the Marys River watershed remains vital for both people and wildlife. Their role is to help the Council achieve its mission of promoting voluntary stewardship of the Marys River.
If you are interested in volunteering your time and talents for the sake of a healthy Marys River watershed, please call our office at 541-758-7597 or use our contact form.
Thank you to the following individuals for making watershed health a top priority for all of us.
Thom Whittier, Chair
Thom is a retired research ecologist with 30 years of professional experience developing and evaluating ways of measuring aquatic ecosystem conditions. Thom has been an active member of the Council for over 20 years; as a member of the Water Quality Monitoring committee, making presentations to Council on the Clean Water Act, on the risk of zebra mussel invasion, and on historic patterns in low flow and flood conditions in Marys River. Previously Thom served as the Board Chair for seven years. As a landowner along the lower Marys River, Thom has gained much firsthand experience with the river’s variable hydrology.
Bill Blakney, Chair-Elect
Bill is a retired environmental lawyer. He and his spouse, Diana, moved to Corvallis full-time in 2017. Diana is from Corvallis and Bill has been a regular visitor since the 1980s. Bill’s professional career experience includes stints in the Environmental Control Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in Chicago and the U.S. EPA’s Regional Counsel’s Office in Seattle. Bill spent the majority of his career as a Senior Deputy in the Civil Division of the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, where he headed up the Natural Resources Section for several years. His work included providing legal advice and representation on such matters as Clean Water Act compliance, hazardous waste cleanup, solid waste disposal, and various municipal law issues.
Bill also brings the small woodlands owner’s perspective – Diana and her family own a tree farm near Philomath, through which Rock Creek runs. The family has practiced sustainable forest management practices for decades, and the farm has been selected as the 2019 Benton County nominee for Oregon Tree Farmer of The Year.
Molly Monroe, Secretary
Molly is a native Oregonian, starting her life in Corvallis and returning to attend Oregon State University, she has spent much of her life exploring the great outdoors. Having previously worked as a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, she joined the board in hopes of bridging new connections in the community to its natural resources. She now works part time for a water resource consulting firm as well as the Institute for Applied Ecology’s environmental education program. Molly is a volunteer team leader for the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Natural Areas Action Team, as well as at her daughter’s school, working to build backyard, schoolyard and pollinator habitats throughout Benton County.
Peter Nelson, Treasurer
Peter received his PhD in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University and subsequently spent 31 years as a professor in Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University, retiring in 2006. His research interests varied from remediation of heavy metals contamination in water and soils, nutrient loading and water quality assessment in lakes and rivers, and stabilization of hazardous solid waste materials in highway construction applications. He has participated in water quality studies in several national parks, including Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Great Basin, and Yosemite. Peter is an avid outdoorsman and especially enjoys fly fishing, kayaking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Although his environmental conservation interests across the Mary’s River Watershed are broad, Peter’s focus is on water quality issues in the more urbanized sub-basins of the watershed.
Phil retired in 2002 after 37 years of research, administration, and teaching at the OSU College of Forestry. His research focused on forest ecosystems and soils. Phil received his BA from Swarthmore College (1966), MA from UNC Chapel Hill (1970), and PhD from University of Tennessee (1972) while doing his research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
More recently, Phil has worked to document the convoluted and often contentious history of the Corvallis Mill Race, the diversion dam on the Marys River that once fed the Mill Race, and the industrial site at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette (now Holligsworth & Vose, H&V). He has also worked with DEQ, H&V, City and County staff, and Southtown residents to help insure that the site and industrial plant meet standards for air and water quality and soil contamination. Working with MRWC, he hopes to set up continuous monitoring of stream health across the watershed.
Merrilee Buchanan is a 5th generation Willamette Valley farmer on her family farm in South Corvallis, specializing in growing wine grapes and hazelnuts and making Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer wines as the 2nd generation winemaker for her family winery. Merrilee grew up raising sheep on the family farm and today much of the land is preserved in native woodlands, wetlands and riparian habitat. Merrilee hiked many river miles throughout the state as a member of Oregon Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Inventories project and spent time working with beneficial insects, school gardens, and on farm conservation projects with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and UC Extension on the central coast of California. Merrilee has lived and farmed in the Marys River Watershed for over 30 years.
Zach Pike-Urlacher graduated from Oregon State University in 2019 with an MS in Water Resource Policy and Management and Water Conflict Transformation and currently works with GSI Water Solutions. Zach grew up amongst the mountains, lakes and streams of eastern Oregon and has a strong background in the natural and human sciences. Before moving to Corvallis, Zach worked as a technician for the river restoration firm, Streamwise, in Mount Shasta, California.
After graduating with her masters from Oregon State University in Water Resources Engineering, where she studied the geomorphic response of rivers to reservoir drawdown and dam removal, Tessa began working as a Restoration Engineer with ICF. She grew up in the dairy farms of western New York, before going to the University of New Hampshire for a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Her previous experience spans from invasive species education, drinking water treatment research, civil engineering, and stream restoration projects. It’s her goal to strengthen the relationship between MRWC, the university, and the community so that people are able to cherish Marys River for generations to come.
A resident of Corvallis since 2006, Ethan is an attorney and executive with Knife River Corporation, Oregon’s largest producer of concrete, rock, and aggregates for the construction industry. He has a deep background in land, water, and air quality permitting, real estate, legislative affairs, and risk management. Prior to his corporate career, he was an attorney with the Oregon Department of Justice serving as counsel to ODOT on all aspects of public infrastructure planning and project delivery. He is past-President of the Board of Directors of the Greenbelt Land Trust, on the Board of the Oregon Concrete & Aggregate Producers Association, and serves on the legal affairs committee of the Associated General Contractors - Oregon/Columbia Chapter. Prior to his legal career, Ethan worked for a riparian/forestry restoration consulting firm based in Missoula, MT and was an Americorps National Service Member. He earned his BA at the University of Oregon, his MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, and his law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. When he's not birding, skiing, gardening, or tending the family chicken flock with his daughter and my wife (a Corvallis public school teacher), he can be found salmon fishing, hunting, and in the field with his retriever.
Matt resides in Philomath, Oregon, and is an independent filmmaker, sound designer, musician, and environmental conservation enthusiast with a background in Wildlife Biology and Music Engineering Technology. He grew up in Carmel, Indiana, where he followed his passion for sound recording, music, and the outdoors. Matt spent his college years getting field experience conducting wildlife surveys on threatened and endangered species, such as the Cerulean Warbler, Indiana Bat, and a multitude of salamander species out in the Southeastern U.S. He moved to Corvallis, Oregon, with his wife in 2008, where he started working with Freshwaters Illustrated, a non-profit organization dedicated to freshwater conservation and education through documentary film and photography resources. Matt continues his work with Freshwaters Illustrated to date, and has recently completed a “virtual field trip” film all about Marys Peak and its rich cultural and biological importance to this area.