Where Are They Now? Dana Ripper, Missouri River Bird Observatory
September 29, 2011 7:18PM
Dana Ripper, 34, is the co-founder and director of the Missouri River Board Observatory. | Submitted by MRBO
On the web
To learn more about Ripper’s organization, the Missouri River Board Observatory, visit www.mrbo.org
Updated: December 1, 2011 5:28AM
When Dana Ripper says her job is for the birds, she means it. As co-founder and director of the Missouri River Bird Observatory, the 1994 graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School has made a career of avian research, conservation and education.
“We officially started Missouri River Board Observatory last year as a natural outgrowth of research projects we were already doing in central Missouri,” said Ripper, 34. “While still being a field biologist on a daily basis, I am also the organization’s accountant, and equally share all duties involved with public outreach and education programs.”
Missouri River Board Observatory co-founder Ethan Duke said Ripper’s “extensive knowledge and experience cannot be overlooked as cornerstone of the organization’s success.”
“Dana works long hours and rarely, if ever, takes a day off,” Duke said. “She does this knowing that the value of her work will never be recognized nor reflected justly with monetary compensation.”
In just a year, the Missouri River Bird Observatory evolved from one avian monitoring station to a full-fledged nonprofit bird observatory with eight projects and a strong education and outreach program.
“There is no way we will ever be able to conserve anything if people don’t know or care about it,” Ripper said. “Birds are great ambassadors for conservation. I’ve seen people who seemed afraid of even the smallest of birds, but once a colorful wild bird is held in a hand just inches for their peering eyes, they become enamored and want to become a part of this beautiful world that we call nature.”
After graduating early from Waubonsie, Ripper earned a degree in biology at North Central College in 1998.
“I remember being a little kid on Gartner Street and going down to the DuPage River to play, but I did not become connected with nature until I was in college,” Ripper said. “I found out exactly what humans were doing to the planet, and had to do something about it.
“At the same time, I was given care of a pet bird, and this snowballed into a mad interest in and love for wild birds.”
Ripper said her North Central College education was “superior.”
“It’s really hard to say what I liked most about the college,” Ripper said. “... North Central College is very focused on academics and has a very welcoming feel to it, to students from all walks of life.”
Ripper said the college was a great place to learn, giving high marks to “the size of the school, the campus with its older buildings, and the fact that it’s right in downtown Naperville.”
She went on to earn a master’s degree from Arkansas State University in 2002, and now spends most days outside, doing what she loves.
“Her passion is a defining quality, fueling a hope that people will care more for birds and their environment,” Duke said. “I’ve never seen anyone love birds as she does.
“After banding thousands of birds over 12 years, she still gives care and attention to each bird as an individual.”
Columnist Jane Donahue is looking for graduates of Naperville schools who have made Naperville proud. To offer candidates, email her at email@example.com