An Adventure of a Lifetime on the Mississippi River

We love to hear about our Gaiters! Thanks to Rowan Phendler 13’, we had the chance to interview his brother Eric Phendler, an incoming mature student in Biodiversity and Ecology, who is taking on a journey of a lifetime on the Mississippi River this summer. Raising funds for Memphrémagog Conservation, an organization close to his heart, Eric spoke to us about his initiative and what it means to him.


What made you choose Bishop’s University?

There are a variety of reasons such as it is a well-reviewed school, but Bishop’s is close to our family. I have three siblings who have all come to this school, so I knew it was the right choice to come here. I was also interested in the Biodiversity and Ecology program offered here, so I knew that this was the place for me.

What are you looking most forward to coming to Bishop’s?

I am excited to start studying in a field I know I want to work in. I have been working in the car industry for the last seven years, and although I have met lots of great people I want to pursue my studies. I enjoy being outdoors and passionate about wildlife. By coming to Bishop’s, I have the chance to study in the field I want to dive in.

Tell me about your initiative.

My little brother and I will be taking a 16-foot canoe and will paddle all 3,700 kilometres of the Mississippi River. We leave on June 26th, and our last stop is 160 kilometres past New Orleans, right into the Gulf of Mexico. We will be raising funds for Memphrémagog Conservation, an organization whose mission is to protect the environmental health and preserve the natural beauty of Lake Memphremagog and its watershed. Having grown up in the Eastern Townships, I’ve spent a lot of time on Lake Memphrémagog. The conservation monitors water quality because the lake provides drinking water to a large portion of the area. They also manage wildlife along the borders of the lakes and rivers, making sure everything is as natural as possible and ensure the safety of the animals living there. I know the money I am raising will go to a place where people close to me will benefit from the work the conservation does.

Why the Mississippi River?

The Mississippi is one of the most used waterways in the world. It goes from a tiny river in Northern Minnesota into the fourth largest river in the world. The biodiversity present is rich with history, and it makes this a special river.

What inspired you to do this?

I thoroughly enjoy spending time outdoors. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I am a goal-oriented person, so I like to write down goals and pursue them until I achieve them. This goal is the ultimate test of perseverance and determination. Once I set my mind on something, I strive to complete it. It is a challenge to see what my limits are.

What are you most excited about?

The chance to travel. People travel quite a bit these days to different places around the world, but I will get to travel through the Northern and Southern states at canoe speed. I will have the opportunity to closely enjoy and experience the wonders of North American nature.

How was the planning process for this trip? What was the most challenging thing? What was the most surprising thing?

I have been planning for this trip for just over a year and a couple of months. The most enjoyable part of the planning process is reading every book and watching every documentary on the Mississippi. I have a familiarity with the river, and to be able to experience first-hand what I have been reading about is incredible. I will have the chance to visit places that I have read about.

This is a big project. Do you have any parting words for anyone thinking of following an initiative close to their heart?

If you have something that you want to achieve then write it down and make it visible and hold yourself accountable for pursuing the goals.


To follow Eric’s journey, visit his Instagram account: 
To donate to his GoFundMe page, visit
To learn more about our Biological Sciences program:

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