Spring Rivers
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About Us


Spring Rivers Founders


Maria and Jeff, Molokai Maria Ellis and Jeff Cook are the founders of Spring Rivers Foundation. They are also principals of Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences LLC, a business that grew organically from a single-person entity started by Maria in 1994 to a consulting firm with several full-time scientific and support staff. The business specializes in biological and physical analysis and assessment of aquatic ecosystems; its professional expertise includes both ecological and geomorphological assessment of rivers and streams. They have done extensive work with rare, threatened, and endangered crayfish, aquatic and terrestrial molluscs, fish, and amphibians in northeastern California.

Maria has a doctorate in Aquatic Ecology from the Department of Biology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a master’s degree in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Maria first came to the Intermountain Area of northeastern California in 1990 and has been studying the ecology of aquatic species in northeastern California ever since. Maria is an expert on the federally and state-listed endangered Shasta crayfish. She wrote the draft recovery plan for CDFG and assisted USFWS in the preparation of the final recovery plan for the Shasta crayfish, which was approved in 1998.

Jeff has a bachelor’s degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and more than two decades of consulting experience studying aquatic ecology and geomorphology of rivers and streams. He has extensive experience in both fields and has worked throughout California, as well as in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Georgia. Jeff worked out of the San Francisco Bay Area for EA Engineering and Stillwater Sciences before moving to northeastern California in 1995 to work with Maria in the business that would become Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences.

The impetus to start Spring Rivers Foundation came from their deep interest and commitment to this area of northeastern California and the numerous native, endemic species that call it home. Shasta crayfish is just one of several species that are known only from this area. After observing the rapid decline of the Shasta crayfish during the 1990s, Maria and Jeff knew that a more proactive approach would be necessary if they did not want to document the extinction of the species. By forming a non-profit entity, Spring Rivers Foundation could better work with the state and federal regulatory agencies that have overlapping legal responsibility for protecting the species and be eligible for additional grant funding. Spring Rivers Foundation seeks to bridge the gap between regulatory agencies and private landowners and to create the momentum necessary to work with the academic and scientific communities to research, design, and implement habitat restoration projects.

Maria and Jeff also saw opportunities for a non-profit to bring real-world science and technology into local schools and create place-based, outdoor education experiences for students by getting them involved with habitat restoration activities.