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Dr. Robert Fuller raises his arms in greeting to a group of friends, family members and colleagues on Feb. 13 as he completed his 1,500-mile journey studying water quality in Georgia's waterways.

Dr. Robert Fuller, geosciences professor at the University of North Georgia, finished his 1,500-mile canoeing journey a little banged up and 40 pounds lighter, but excited to share his research and experiences with his students and others.

"I have so much more material to take into the classroom. That's what I'm really excited about, is taking these experiences into the classroom and helping students see the possibilities for their own lives," Fuller said. "I hope to inspire them about discovery—their personal power to learn and discover. It's far, far greater than most people realize."

Robert Fuller
Dr. Robert Fuller

Fuller, also director of UNG's Environmental Leadership Center, began his trip in September at the Chattahoochee's headwaters in the Blue Ridge mountains, near Chattahoochee Gap. He plans to write about his research findings and is scheduled to give a presentation in April at the Georgia Water Resources Conference. Fuller has taken a sabbatical from his teaching duties at UNG this year to complete the journey and publish his research.

Fuller traveled the length of the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola river systems to the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay and returned to Dahlonega via the Alabama, Coosa and Etowah rivers. On Feb. 13, a group of friends, family members and UNG colleagues welcomed Fuller with a round of applause as he stepped ashore behind the home of longtime friends Elvin and Nancy Hilyer.

"He's concerned about the water quality of our rivers, preserving our rivers and keeping them clean," Elvin Hilyer said. "This trip was physically challenging and mentally challenging and it took a really courageous, adventurous academic spirit to do this."

Fuller's challenges included the occasional minor injury and equipment malfunctions. At times, he had to steer clear of hunters and speedboaters, outrun storms, and battle foul weather.

However, his trip was not all danger and drudgery. Fuller spent plenty of time taking in the sights that the river systems had to offer—from wonderful rock formations and trees to wildlife, including a close encounter with a pod of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fuller's study was sponsored by the Georgia Power Co., Appalachian Outfitters, the Chattahoochee Basin Group, the University of North Georgia, the University of North Georgia Foundations, the university's Environmental Leadership Center, and his own personal resources. Technical assistance for the trip was provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Geological Survey.

To read Fuller's blog about his journey, visit: http://blog.northgeorgia.edu/rcfuller.

© 2014 University of North Georgia