LOGAN -- Jeff Hazboun loved his kayaking adventures to Canada, Central and South America, and sites around the United States, but he and his friends began to feel a nagging case of "tourist guilt."
"We left with a sense that the places needed help, and maybe we had taken advantage as tourists," said Hazboun, 33 and working toward a physics Ph.D. at Utah State University. "We wanted to be agents for change and help the places we were visiting."
So Hazboun and friends picked the ultimate kayaking destination: the network of rivers of Siberia's Kamchatka Peninsula. They began fundraising, offering their scientific skills and applying for grants to entities interested in waterway conservation.
And they got a bite from National Geographic Television, which wanted to tape their adventure for an episode of "Monster Fish." The episode runs at 8 tonight on National Geographic Channel, which most local cable subscribers will find on channel 273.
The episode is called "Russian Giants," so named for the salmon that spawn every other year in the undeveloped, undammed Kamchatka River.
"It's one of the last bastions of wild salmon spawning," said Hazboun, who earned his undergraduate degree in wildlife biology. "A fourth of the world's salmon spawn there, but they're starting to have more pressure. The natives have always fished, but they opened the fishery to the Japanese, and there is increased poaching for caviar. They kill the fish and steal their eggs."
Hazboun and his friends explored on their own for the first two weeks, gathering data and water samples for sponsors, including a professor at West Virginia University. They carried everything they needed with them. They surveyed uncharted rapids and went over a 60-foot waterfall. Other waterfalls they deemed too dangerous.
Traveling light was over once the television crew arrived.
"They had a lot of stuff," Hazboun said, with a laugh. "They have to. There was a TV crew, three rafts and a $500,000 camera. They really knew what they were doing."
Hazboun, a native of New York, said his group's main goal was to bring back knowledge of the beautiful, wild place.
"We wanted to show the world, and we have pictures and will have movies, but the TV show will be seen by more people than we ever could have reached on our own."
The group will post its own photos and video to its website, www.kamchatkaproject.org.
Hazboun served as science coordinator for the project, but some of his most satisfying memories are unrelated to that job. He enjoyed being part of the first outside group to kayak the Kamchatka. He liked catching a 30-inch rainbow trout, and having cameras there to capture the feat before he released the fish.
And he enjoyed seeing an area where bears come to feast on salmon.
"There was an immense amount of sockeye spawning, and an immense number of brown bears," he said. "You walk with a ranger who has a gun. Bears are everywhere, probably every 100 yards. The most I saw was 15 bears at one time. They were huge. The males were about 700 pounds.
"It was amazing to see them rip into a salmon, but then I thought, 'Maybe I don't want to be standing this close.' "
Hazboun said the most satisfying thing is knowing he and his friends played a part in drawing attention to a wild part of the world.
"Part of the problem is a lot of the locals don't see (a declining fish population) as a problem, there are so many fish," he said. "People told us there are less fish than there were, but there would always be fish. We wanted to show people this is an area that needs protecting."