Network Impact 2020 Initiatives and Capacity Building

The North Central Region Water Network is pleased to announce the North Central Region Water Network Impact 2020 Initiatives and Capacity Building Initiatives for 2018.  Thanks to the Network Leadership Team, Regional Administrative Council, and initiative leads for their work on these successful proposals. Special thanks to North Central Region Extension Directors for providing funding and multistate collaborations to address water issues in the North Central Region.

Please share this news with appropriate audiences in your states and professional networks.  Several of the teams are still seeking additional collaborators from other states and partners, so feel free to contact their leaders or me if you have suggestions.

The following Impact 2020 initiatives are funded from August 2017 through December 2019

Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices ($89,971) – led by Curell and Gross (Michigan State University) with supporting leadership from Iowa State University, the University of Missouri, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University of Wisconsin

  • Proposal Abstract: The hydrologic cycle is intimately linked to soils. Healthy soils are recognized by university researchers, farmers, and agribusiness as high performing and productive. The Soil Health Nexus and Manure and Soil Health (MaSH) efforts began the process of identifying and assembling current science-based soil health training and educational resources. The MaSH group provided mini-grants and launched a very successful web-based roundtable series around the science of manure and soil health. This proposal will continue the work that the Soil Nexus and MaSH groups began, where the focus will be on expanding our digital footprint i.e. podcasts, roundtable, webinars, presentations, etc. In addition to the traditional factsheets, white papers, and extension publications, we will assemble outstanding soil health/MaSH presentations and ideas that extension educators could replicate in their local field days and other extension programs into a toolkit. The educational information that we will assemble will be the result of surveying growers and agribusinesses on their perceived barriers to adopt good soil health practices. This proposal envisions dividing up the region by states that have similar soil and farming systems and rely on our partnering researchers in each state to supply related applied research for each system. In-service training for extension educators will continue in person and via distance technology.


Providing the Foundation for Lasting Climate Education in the North Central Region ($89,283) – led by Laura Edwards (South Dakota State University) with supporting leadership from the University of Illinois, K-State, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, North Dakota State University, Purdue University, and the Ohio State University

  • Proposal Abstract: Climate variability continues to be a defining factor in agriculture and water quality in the North Central Region. Various extreme weather events and their increasing frequency turn good waterways bad. Farm management practices and their interaction with typical climates of a region also can influence water, water quality, and water management. Meanwhile, farmers and extension professionals need education in climate science and climate change in order to alter management practices to more easily meet standards in various states’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategies, more efficiently utilize inputs, and maintain economic profitability. In the North Central Region, a team of extension professionals with experience at the connection between agriculture and climate has been identified. This Regional Climate Team will be utilizing their expertise to create and manage education around ag, water, and climate in the region. A variety of methods for professional development will be provided by this project to educate, encourage and empower Extension professionals to conduct programs and serve as local experts. Sub-regional workshops, webinars, conference calls and financial support for local programming will enable a “train-the-trainer” method to disseminate research and bet management practices across the region. Outputs of our activities will include further dissemination of results from the USDA CAP and Useful to Usable initiatives including fact sheets, webinars, and YouTube videos. Other recent research-based resources and media will be utilized as appropriate to further the education for Extension professionals and ag producers. Outcomes include a more informed Extension community comfortable with providing programming at the intersection of ag, water, and climate. Longer term, the educated clientele from these programs will be better able to institute farm management practices that conserve resources and enhance productivity.
The following Capacity Building initiatives are funded from August 2017 through August 2018

Determining the GAPS in Youth Water Education in the North Central Region ($7,000) – led by Amy Timmerman (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) with supporting leadership from Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri, the Ohio State University, and the University of Wisconsin.

  • Proposal Abstract: According to the World Economic Forum, January 2015, “The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), and #8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring with 10 years).” Also stated at the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that one in nine people in the world lack access to improved sources of drinking water and one in three lack improved sources of water sanitation. With this statistic, every year, significant public and private resources are invested in improving water quality, preserving water quantity, and protecting water as a natural resource in the North Central Region and Worldwide. With water quality and water related issues being a world-wide issue, education of our future leaders is critical. The goal of this project is to: 1.) determine curriculum being used for youth water education being taught in the North Central Region by land grant universities and partners in the region; 2.) identify curriculum that make youth knowledgeable, passionate and active in water related issues; 3.) identify placed-based education; 4.) find GAPS in program/curriculum either by age, stewardship or engagement. This analysis will explore and create partnerships critical to ensuring the success of youth water education throughout the region. The long-term, primary impact of this project is a solid base will be development for youth water education. Once the base is established, the ability to build up youth knowledge, passion and activity for water related issues can be accomplished.


Online Stormwater Core Course – Enhanced Course Development ($7,000) – led by Katie Pekarek (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) with supporting leadership from the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, and Purdue University

  • Proposal Abstract: Excessive runoff, surface water generated after a rain or snow melt, may cause flooding and water quality degradation resulting in negative environmental and economic impacts. Water resources mangers and stormwater professionals need to understand how to adopt and maintain stormwater management practices to protect and improve water quality and environmental resources. Currently, there is no online curriculum for training these professionals on stormwater practice selection, identification, evaluation, installation, or maintenance. The Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Course is addressing this education gap through development of content for a five module, online course to aid stormwater professionals and educators in improving and optimizing stormwater operations. Course content and initial Moodle development is scheduled for completion in July 2017. The project co-directors propose to conduct a 2-day Stormwater Core Course Collaboration Workshop in the fall of 2017 with current North Central Region stormwater practitioners to create storytelling messaging, course resources, and activities. These innovative and engaging learning resources will provide content for a media developer to develop enhanced multimedia course content. The practitioners at the workshop will concurrently review and revise existing course content to inform the enhanced multi-media course content. Enhanced multi-media course content will facilitate learner engagement to help motivate new and early career stormwater practitioners and educators. This group of users will be surveyed to provide evaluation feedback to improve learner engagement and inform future iterations of the online course. Implementation of this course for stormwater professionals and educators will initially be targeted through Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) programs. There are approximately 7,450 MS4s (EPA, 2017) which convey and discharge stormwater to a water(s) of the U.S. The course will help MS4s achieve permit compliance by meeting required education goals. Upon completion of this Enhanced Course Development project, new and early career stormwater professionals and educators will be empowered to use course information to improve stormwater practices and maintenance. This in turn protects and improves water quality and related co-benefits to generate environmental impact. Student graduates of the course will transition from new or early-career professionals to experienced professionals, who will grow the network of stormwater professionals and build capacity in the NCRWN to teach and engage in stormwater management. Enhanced multi-media content developed for the online course will be offered as stand-alone resources for use by educators. The meeting of workshop participants will increase connectivity between stormwater professionals and educators to grow the existing stormwater network.


Charting New Waters with Purpose – NCRWN Land Grant and Tribal College/University Collaborations Planning Grant Proposal ($7,000) – led by Dan Downing (University of Missouri) and Charles Barden (K-State) with supporting leadership from Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Proposal Abstract: In May of 2017, the NCRWN hosted its first summit specifically for the purpose of bringing together representatives from the 1862 state land grant institutions and the 1994 land grant institutions (the Tribal Colleges and Universities) in the North Central Region around the issue of water.  The Summit was hosted at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, with over 30 participants representing at least six different tribal institutions as well as other state universities and partner organizations.  As a result of this summit the door was opened for enhanced relationships among the participants and their respective institutions.  One of the products of the summit was a broad set of priority issues of mutual interest and benefit identified through facilitated group processes.  This application proposes to build upon the opportunities created during the summit by reaching out to selected attendees from the summit and other 1994s, asking them to serve as a core working group of 6-8 people from a mix of the institutions.  It is anticipated that the funding provided through this planning grant will be utilized for a maximum of two face-to-face planning meetings and multiple teleconferences as needed to move forward with planning and resource development. The face-to-face meeting(s) will help to develop trust and relationships among the working group members as well as facilitating the discussion regarding strategic direction, action items, and potential resource and funding cultivation.

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