Network team awarded Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates Award for watershed management summer internship program

A team of North Central Region Water Network extension professionals are kicking off a new project aimed at providing undergraduate students critical experience and exposure to watershed management work.

The team which includes representation from seven North Central Region states, recently received a Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) Award from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to host a five-year summer internship program centered around water resource management.

Rebecca North on a canoe doing water sampling

Rebecca North, one of the REEU student mentors based at the University of Missouri, doing water quality monitoring.

“Water resource management is complex. To be successful working at the watershed scale you need to understand the dynamics at play between agriculture, natural resources, communication, social science, economics, and public health, and be able to do project planning, coordination, and implementation,” notes John McMaine, the principal investigator on the grant. “It really requires a diverse skillset and currently there is limited training available at the undergraduate level for individuals interested in watershed outreach and management roles. In fact, in many undergraduate programs watershed management and extension work are not promoted or even visible as potential career opportunities. We see this grant as a great opportunity for us to expose talented undergraduates to future careers related to both watershed management  as well as extension and outreach.”

The grant will take place over the next five years with applications for summer 2022 opening August 15th. Students will use a central application and depending on interest and experience be placed at one of the ten internship opportunities across the region.

The goal of the paid internships is to provide students with broader perspectives and experience in water-related research and extension education. Students will gain real world experience with the complexities and trade-offs associated with water-related decisions in rural and urban landscapes. In addition, the students will participate in a multistate exchange providing them with experience in other ecoregions, agriculture and municipal systems, universities, and cultural contexts.

Students will have the opportunity to work at one of the following institutions:

  • University of Illinois – Students will work with Lisa Merrifield, a sustainable community specialist with the University of Illinois Extension’s Community and Economic Development Team.
  • Iowa State University – Students will work with Catherine DeLong, the newest manager of the Water Quality Program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
  • University of Missouri – Students will work with Dan Downing, a Water Quality Specialist with the University of Missouri housed in the Agricultural Engineering Extension program, or Rebecca North, an Assistant Professor of Water Quality at the University of Missouri
  • University of Nebraska -Students will work with Amy Schmidt, an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Biological Systems Engineering Department.
  • North Dakota State University – Students will work with Xinhua Jia, a Professor and professional engineer in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at NDSU or Miranda Meehan, a NDSU Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist.
  • South Dakota State University – Students will work with John McMaine, Assistant Professor and SDSU Extension State Specialist in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department or Laura Edwards, the SDSU Extension State Climatologist.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – Students will work with Justin Hougham, the Director of Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center and an Associate Professor at UW-Madison.

To access the full project summary visit the USDA NIFA website and be on the look-out for the summer 2022 application coming in August!

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