This summer seven undergraduate students from across the region will be kicking off an exciting new watershed management research and outreach internship program. The program pairs undergraduates with mentors from across the region who will work closely with the students on a water management themed project.
Ten mentors are participating in the project from seven different institutions, and each bring a range of expertise in topics ranging from nutrient management, limnology, stormwater management, agricultural engineering, and more. The internships are just as diverse – they range from lab work, to helping conduct field days, to running applied research studies.
The goal of the program is to help students develop extension and applied research skills across disciplines to enable them to succeed as future water resource professionals. The project also aims to build a lasting network of arising professionals in water, natural resource, and agriculture and increase student awareness for the careers available in water resource management and extension.
Julián Canabal-Rodríguez is a Junior in Agricultural Engineering focusing on land and water resources at Iowa State University. He will be working with Catherine DeLong at Iowa State University to help create accessible and engaging water quality resources. One project he will work on is a private well program that encourages Iowans to test the water quality in their private wells once per year. Julián is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, and will help translate Extension resources for Spanish speakers.
“For this summer, I am really excited to get to know everyone and work with people from a different array of backgrounds. It’s going to be very productive and beneficial learning experience,” notes Julián.
Elizabeth Lay is a Junior at the University of Missouri and is working toward her degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in water and a sustainability certificate. Elizabeth will be working alongside mentor Rebecca North at the University of Missouri Limnology Lab where she will be working on the Reservoir Observer Student Science Program or ROSS. She will be doing weekly shoreline sampling of Bethel Lake in Columbia and measuring harmful algal bloom toxins. Elizabeth hopes to continue this research into the fall semester as well.
Bosten Bartholomay is a student at Black Hills State University majoring in Environmental Physical Science. He will be based at North Dakota State University with Miranda Meehan where he will have the opportunity to learn about water management in agricultural settings and help develop outreach materials targeted for landowners focused on riparian ecology and management.
Piper Siblik will be joining the University of Illinois team this summer. Piper is studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and Geographic Information Systems at the University of Illinois. She will be using her ecological restoration skills to help maintain the University of Illinois’ Red Oak Rain Garden and Dorner Drive Detention Pond’s native planting project. Piper will also be working supporting Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy urban stormwater efforts, especially as it relates to monitoring GI best management practices in communities around the state.
In addition to their individual projects, students will also work on a group project with other students in the program to address a regional water challenge. The group project will enable the students to get to know one another, work together across states, and deliver a final extension deliverable – whether that be a set of factsheets, a tabletop display, a podcast, or a video.
Students will also be joining the Network at the Climate Intersection Conference this July for a peer learning summit with program mentors. They will also have the opportunity to attend the conference and display a poster on their work.
“I am excited to learn about different professional opportunities. I feel like I don’t have a concrete idea of the types of jobs that exist, so I am thrilled to get that exposure and get to know everyone,” notes Elizabeth Lay who will be based at the University of Missouri.
“This is an example of a Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates or REEU program that is really unique,” notes John McMaine, one of the mentors at South Dakota State University and the project lead. “It is a regional cohort model – bringing together folks across the region in one program – that means we have a huge range of regional perspectives and disciplines to share with the students. When I was an undergrad, I had no idea what extension even was. I didn’t have a good idea of the types of careers there are at extension, and in the water field at large. The students participating in the program will have a good understanding of what is possible after this.”
Internships will begin in May, but the students have already begun meeting virtually to get to know one another and get baseline knowledge. More information can be found at https://northcentralwater.org/watershed-management-research-and-outreach-internship-program/.