University of Minnesota Extension Adds Expertise in Watershed Education and Outreach

Effective science-based education and outreach can help people feel more connected to their world and the natural resources around them. And, when people experience a deeper connection to their environment, they are often more open to understanding how their actions can affect the landscapes they care about. 

Delivering approachable, interesting, and empathetic (i.e. meeting people where they’re at) science-based education has motivated Anne Sawyer’s educational and professional career for nearly 20 years. Working as a National Park Service Ranger in Utah, Colorado, and Alaska was where she first found her love of natural resource interpretation, and she has been seeking opportunities to bring an understanding of science to peoples’ everyday lives ever since. 

She now brings her love of education and outreach to the University of Minnesota Extension’s Water team and the Water Resources Center as a statewide Extension Educator for Watershed Education. In her new role, she will create programming to address complex water management and water quality issues at the intersection of agriculture and surface water resources across Minnesota, primarily at various watershed scales. She is working to build relationships and foster collaboration with and among diverse stakeholders, including state agencies, conservation professionals, local governments, lake associations, farmers, nonprofits, and others, to identify educational needs and implement programs that will have a measurable impact on water resources.

Prior to joining the Extension Water Resources Team, Anne was an Extension Educator in On-Farm Food Safety, working with fruit and vegetable growers to reduce risks of contamination from foodborne illness-causing organisms, such as Salmonella or toxin-producing E. coli. Her statewide audience included commercial growers of all sizes and backgrounds as well as home gardeners, school gardens, and other food gardens. She also worked on education, outreach, and training related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

Anne earned her PhD in Soil Science from the University of Minnesota in 2017, where she studied nutrient management and rhizosphere (root zone) microbiology in switchgrass and mixed native perennials grown on marginal soils for bioenergy production. Prior to that, she worked as a snow hydrologist with NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) in Chanhassen, Minnesota, for several years, doing model data assimilation across the US and Canada as well as in-person field data collection in alpine and arctic environments.

In joining the Extension Water Resources team, Anne brings a depth of experience and perspective as well as scientific expertise. “To me, this position represents what I’ve always wanted to do. I get to work towards the preservation and improvement of Minnesota’s water resources and do so using meaningful science-based education. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Anne Sawyer, The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center


Prior to joining Extension’s Water Resources team, Anne was working as an Extension Educator for On-Farm Food Safety, helping Minnesota gardeners and commercial growers to minimize microbial contamination in fresh produce. Prior to that, Anne earned her PhD in Soil Science from the University of Minnesota in 2017, where she studied nutrient management and microbiology in switchgrass grown for bioenergy. She also has a BA in Geology from Carleton College and an MS in Watershed Science from Colorado State University. Her previous work experience also includes five years as a snow hydrologist with the National Weather Service and several seasons as a park ranger with the National Park Service in Colorado, Utah, and Alaska. Anne is also a Master Gardener and lives on a fixer-upper hobby farm in southern Minnesota with her husband (Joey), son (Asher, 3), daughter (Clara, 7 months), dog (Drake), and occasional chickens. 

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