Watershed Management Research and Outreach Undergraduate Internship Program

Water resource management is complex and professionals in the field need an understanding of agriculture, natural resources, communication, social sciences and economics, public health, and planning and project management to be successful. That said, currently there is little to no training available at the undergraduate level for individuals interested in watershed outreach and management roles. The Watershed Management Research and Outreach Undergraduate Internship Program helps students from all backgrounds gain valuable experience that will help you pursue future careers in watershed management. Extension faculty at seven different institutions mentor interns over the summer.

Whether you are interested in water resource management, soil health, agriculture, nutrient management, lake and stream monitoring, weather and climate, forestry, or limnology – this internship is for you!

The application for the Summer 2024 Internship Program has closed. The mentor team will be in touch with applicants in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more information.

If you are looking for more information, check out this recorded webinar about the program or application process. You can also view this storymap to learn more about the Summer 2023 cohort activities.

Key Program Information

Where are the internships located?

Interns will be placed in one of six locations throughout the North Central Region of the US. Students will apply through one central application and note their top choices for internship placement of the institutions/locations listed:

  • University of Illinois – Intern located in Champaign or Galesburg Illinois
  • Iowa State University – Intern located in Ames, Iowa
  • University of Nebraska – Intern located in Lincoln, Nebraska
  • North Dakota State University – Intern located in Fargo, North Dakota
  • South Dakota State University – Intern located in Aberdeen, South Dakota
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – Intern located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What will the internship focus on?

While the internships will range in location, topic, and format, they each will 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, students will get to know the interns in other locations across the region and participate in multistate exchanges exposing them to other ecoregions, agriculture and municipal systems, universities, and cultural contexts. As students are exposed to opportunities in extension, the program will develop interest in individuals for water management related careers outside of dedicated research.

The topic of focus for the internship will vary depending on the location and your mentor. For example, the intern located at the University of Missouri will focus on limnology, while the intern at the University of Iowa will focus on agricultural conservation. If you have a location preference, look at the mentor located at that location to see what the internship in that location will focus on.

Are the internships paid?

All internships are paid, however payment varies based on the institution. Please note all interns will make a minimum of $15 an hour and full-time work.

Subsistence support, or room and board, may be available based on the student living situation and the institution. Applicants should talk with their mentors to determine what is applicable for their situation.

Who should apply?

All undergraduate students – regardless of home institution – are encouraged to apply. Since the internships will vary in focus, students studying a variety of fields – including agronomy, community planning, engineering, environmental science, natural resource planning, plant and soil science, water resources, weather, and climate science and more – will have the experience necessary to be successful.

Please note – To be eligible you must be a US Citizen or permanent resident and a current undergraduate student in the US with at least one year of undergraduate coursework completed and at least one semester of coursework remaining after your summer internship before obtaining your bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, international students are not eligible. In some states a valid drivers license may be required.

This opportunity is only for undergraduate students.

How do I apply?

Students can apply for the summer 2024 internships using a central application that will open shortly.  This application is hosted through Qualtrics and asks you to provide:

  • Your resume
  • Your institution and expected graduation rate
  • A cover letter outlining your relevant background and interests and how this experience will empower you to lead a career related to watershed management outreach and/or research. You may also include a brief overview of your ideal watershed management outreach and research internship experience or future job.
  • Contact information for three professional, academic, or personal references
  • Information on your interests within water resource management
  • Your location preference and the degree of your preference

Please note, the website Pathways to Science includes resources for students on preparing a cover letter and resume for those looking for help in creating their application materials.

Questions? Interested but not sure if it’s the right fit for you? Set up a time with our team to chat! We are happy to answer any questions you might have as you consider your application. Simply send an email to John.McMaine@sdstate.edu using the subject line: Watershed Management Internship outlining your question and we will get you in contact with a mentor for an informal chat.

Meet our Mentors

Catherine DeLong

Catherine DeLong
Catherine DeLong is the Water Quality Program Manager for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She works statewide to bring people together to share resources, ideas and perspectives about water quality, and to help Iowans understand the role they can play in the future of Iowa’s water. She has an MS degree in Soil Science and Environmental Science from Iowa State University and has experience at all levels of conservation, having previously worked for the county-level Soil and Water Conservation Districts as well as an international non-profit serving conservation professionals. Catherine took a circuitous route to working in water resources; she received her BA in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland before moving back to join AmeriCorps in the Southwestern US, working as a ski lift operator in Colorado, and holding various science communication positions. Catherine enjoys traveling, the great outdoors, and hikes that end with a vista.

In 2022, Catherine’s intern worked with a unique team of Extension professionals with expertise in agricultural conservation, forestry, and wildlife biology. The student focused on planning events and creating accessible and engaging water quality resources for a general audience, such as Spanish language translation of private well resources.

Follow Catherine on Twitter at @crdelong.

Dan Downing

Dan Downing
Dan Downing is a Water Quality Specialist with the University Missouri housed in the Agricultural Engineering Extension program in Columbia, Missouri. His areas of expertise include: engaging the public in watershed management & planning, organizing locally led watershed management committees, developing locally driven watershed management plans, and assisting watershed communities and small municipalities with water related regulatory compliance.  He frequently serves as an information conduit between state agencies and local watershed management organization and has assisted the Missouri Department of Natural Resource in organizing and hosting numerous watershed management training events focused on public engagement.  He also serves on several regional and national water quality work groups and committees.

Students working with Dan will assist with water quality sampling, collect and analyze weekly water quality samples, and engage in large scale ongoing citizen lead lake and stream monitoring programs. Students will also have the opportunity to attend citizen lead watershed management group meetings and interact with local, state, and federal officials charged with legislative implementation and compliance.

Laura Edwards in a corn field

Laura Edwards
Laura Edwards was appointed as the SDSU Extension State Climatologist in January 2017. She is based at the Aberdeen Regional Extension Center. Laura coordinates and leads SDSU Extension projects on weather, climate and agriculture. She works with a wide diversity of stakeholder groups including SD Mesonet, State Fire Meteorologist, university personnel, state and federal agencies on weather, climate, natural hazards and emergency management. Previous to her appointment as State Climatologist, she had been the SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist from 2011 to 2017. She holds a Master’s degree in Meteorology from the University of Maryland and a Bachelors degree in Physics and French from the University of Minnesota. She lives outside Aberdeen, SD with her family where she enjoys watching the prairie skies and wildlife roam.

Students working with Laura will be based in Aberdeen, SD at a regional Extension center that is co-located with the SD Mesonet Director office. Examples of some possible projects include working with SD Mesonet to create online tools with weather, soil & climate data; collaborating with water, agronomy and livestock Extension teams to address in-season management; using traditional and social media to communicate about weather and climate; and developing outreach materials for all ages to explain intersecting topics of water, agriculture and climate change. There will be opportunities to interact with farmers & ranchers across South Dakota, the public, and with Extension and research partners and colleagues both in South Dakota and across the region.

Follow Laura’s work on Twitter at @SDSUclimate and on Facebook at @SDSUExtClimate.

Justin Hougham

Justin Hougham
Justin Hougham is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an Affiliate Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His area of expertise is environmental education and using ecopedagogy to address inequities in STEM education. He values getting students of all ages into the outdoors while growing their environmental literacy through inquiry, curiosity, and storytelling.

Students that join Dr. Hougham would support project-based work with some of the many community collaborators in the region. Examples include executing and designing virtual watershed education programs through StoryMaps, supporting collaborative projects with environmental non-profits in Milwaukee, restoration projects and green infrastructure, organizing community water events, conducting inventories, and teaching school aged students about great lakes water literacy, invasive species and the health riparian ecosystems.

Xinhua Jia

Xinhua Jia
Xinhua Jia is a professor and a professional engineer at the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering of North Dakota State University. She teaches several courses, including Natural Resource Management Systems and Drainage and Wetland Engineering. Her research focuses on drainage water management, sensor-controlled irrigation, cold region hydrology, and water quality in agricultural fields. Dr. Xinhua Jia likes many outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, jogging, gardening) and indoor activities (e.g. sewing, knitting, making creative crafts, cooking for special events). She is a cat lover. She always finds something to do in her spare time.

Students working with Dr. Jia would be located at the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department of North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. Examples of work projects including water quality monitoring in tile drained fields, saline water infiltration and modeling, develop outreach videos, attend field days, give presentations to producers, and write an extension publication.

John McMaine in the field

John McMaine
John McMaine is the Griffith Chair in Agriculture and Water Resources and an Assistant Professor and Extension State Specialist in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at South Dakota State University. His water management and water quality outreach and extension efforts span the agriculture/urban spectrum with projects related to tile drainage, rain gardens, soil health, and flood mitigation. Growing up on a small farm in Kentucky provided ample opportunity to get his hands dirty with agricultural and natural systems and instilled an interest of the interaction between water, the environment, and society. His Kentucky roots also gave him an appreciation for playing and watching basketball and he and a team of colleagues and farmer friends annually play intramural basketball against students at SDSU. Dr. McMaine’s team has never led in these games.

Students working with Dr. McMaine would be based on the campus of South Dakota State University in beautiful, Brookings, South Dakota. Examples of work projects include tracer studies on aged bioreactors, water quality and hydraulic performance of rain gardens, tile water quality monitoring, determining dynamic soil moisture in various agricultural management systems, and opportunities to interact with various stakeholder groups including farmers, municipal technical staff, and the general public.

You can follow along with John’s activities on Twitter at @SDSUExtWaterMan.

Miranda Meehan

Miranda Meehan
Miranda Meehan is the North Dakota State University Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist. She earned B.S and M.S degrees in Animal and Range Science and a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management, all from NDSU. The focus of her research and extension program is livestock and environmental interactions, specifically those related to grazing. Her current research focuses include integrated crop livestock systems, riparian ecology and reclamation. Miranda enjoys spending time outdoors and trying to keep up with her twin boys and springer spaniel.

Students working with Miranda will be based at the NDSU campus in Fargo, ND. Examples of projects include assessing stream geomorphology and riparian ecosystem’s responses to management, developing outreach materials focused on riparian ecology and management and teaching landowners about riparian systems.

Follow Miranda’s work on Twitter at @NDSU_eX_Steward.

Headshot of Rachel Curry

Rachel Curry
Rachel Curry is a Watershed Outreach Associate within University of Illinois Extension’s Commercial Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Teams. Rachel focuses on two nitrogen-priority watersheds that are outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy in the northwestern part of Illinois with the focus on conservation practice education to reduce nitrogen loss from non-point sources. She has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a master’s degree in soil fertility and environmental science.

Students working with Rachel will participate in Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction education activities. This could include assistance with social media, field days, or other programs related to conservation education efforts. Students interested in agriculture and conservation education are encouraged to apply.

Follow Rachel’s work on Twitter at @IllinoisNRS.

Rebecca North

Rebecca North
Rebecca North is an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Missouri. She has a PhD in Limnology from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada in 2008. Rebecca is an emerging researcher in aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry with expertise on nutrient and phytoplankton dynamics in water bodies. She addresses questions regarding the sources and timing of nutrient loading from land to lake.

Students working with Rebecca will assist with water quality sampling at a local urban reservoir in collaboration with the Reservoir Observer Student Scientist (ROSS) program. They will also have the opportunity to attend citizen lead watershed management group meetings and gain an inside look at the social, political, and economic components of watershed planning and management.

Interested students should be in an environmental science or biology program with an interest in lake ecology/limnology. They should be willing to spend time outdoors sampling lakes, working with high school students, and analyzing samples in a water quality lab. They should have an interest in communicating with the public.

Amy Schmidt

Amy Schmidt
Amy Schmidt is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Biological Systems Engineering Department. Having grown up in rural Iowa, she appreciates the agricultural production systems that feed people worldwide and chose her career path to support responsible livestock production by helping farmers adopt research-based practices that optimize agronomic productivity and minimize potential environmental and social risks. Keeping up with two active kids, her husband, and their family dog, Yadi (a mini Goldendoodle), is her other full-time job! She spends a lot of evenings and weekends cheering on her kids at baseball and softball games, about as much time scrubbing dirt and grass stains out of white baseball pants, and not nearly enough time sleeping.

Dr. Schmidt is excited to welcome students interested in engaging with her diverse research and outreach team (Schmidt Lab) on topics such as manure and nutrient management, soil health, manure treatment technologies, and conservation practices to minimize contaminant transport in the environment.