2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM

Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Watershed Study: An Outdoor Classroom in the Pine Ridge Region of Northwestern Nebraska, USA

BALMAT, Jennifer L. and LEITE, Michael B., Physical and Life Sciences, Chadron State College, 1000 Main Street, Chadron, NE 69337, jebalm@csc.edu

The ideal outdoor classroom engages students by addressing issues that are familiar and important. An interdisciplinary study of resource sustainability in the Chadron Creek watershed achieves those goals through an unusual design. Firstly, it involves students and faculty from a broad range of disciplines in and outside of the natural sciences; secondly, field methods are taught by student co-mentorship; and thirdly, a “bootstrap” approach by which students establish the necessary protocols for their particular study gives them ownership in the project. Students obtained preliminary data for hydrology, water quality, riparian and aquatic habitat, historic water resource development, and economic impacts of water availability. They developed a manual for landowners to assess riparian habitat, rangeland health, and water quality; and produced a student training manual to brief incoming students on field and laboratory procedures. Students developed a web database to store scientific data. Organization and participation in three community events facilitated interaction with stakeholders. The group achieved successes in the areas of student retention, faculty mentorship, and data collection. As this ongoing study continues, increased emphasis in training across disciplinary boundaries will enable students to think holistically as problem solvers.