STRATEGY FOR CONDUCTING WATER-RELATED, UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AT A SMALL, REGIONAL UNIVERSITY
One of the recent student research projects examined water quality and quantity of a small stream during and after the drought of 2011. The student had already completed several earth science and conservation courses so had a working knowledge of basic water quality parameters. We examined the length of the stream, chose a sampling site, and practiced methodology for various water tests. Subsequently, the student collected stream data weekly from August 25, 2011 to February 26, 2012; graduate students in conservation assisted in conducting fish counts. The student also retrieved rainfall and temperature records and compared historic conditions to the 2011 drought conditions. The results were quite interesting; for example, ground water was found to be contributing to stream flow at numerous locations. The student was able to present the findings at several poster sessions and was eventually chosen to represent the university at Research Day at the Capitol where results were presented to state legislators.
This type of student research is beneficial to all involved: undergraduates receive valuable experience conducting research and analyzing results; graduate students share their knowledge and receive additional field experience; professors are able to mentor both types of students in field research and scholarly activity and, hopefully, obtain publishable results; and local water-related issues may be addressed. The trick is to find willing students. With a little encouragement, it has been possible to recruit undergraduate students to conduct water-related research even at a small, regional university with no hydrology-based majors.