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Moving the Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network to the Next Level: A National Water Resource Project

Investigators
Green, Linda
Institutions
University of Rhode Island
Start date
2008
End date
2012
Objective
This is a collaborative project among the University of Rhode Island, the University of Wisconsin and Salish Kootenai College. The goal is to engage researchers, educators and extension personnel to enhance access to, and interpretation and application of locally relevant volunteer water monitoring data. This will lead to increased public understanding and involvement in community and individual decision making for water resources.

This increased understanding will yield more rational analysis of environmental decisions and wider dispersal of information in communities and local watersheds across the nation. There are four objectives. 1) Build state, tribal and local capacity for voluntary monitoring programs by strengthening the Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network.

Promote new and expanded program development through a tiered approach for monitoring, enabling local programs to more easily tailor monitoring efforts to meet their data needs and available resources. 2) Provide tools to enable monitoring programs to effectively interpret, share and apply volunteer monitoring water quality information for problem solving. 3) Increase the base of knowledge and breadth of volunteer monitoring programs by fostering, supporting, developing and disseminating cost-effective, volunteer appropriate tools for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development, watershed assessment, bacteria, low flow stream and/or storm water monitoring. 4) Provide support to tribal colleges and universities (TCU) to increase the educational and watershed protection/restoration benefits of water quality monitoring through the integration of volunteer monitoring programs into tribal initiatives.

There are a number of outputs. The project website and listserv will be updated and expanded to ensure timeliness and utility, and to better represent tribal college and university interests. An electronic distribution list specifically to serve TCU volunteer monitoring interests will be created. The "Guide for Growing CSREES Volunteer Monitoring Programs" will be expanded by creating additional factsheet learning modules on a variety of topics most germane to watershed assessment activities by volunteer monitoring which may include: tiered monitoring approaches; cost-effective TMDL, watershed assessment, bacteria, low flow stream or storm water monitoring techniques; and interpreting and communicating results. Workshops to strengthen local, state and tribal capacity for implementing and supporting voluntary monitoring programs, and for interpreting and sharing water quality information will be conducted. Expected venues include annual CSREES National Water Conferences and select regional or state conferences, the biennial National Water Quality Monitoring Conference, and tribal college meetings such as First Americans Land-grant College Organization & Network (FALCON) or the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. Project activity updates will be posted on the CSREES NIWQP Water Quality Discussion List and other relevant electronic distribution lists.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: This is a collaborative project among the Universities of Rhode Island and Wisconsin and Salish Kootenai College. The goal is to involve researchers, educators and extension staff to improve access to, interpretation and use of community-based volunteer water monitoring data. This will lead to increased public understanding and involvement in tribal, community and individual decision making for water resources and better water quality. The last USEPA National Water Quality Inventory found that only 30% of US waters have been assessed and only 59% of those met their designated uses. Volunteer monitoring provides an outstanding opportunity to increase assessment of our Nation's waters. Additionally, it has the unique capacity to not only provide citizens and communities with place-based information, but also to improve understanding of the impacts to water quality and quantity by local actions and activities. This gets people involved and leads to changes at the farm, home, community and watershed levels to protect water quality. Water is a central and essential part of tribal community culture, history, and economic future. Increased integration of volunteer monitoring into tribal college and university programs offers a unique opportunity to address serious tribal water resources issues. We established the Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network (EVMN) in 2001 to create, coordinate and transmit training curricula to the volunteer water monitoring community. It resulted in more monitoring data and opportunities for volunteer monitors and also improved recognition of the benefits of voluntary monitoring. While many programs are now viewed as sources of credible, locally-based data, they need to learn how to better translate that data to information so it can be used to spur local actions. Building on the "Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) National Facilitation Project for Increasing Tribal Involvement in the Water Quality Network" we will assess current interest in and capacity for enhanced participation in voluntary monitoring in tribal community colleges and universities and will work to build TCU capacity as appropriate. To help the EVMN move up to that next level of volunteer monitoring, and to put volunteer monitoring data to use more widely, we have created a true interdisciplinary team with both social and environmental scientists to develop training materials and programs. We will prepare factsheet learning modules on a variety of topics such as tiered monitoring approaches; cost-effective TMDL, watershed assessment, bacteria, low flow stream or storm water monitoring techniques; as well as on interpreting and communicating results. Our information will be readily available to anyone who is interested or concerned about water quality on our website www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer as factsheet learning modules. We will hold training workshops at a number of tribal, state, regional or national conferences on these topics. We will conduct needs assessments at the start of the project, evaluations at each of our workshops, as well as follow-up evaluations later on to see what longer term changes have been made as a result of our work.

Approach: Project-wide outcomes include stakeholders having enhanced capacity to participate in watershed management and public policy development, volunteer monitoring programs and tribal colleges having increased ability to generate data to affect water resource policy decision-making locally, and Extension developing stronger and more numerous program partnerships. We will use ADDIE and LOGIC models to structure our project activities and evaluation, and to assist in linking desired outcomes to training and resource materials. The materials developed will form the basis of workshops designed to address our target tribal, regional and statewide audiences. We will evaluate project outputs and outcomes using a web-based assessment of volunteer monitoring programs to better understand capacity, needs and scope of programs, and to assess their understanding of Extension's role in supporting volunteer monitoring. We will conduct evaluations of workshops and use website statistics to effectively construct and deliver our message. Web-based survey tools and SPSS statistical software will be used to collect and analyze data. Near the end of the project, we will reassess current programs' needs and our project impacts. We will maintain and enhance our website to showcase and strengthen the Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network (EVMN). We will use our list serve to communicate with partners and to expand the EVMN. We will inquire about existing tiered monitoring approaches via the list serve in order to develop training materials and workshops for Extension personnel at national, regional, and/or tribal conferences. We will use surveys and focus groups to research volunteer monitoring programs' data sharing techniques. In addition, we will partner with NEMO to better understand data needs of municipal officials in order to bridge the gap between volunteer monitoring programs and local decision makers. We will create educational materials and workshops to train participants to better interpret and communicate local water quality information to stakeholders. We will review volunteer methods and tools used for TMDL development, watershed assessment, bacteria, low flow stream and/or storm water monitoring. We will develop training materials and workshops to promote some of these strategies for broader dissemination and implementation by volunteer monitoring programs. We will conduct a web-based assessment of tribal community colleges and universities (TCU) to identify TCU interest in, and capacity to support volunteer monitoring efforts. We will add TCU partners to our list serve and create a TCU-specific list serve to help coordinate tribal efforts to support volunteer monitoring. We will work to build tribal colleges capacity to support volunteer monitoring through integration with TCU water quality laboratories and develop training materials and a workshop to support this. The workshop will be offered at a First Americans Land-grant College Organization & Network (FALCON) conference, or other relevant venues. Near the end of the project, we will reassess current capacity, needs, and scope of programs of TCU partners.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
RI002008-03530
Accession number
215391
Categories
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Education and Training
Policy and Planning