The primary research objectives of the project are to assess community capacity for watershed planning and conservation across capacity indicators in each subwatershed, assess the effect of historic land cover trends and spatial arrangement and extent of conservation practices on water quality within the eight subwatersheds, integrate social and water quality data to determine watershed and community health risks, and provide recommendations in a management plan for effective conservation practices and capacity-building strategies.<P> The primary education objectives are to involve undergraduate and graduate students in interdisciplinary research, provide opportunities for them to effectively communicate across disciplines, engage them in community watershed planning processes, and assist them in designing outreach tools.<P> The primary outreach objectives are to develop outreach programs tailored to each subwatershed community's needs for conservation and capacity-building, administer outreach techniques that inform and empower diverse community stakeholders, and appraise outreach programs in each community using pre/post-tests, surveys, and impact scores.
Non-Technical Summary: Few watershed communities have the water quality information needed to effectively address water quality concerns or policy mandates. Furthermore, many communities lack the capacity to develop watershed management plans or implement conservation practices. This project integrates social and water quality data to evaluate and communicate watershed and community health risks through active stakeholder involvement and to provide recommendations for watershed conservation and community capacity-building. <P> Approach: The community capacity assessment will apply a multiple methods approach to inventorying and assessing community capacity within the eight subwatershed communities. Several indicators of community capacity (e.g., leadership, institutional support, empowerment, social cohesion, shared vision, and collective action) have been identified and will be assessed through community inventories, focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders, and a broader resident survey. Qualitative and quantitative data will be analyzed and integrated with water quality data to evaluate watershed and community health risks. Existing water quality data will be compiled from existing records of long-term stream monitoring stations for Silver and Richland Creeks. Data will be used to establish relationships between changing land cover and water quality impairment through time, and the data will also provide an estimate of current overall watershed health. Eight subwatersheds, four within the Richland Creek Watershed and four within the Silver Creek Watershed, will be monitored. These data will be correlated with the most up-to-date land cover data available for southern Illinois. Further, the conservation practices have been digitized and will be compared to current water quality. The location and suite of conservation practices implemented also will be assessed within the eight subwatersheds. Based on the evaluations of watershed and community health risks, an outreach program will be designed, implemented and appraised. The research team will consult local stakeholders including government officials, non-government organization leaders, and citizen representatives (i.e., community gatekeepers) in project planning, implementation, and outreach. Information transfer of study findings will be available to community members via the integrated website, traveling visual exhibits, and interactive workshops. Evaluation of these outreach and education programs will be specific to the information transfer technique (e.g., website hits, comment cards, and pre/post workshop surveys).