Watershed project provides experience, builds skills
The North East Water Resources Network (NEWRnet) project offers on an unparalleled opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to gain valuable lab and field experience under the guidance of faculty mentors as they develop research protocol in several emerging fields. (Check out internship opportunities for Summer 2015)
From maintaining high tech sensors to taking water and macroinvertebrate samples, analyzing data, developing computational models, creating land use maps, and doing GIS mapping work, students participate in the latest watershed research methods and enhance professional skills through relevant workshops and conferences.
Matt Wallace began working with the NEWRnet project in the fall of 2013 as he headed into his last year of the University of Rhode Island Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) program. Two months after earning his degree the following spring of 2014, Wallace took an environmental consulting job with Roux Associates, Woburn, Mass.
Wallace said the extensive lab and fieldwork provided by the Track-2 research paid off: “It’s important to have experience — it was a big selling point to get interviews and get my job.”
Zoe Moskwa and Meaghan Senack, both Salve Regina University students pursuing an Environmental Studies major and Biology minor, found their summer internship provided not only the development of skills and a deeper understanding of research methods, but the experience also opened up new fields of study and career tracks they had not considered.
Working with the social science team, URI Environmental Economics major Kellie Brown spent her summer investigating non-point source pollution, taking field trips to the watersheds, and building site profiles.
Interns from the three states gathered in Delaware twice, first at the beginning of the summer for a short course, where presentations by NEWRnet faculty introduced students to climate change in the northeast, experimental economics, and water quality issues faced in the region. They reconvened at the University of Delaware in August to present their research.
The Track-2 interns also had the opportunity to engage with other Rhode Island EPSCoR interns conducting summer research projects. The Rhode Island School of Design, an RI NSF EPSCoR partner institution, gave a hands-on workshop with graphic designers to teach the finer points of designing and creating compelling, meaningful scientific posters.
In addition to the presentation of work in Delaware, the RI NSF EPSCoR Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program offered the chance to participate in the 7th Annual RI SURF Conference held on the URI campus in collaboration with the Rhode Island (IDeA) Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).
This summer’s event drew the largest number of participants and attendees in its history, with more than 130 posters presented in the biomedical, behavioral, environmental, and life sciences, and more than 400 faculty, students, and administrators from URI, Brown University, Community College of Rhode Island, Bryant University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University.
Story and photos by Amy Dunkle