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Citizen Scientists

By: Danielle Yaste

The International Water Institute (IWI) is a watershed based Non-Profit that has been working within the Red River Basin for over 15 years.  As an organization, it supports decision making, data collection, and education throughout the watershed, with its hallmark program being “River Watch.”  The River Watch program pre-dates IWI starting in 1995 as a response to a lack of water quality data in the Red River Basin.  In order to meet the data deficit, River Watch trained and utilized high school students to monitor their local rivers as citizen scientists.  Since then, River Watch has grown to include, on an annual basis, over 300 hundred students who continue to collect data, conduct annual projects for the River Watch Forum, and participate in River Explorers trips, which gives students the opportunity to paddle down their tributaries (some of which, have been maintained by NW CCMI Crews!).  River Watch currently works in both North Dakota and Minnesota and is consistently taking on new and engaging projects, making it a true cross-curriculum approach to watershed education.

One of the many students to come through the River Watch Program was a young man by the name of Andy Ulven.  Andy went on to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and upon graduation he took an Individual Placement Position with Conservation Corps MN and Iowa.  During his term he visited his home watershed to share with River Watch students the opportunities that were available to them through CCMI.  A partnership was born.  Since this first interaction, IWI has utilized the Individual Placement at the University of MN Extension for collaborative work during the River Watch Forum, and then in 2015, the organization placed its first Individual Placement: me.  My name is Danielle Yaste and I served two terms with CCMI and now am a member of the Alumni Advisory Council.  I, along with CCMI alum Andy Ulven, work as a Monitoring and Education Specialists at IWI, allowing me to spend a large portion of my time working with River Watch and encouraging the youth of the Red River Basin to get outside and experience their watershed.

IWI currently has an Individual Placement, Kyle Glowa, who splits his time over multiple projects, including River Watch.  This past year, River Watch was able to offer a college and career fair to our High School participants and CCMI was proudly included in that event.  River Watch would not be possible without its multiple partnerships, and CCMI is one of those valuable partnerships.  Due to the collaboration and the development of the recent Individual Placement position, River Watch granted the Partnership Award to Brian Hubbard and the Conservation Corps of MN and Iowa.  The award was given in celebration of Hubbard and CCMI’s passion for environmental stewardship and their continued work of inspiring young professionals.  Creating a culture of environmental stewardship and awareness takes collaboration, and we are thankful for the opportunity to work with an organization like CCMI to create that culture.

To learn more about River Watch check out our Facebook Page:

Or our Website:

River Watch is funded primarily by the Clean Water Legacy Fund, Red River Joint Water Resource District and the Red River Management Board.