Ten students from a variety of majors were selected to present their Sustainable Water Resources Grand Challenge science communication projects at The University of New Mexico this month.
It was one of the events held during the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Conference (UROC) held recently. From paintings to photography to podcasts, the lightning talk and poster event gave undergraduates the chance to show off their creativity, communication skills and passion for sustainable water resources.
Each student received a $1,000 stipend to complete their communication project, which could be based on either a faculty member’s water research or their own water-related research. No research experience was necessary, and students from both STEM and the humanities were invited to participate.
Sustainable water resources is one of UNM’s three Grand Challenges — problems of global, national and regional significance that require cross-disciplinary solutions — that have been identified as necessary to improve life and the economy of New Mexico.
Students who presented were:
- Yvonne Morales, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography. “Environmental Impact of Questa Mine.”
- Cassandra Huneau, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography. “Post-wildfire flooding in Ohkay Owingeh.”
- Kamryn Zachek, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics. “Conservation of the Middle Bosque: How a Return to The Rio Grande’s Roots Can Revitalize Endangered Species in New Mexico.”
- Jaimie Ritchie, School of Engineering, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. “Podcast: Nourishing Our Riverlands.”
- Giovanni Cordova, School of Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Is Terraformation the Answer to New Mexico’s Water Needs?”
- Renae Simonson, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biology. A two-part podcast featuring faculty and graduate students who collaborate with other organizations to work on water conservation issues.
- Najhozhoni Rain Ben, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics. "Tó éí ííná át'é: Water is Life."Sa'angna Mi'ila Gollette, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. A photo project on how watersheds are important in local irrigation systems.
- Constanza Kremer, School of Engineering, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. “Modeling the Santa Fe Watershed: Not Just Water.”
- William Crockett, College of Arts and Sciences, Departments of Biology and Physics and Astronomy. Timelapse series of drawings and videos about New Mexico’s unique ecosystems and the importance of water in each.
The idea for the 10 Sustainable Water Grand Challenges communication projects was the brainchild of Sydney Donohue, outreach coordinator for the Center for Water and the Environment; Anjali Mulchandani, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering; and Alex Webster, a research professor in the Department of Biology.
Donohue said that they saw a need to involve both undergraduate students in the sustainable water resources Grand Challenges and educate the public in what water research is happening at UNM
The group approached water researchers in all disciplines across campus to find volunteer mentors for potential undergraduate students in the program. Faculty mentors would meet with the selected students to explain their research and work together to create a creative communication project that would be used to explain the research to a broad, general audience.
They began recruiting students in fall 2021, then eventually selected 10 students based on their applications in spring 2022. Donohue said that the student cohort met weekly during this semester to work on their projects.
“I feel that the students really bonded throughout the semester,” she said. “We were able to offer this as a paid opportunity for students, and it engaged them to interact with researchers and students from different areas across campus.”
She said there are plans to publish the projects on the Environment-Focused Learning Academy (EFLA) website, which offers free environmental education materials as part of the Southwest Environmental Finance Center. Both are housed in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. In addition, the project will be posted on the Undergraduate Research, Arts and Design Network (URAD) website.