Throughout Minnesota, UMRI partners with landowners, community leaders, conservation experts, and citizens to improve water quality and conserve natural resources. UMRI strives for forums of enlightenment, neighborliness, and a better landscape for all. Here’s what we’ve been up to in the past month.
Citizen Science Funded
We have just received grants that will fund water education and citizen monitoring in the Driftless Region and in a joint Minnesota-Iowa effort. Assuming Covid restrictions have eased by next summer, the Winona, MN Will Dilg chapter along with stream teams and community partners will bring the public on board a docked boat for hands-on monitoring tests and river stories. Further west, the Austin, MN chapter will take its innovative methodology for identifying E. coli sources to Iowa chapters by way of citizen scientist training, sampling, and analysis. Getting more eyes on public water and advocacy for better water drive the work.
Stream Teams Persevere!
Citizen scientists took to streams with a good deal of care and masks in place as summer evolved in Southeast Minnesota. After hosting information sessions and a well-attended training last fall, we have a cohort of Save Our Streams (SOS) enthusiasts in place. That said, and regardless of a rejuvenating winter social, Covid restrictions kept most of them at bey during what would have been team sampling in April and May. But we persevered! By keeping groups small and family-based, masking up (as we say in Minnesota), and not sharing tools, a few of us amassed much data for the National Hub. Furthermore, confidence in our skills encouraged us to sample additional streams. You can find those sites on a map and view the reports on nitrate levels, pH, the macroinvertebrates we found, and learn more here.
How We Organize Driftless Stream Teams
The National SOS office asked us to share some of the myriad details that make stream teams possible even under these Covid conditions. Driftless Coordinator Caroline van Schaik joined a webinar on the topic and you can watch it here.
Minnesota River Ditch Attention
The Minnesota River Watershed, with its 38-county reach, is the largest source of sediment contamination to the Upper Mississippi River. Led by David Minge, UMRI MN River project coordinator, a team of legal experts, engineers, colleague conservation, and environmental groups are systematically reviewing ditch management activities. The effort is driven by dire loss of wetlands, landscape-scale damage by severe storms across row cropped acres, a negative shift in watershed dynamics, and ultimately, denigrated water quality at every point. Minge and UMRI staff Keira Kellogg have compiled all ditch projects into the Minnesota River Basin Drainage Inventory, complete with feasibility studies, DNR and engineer reports, and related documents on a county-by-county basis. There also is a link to past projects at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Recently, MN DNR leadership including the state Commissioner and the UMRI MN River Team held a conference call to strive for collaboration on mitigation efforts. Follow-up continues. See the Minnesota River Basin Drainage Inventory here.