Spring 2019 Director's Corner

Fittingly for the season, I can begin this spring issue of Minnegram by reporting on new growth in the Water Resources Center.

The past few months have been an exciting time as we have welcomed several new team members. As announced earlier, Anna Cates assumed her full-time role as the first state soil health specialist. Anna’s position is a major step to advance the Minnesota Office for Soil Health. We welcomed Dana Wilson as our senior communications specialist, a new position that will greatly enhance our science communications capacity.  John Bilotta and Adam Wilke joined the WRC as our new research and Extension coordinators. As that job title suggests, John and Adam will coordinate our expanding research and Extension efforts on rural watersheds, urban stormwater, and other topics. And there’s more! The WRC’s team of Extension educators has expanded to include Brad Carlson, Jodi DeJong-Hughes, and Anne Nelson. Brad, Jodi, and Anne will add depth to Extension programming in the crucial nexus of water resources and agriculture. You can read more about the new staff members in Community News and the future directions of the Extension water resources team in Joel Larson’s article.

These additions are actually part of a recent trend, as programmatic growth in the WRC has led to a string of hires over the past few years. Measured by staff numbers, in fact, we are twice as large today as we were five years ago. What explains this growth? I see it as the result of external drivers combining with forces from within. The outside drivers are not hard to see. Our water resource challenges are more pressing than ever, with many unmet needs for research, engagement, and education. The internal forces all trace back to the WRC’s core mission and commitment. It’s in our DNA to respond to challenges by working to build partnerships, seek new resources, and then build capacity for science based solutions.

Various interactions over the past few months have shown how our work in Minnesota fits into a national context. Joel Larson and I recently traveled to Washington, DC for the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) annual meeting. There, we conferred with the leaders of our peer centers and institutes from other states and heard from USGS and other federal science agencies. Joel and I also spent some time on Capitol Hill, discussing the role of water science and education in the offices of elected Congressional representatives. More recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with leaders of other water programs at the University of Minnesota to discuss these issues with USGS Director Jim Reilly.

One thing I took away from all these discussions is that the trends we see for growing water science needs in Minnesota are reflected nationwide. NIWR and USGS will be releasing a new 10-year vision to revitalize the partnership between federal water science agencies and the expertise at universities. I believe that Minnesota is as well positioned as any state to be a leader in this work, addressing our needs at home while advancing science and educating future leaders to make far-reaching impacts. We look forward to finding ways for the WRC to build capacity toward those ends.