UCOWR announces awards online in lieu of conference presentations

UCOWR announced the awards that would have been presented at the conference October 2020 in Minneapolis Minnesota. Several WRC researchers and associates received virtual recognition:

2020 Early Career Ward for Extension/Outreach/Engagement:


Megan Weber, UMN Extension
“Megan Weber is an Extension Educator and Assistant Extension Professor at University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Her extension program creates volunteer, citizen science, and educational opportunities to empower Minnesotans in protecting the state’s 10,000+ lakes from the impacts of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The impacts of these programs can be seen through the nearly 15,000 hours of service in AIS detection, outreach, research, and management completed in just three years by AIS Detectors volunteers and the discovery of 3 new populations of starry stonewort (20% of the known populations in Minnesota) through an event called Starry Trek.”


Natural Science & Engineering Category:

Mojtaba Fakhraee, University of Minnesota
“Moji Fakhraee is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in water resources science at the University of Minnesota in August 2018. His Ph.D. work, titled ‘’A New Insight Into The Geochemistry Of Sulfur In Low Sulfate Environments,‘’ has implications on studying sulfur cycling in low sulfate environments such as large freshwater systems as well as the oceans of the geologic past (>0.5 billion years ago). As a postdoc at Yale, he is interested in developing a mechanistic understanding of the co-evolution of life and Earth’s surface environments. His long-term goal is to move forward our understanding of how life has shaped our planet and with this end-goal in mind, he recruits a wide range of theoretical, modeling, and experimental toolkits to create, formulate, and test hypotheses on the nexus between life and Earth’s surface conditions.”

J. Contemporary Water Research and Education article of the year:

JCWRE 166: 79-94. Cultural Narratives on Constraints to Community Engagement in Urban Water Restoration.
Authors: Amit Pradhananga, Mae Davenport, and Emily Green

Abstract: Natural resource professionals increasingly recognize that water protection and restoration efforts require not only technical solutions, but also the active engagement of stakeholders who live and work in the local community. People of color, and those of lower income brackets, are frequently underrepresented in water-related programming or decision-making, although they are often disproportionately affected by water problems. Effective engagement of diverse community members in water programs and projects requires understanding and addressing constraints to action. We conducted 25 interviews with community members who live or work in a highly urbanized Minnesota watershed to explore perceived obstacles to community engagement in local water resource protection and restoration. Based on self-reported race, ethnicity, and general community engagement level, interviewees were assigned to one of three “stakeholder groups” for comparative analysis: formal decision-makers, active white community members, and active community members of color. Qualitative analysis of responses revealed perceived constraints to engagement common to all three groups: inaccessibility and invisibility of water, lack of local leadership in water issues, and limited community dialogue about water problems and solutions. Additional constraints were perceived uniquely by community members of color: cultural constraints around water uses, recreation, action, and inequities or disenfranchisement in community decision-making processes and water programming. Study findings suggest partnership building is needed for collaboration in designing civic engagement programs and improving water protection and restoration projects.

Planning continues for the 2021 conference in Greenville, SC June 8-10-2021. UCOWR anticipates returning to Minneapolis for their 2022 conference.