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Integrating Watershed Management with Learning: The Role of Information Transfer in Linking Educators and Students with Community Watershed Partners

The last decade has seen the rise of a watershed-based approach to monitoring and management of water resources as well as of community-based watershed partnerships. Academic institutions play a key role in watershed research and information transfer and are increasingly partnering with water managers to integrate student learning and service with watershed monitoring and remediation. In this paper, we review the literature on four models of educational–public partnerships that we identified: monitoring networks, experiential project-based programs, service learning programs, and university research institutes. With insights from the literature and our own experience teaching a service learning and watershed-based course at Colorado College, we examine the educational impact when technical information is transferred between academics and public stakeholders. We find that a watershed-based approach provides an educational opportunity that promotes interdisciplinary learning and civic responsibility. Information transfer in this setting requires quality control at the forefront and benefits from strong partnerships. Additionally, the use of Internet-based and map- or Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based data warehousing has allowed for local to international data coordination and dissemination and will likely continue at the forefront of our efforts to protect and preserve precious water resources.

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