Faculty Reflections and Stories

Part of the InTeGrate University of South Dakota Program Model

The Sustainable Rivers project allowed faculty from a wide range of disciplines to gather together to incorporate topics related to Earth Science and Sustainability into their classes. The participating faculty members added InTeGrate materials into their course content that was outside of the disciplinary focus of the course. For example, earth science topics were woven into humanities courses or social justice issues were woven into natural science courses. A major goal of the program was to increase faculty knowledge and awareness of earth science and sustainability through networking, and the brownbag meetings where faculty were able to exchange ideas face to face was successful. The program has brought faculty together from a wide range of disciplines, and has fostered new networks across the campus.

Individual Faculty Reflections

Faculty responded to a three question survey after the end of the semester in which their course was taught, and the following questions were:

  1. Has the Sustainable Rivers project affected your knowledge and/or ability to teach about earth science? Why or why not?
  2. Has the Sustainable Rivers project affected your knowledge and/or ability to teach about sustainability? Why or why not?
  3. Has the Sustainable Rivers project offered networking opportunities for you on research or teaching related to earth science and/or sustainability? Please provide examples.

Cathy Ezrailson
Course(s) SEED 413: 7-12 Science Methods
Module(s)Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity

I have gained a new and unique perspective on the subject of sustainability as well as an even greater appreciation for the value and need for protection of the Missouri and Vermillion Rivers. Through the preparation of materials for my course, including the field study, I more fully understand the fragility and importance of the Missouri as not only a natural resource but also a legacy for the next generations to come.This grant has left me with some questions and the incentive to pursue answers and applications.The hours of preparation and study leading up to the lessons taught in my courses SEED 792 and SEED 413/513 have truly increased my knowledge of sustainability and the importance of teaching it in my classes for future science teachers. My students have the potential to affect generations of students through their teaching – so much more than just my lessons have affected them. In attempting to further my interest and study of the Missouri River, I have contacted many teachers and administrators in school districts along the Missouri as well as government officials and other invested parties. I have reached out and expanded my network in the areas of science education, the sciences, sustainability, science teaching methodology in the field and safety issues in the field.

Aimee Sorenson
Course(s) UHON 101: Honor's Fundamentals of Speech Communication
Module(s) Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources

This project has greatly impacted my ability to learn more about earth science and sustainability issues related to river systems. In addition, it was interesting to learn more about topics of environmental justice, hydrologic cycles and freshwater sources. The most valuable part of this endeavor was the place-based learning component, and how we connected to issues about the Missouri River. Tim Cowman, from the SD Geological Survey office, provided a wealth of information about this geological history and future projections of the Missouri River. He was able to inspire me to learn more about Missouri River issues, and in turn ignite that same curiosity in the hearts and minds of my learners. There was a wealth of information gathered by my students, in their speeches for the sustainable river projects. We have all learned so very much about the Missouri River- its interesting history, its ecology, the biology and even the economic and societal impacts it has provided. The workshops, brown-bag lunches and meetings which were coordinated in support of our implementation of the InTeGrate components proved to be opportunities that enriched the connections I have with other faculty, from outside of my department. It was interesting and inspiring to hear how others were planning to implement the components into their courses.It was enjoyable to understand how the components were working into other courses, and it was fun to get a glimpse into other courses across campus. I would say this was certainly a success for our mission as a liberal arts and sciences institution!

Molly Rozum
Course(s) Hist 476: History of South Dakota
Module(s) Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources modules.

This project greatly impacted my ability to teach about earth science and sustainability issues. I now have a greater understanding of how rivers function, and the interactions between the river and the floodplain. In addition, it was interesting to learn more about how dams have changed the river in both ecological and social ways. I incorporated how the dams on the Missouri River displaced and changed the lifestyle of Native American communities, and plan to keep this component as part of the class. This experience has opened up networking opportunities, and I got to know the other participating faculty better by working on this project together, and I know if I ever need anything additional I could reach out and ask for assistance.

David Swanson
Course(s): Bio 103: General Biology
Module(s) Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources modules.

I added more hydrology/river function/river regulation information into my course than I typically cover in a biology course. This information nicely set the stage for students making connections between river function and regulation, riparian forest composition and woodland bird populations. This topic fit in very well with the "community ecology" portion of the BIOL 103 – Biology Survey course, as it tied together information about how the river works to modify the landscape, how dams have changed this, and what impacts these changes have had on plants and animals dependent on the river for their habitats. Explicitly incorporating the river function and river regulation material should help students to better understand not only some basic hydrology, but also how the impacts of altered river function cascade to multiple biological levels. In a broader sense, I think that it also allowed me to provide a better foundational understanding to students of the cascading effects of human alterations of rivers, and by extension other geological landscapes, on biotic and abiotic features of the environment.

The material covering how river function has changed with river regulation by dams and how river function is likely to change as inputs and outputs of water into the system are altered by climate change fits the sustainability focus of the InTeGrate effort. I focused my teaching on the impacts on riparian forest vegetation and bird populations, but the exercises in the class should allow students to make broader connections to other topics influenced by altered river flow regimes. We spent a little time discussing how flow regulation and climate change might impact the multiple uses of the river, as students discussed the questions below in small groups after the river function and climate change mini-lectures.

Choose one of the two models (FTI: this is referring to two different climate models and their projections for temperature and precipitation that I presented in the climate change mini-lecture) and describe their impacts on the ability of the Missouri River to support its multiple uses (e.g., flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, irrigation, wildlife habitat, barge traffic). Which of these multiple uses do you think is most likely to be impacted by the climate change projections from the model that you chose? Are the impacts likely to be positive or negative?

The addition of the topic of multiple uses of the river and potential impacts of river regulation and climate change on these uses was beyond the scope of what I usually cover in my biology courses. Thus, the InTeGrate module helped me to learn and better appreciate more of these connections and hopefully helped build an appreciation for these connections for the students as well.

The interactions that will occur as a part of the grant activities will provide continued exposure to what other faculty are doing on the river, including those involved in earth science and sustainability. I anticipate that more broad-scale, interdisciplinary efforts centered on the Missouri River will likely result in the future, and I will likely be fully integrated into these efforts as Director of the MRI. The InTeGrate effort has helped build these collaborations and helps provide the ground work for continued collaborations in the future.