Las Vegas, New Mexico – New Mexico Highlands University received a $275,000 grant aimed at preparing underrepresented minority students for water resources science and management careers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Highlands the four-year grant with an Aug. 1 start date.
“This grant is exciting because it will allow us to recruit, retain and graduate students who are practiced and proficient in water resources science,” said geology professor Jennifer Lindline. “A lot of New Mexico youth value water as part of their cultural identity and community values, but they don’t know what college degree is needed to address water quality and scarcity issues.”
“Our Highlands students will become leaders in water resources science with both the technical skills they’ll learn as well as cooperation and collaboration abilities they’ll master,” Lindline said.
Lindline wrote the USDA grant and is the principal investigator, or lead researcher, for the grant. It will be implemented within the Natural Resources Management Department at Highlands.
“There are many opportunities for water quality scientist positions in New Mexico, the region and nation. Our students will be prepared to help protect our precious water resources in these wide geographic areas,” Lindline said.
Lindline said the grant project taps into students’ intellectual and recreational domains because they will become more strongly connected to the natural world.
The USDA grant includes funding for portable and laboratory instruments for state-of-the-art water quality analysis.
“This new equipment will expand Highlands’ ability to help students engage more deeply in their studies and monitor their watersheds,” Lindline said.
Lindline said some high-impact elements of the grant include:
-Students will engage in paid internships with local agencies to study and protect water resources.
-Upper-division students in water resources studies will be peer mentors to students in the introductory stage of coursework.
“We know that this kind of experiential learning and mentoring gives students a high potential for academic success,” Lindline said.
Lindline said a major goal of the USDA grant is to develop a stream monitoring program at Highlands.
“This program will involve work with local watershed groups, where students are responsible for collecting water quality data needed to protect our watersheds and aquatic resources. We’re fortunate at Highlands to be in close proximity to so many watersheds such as the Gallinas River, the Pecos River and Rio Mora,” Lindline said.
Lindline said the grant work will involve partnerships with organizations such as the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance and the Upper Pecos Watershed Association.
“Through this collaboration with our local partners, our students will progress from learners to practitioners. Our partners are committed to mentoring interns in watershed monitoring and instilling a lifelong dedication to water conservation,” Lindline said.
Another element of the USDA grant includes outreach to local and regional high schools.
“Our Highlands students working in water resources internships will share their excitement of watershed stewardship with the high school students,” Lindline said.
Lindline said Highlands geology professor Michael Petronis and natural resources management professor Edward Martínez will play key roles in the grant project.
“Both these professors excel at both the acquisition of new scientific instruments and student engagement. They have extensive experience in launching all the elements of science grants,” Lindline said.