Educators and outreach specialists from across the Mississippi River Watershed gathered at Lewis and Clark Community College last month to discuss ideas for enhancing programs and improving partnerships. Our own Michael Brennan, Kirsten Hope Walker, and Allison Neubauer were among those in the crowd. 

“One of the most unusual and interesting presentations was from an artist named Libby Reuter, who, along with her friend and photographer, Josh Rowan, place glass cairns in different watershed areas to bring attention to the beauty of the area as well as the problems,” said Kirsten. “The cairns are made of broken, found, and garage sale glass pieces and are stacked—with the help of some industrial glue—on each other. They are only placed in the watershed location long enough to take the photographs, which are then exhibited in museums as well as on her website. I thought it was a really interesting way to bring attention to watersheds in the art world.

For Michael, the most memorable moment was the unveiling of Field Scope, a new webtool that helps citizen scientists investigate questions like “Are frog populations declining?” “What is the water quality in my favorite fishing spot?” and “Is climate change affecting the timing of leafs in spring?” 

“Field Scope provides a medium for citizen scientists to visually explore environmental observations using an interactive map,” he said. “Users have the ability to focus on a specific topic—like frogs—or compare the impact of water temperature on oxygen levels. It also encourages visitors to share their own environmental measurements and observations with a broad community. Users can contribute data to existing projects, like Great Lakes Field Scope, or create your own unique project.  

Field Scope is free, designed for grades k-12, and geared to help students meet school standards related to STEM learning fields,” Michael added. 
But it wasn’t all conference rooms and presentations.

“Allison and I also had an opportunity to attend the last river clean-up of the year with Chad Pergracke and the Living Lands and Waters crew,” Kirsten said. “They were very personable and fun, and they kept people motivated while picking up trash along the river. I was a bucket list item for me, and I would definitely go again. Who knew cleaning trash from the river could be so much fun?”