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February 2018 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update: Guest Spotlight

For those of you I haven't met, I'm Anne Nardi and I joined the NCRWN team in October as the network's marketing and communications specialist. Now, if you, like many of the science professionals I have met in the past, just recoiled at the word 'marketing', I don't blame you. Communications and marketing have gotten a bad rap in the science world. But in my opinion, communication and marketing are critical to the success of science-based solutions.

Like it or not, we are all a product of our biases and heuristics. We each have unique perspectives, and those perspectives and life experiences affect how we think - including how we think about water and water-related issues. And while that may seem obvious, these individual level differences mean the way to effectively communicate with one person is not necessarily the best way to communicate with someone else. Moreover, individuals often communicate in different ways, so the platform that is best to reach one person isn't always the best platform to reach someone else. To make matters more complicated, sometimes communication best practices don't prove to be true in specific situations. 

In reality, even projects with the best intentions don't always result in communications success. Take for example, the United States of Climate Change, the Weather Channel's recent initiative highlighting stories from each state on the realities of a changing climate. The initiative, which was featured on the homepage of the Weather Channel in January, received a lot of traffic and attention, and at first glance, I thought it was an example of a great communications campaign. But when I took a closer look, I noticed all the stories were long-term  very long-form. One story on the climate's impact on whiskey production is over 3,000 words long. Now, I don't know about you, but for me reading a 3,000-word story is quite the time commitment. The story doesn't even mention climate change until 2,500 words in; in communications, this is what we call 'burying the lea d' and it's not always the most effective writing style, as you can lose people along the way. (I like whiskey and I'm interested in the environment and I still lost interest!)

So, what does this all mean? Well, in some respects it's to say that communications is often more complicated than it seems. But, it's also to say that it is an integral part of everything we do. Because if you do fascinating research on the climate's impact on whiskey production - people want to know about it. But if we don't use the right channel, the right message, or the right format to communicate it - we could limit the positive impact of even the most noble work.

We are all part of communication solutions. As science professionals, you know your stuff, and you know who it is you're trying to reach. In communications, those are the corner pieces of the puzzle - the first pieces you need to complete the big picture. Once we have that, it's a matter of doing our research, making a plan, and taking in different perspectives to ensure we aren't too entrenched in our own way of thinking. Because, like so many other topics, collaboration is key to wide-spread success. And for me - I can't wait to get started.

If you have communications ideas or issues and would like to chat, feel free to send me a note at


Anne Nardi, Network Communications

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Network Initiative Spotlight 
Visit our  Network Initiative page for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 
North Central Region Water Network Call for proposals due March 15, 2018

The Network is providing a small number of competitive mini-grants to facilitate progress toward our goals of increasing connectivity and learning between professionals, building university capacity to address multi-state water issues, and generating measurable economic, environmental, and social impact.

For this year's request for applications, the Network is partnering with Water Resource Research Institutes in the North Central Region and the Lower Mississippi River Basin to strengthen research and extension education on harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The effect of HABs has been felt near and far from the Yahara River, to Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. On scales big and small, nitrogen and phosphorus from farmland and urban landscapes, is leading to these dangerous and expensive events.  We recognize that not only are there multiple effects of HABs, and multiple causes, there are also multiple ways to approach solutions. 

We are accepting HAB-related applications focusing on prediction, prevention, risk assessment and management, and HAB response. We are also accepting planning-based applications documenting current extension responses, assessing current programming needs, or developing recommendations.

While projects that contribute to HAB prevention or improved public health and safety outcomes associated with HABs will be given the highest priority for funding, other planning, programming and professional development applications are also being accepted.

Applications are due March 15th, 2018. The full request for applications along with eligibility and application format information can be found here.


Leadership Spotlight

Former Southeast Regional Climate Hub Director is ready to join Minnesota's water community
Most of Joel Larson's career has been spent helping decision-makers understand the human dimensions of land and water management. Joel recently joined the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (WRC) where he is using his knowledge of the social complexities of natural resource management to evaluate ecosystem services, establish common practices for measuring the social, economic, and environmental impacts of water-related management decisions, and coordinate with multidisciplinary research teams to translate their findings into decision-support tools, technical advice, and training materials.
Wetland Delineators Training, Credit: University of Minnesota Water Resources Center
In his new role, Joel also serves as the Program Leader for the University's Water Resources Extension Team. The team provides a range of water-related outreach, training, and extension programs, including the Watershed Game, an interactive, educational tool that helps individuals understand the connection between land use and water quality; Stormwater U, which provides research-based, locally tailored workshops for local governments and stormwater professionals; and Aqua Chautauqua, a family-oriented event that brings education, entertainment, and culture together to learn and share about water resources in our communities.
Prior to arriving at the WRC, Joel worked at the USDA, where he managed several projects to help agriculture, forest, and rural communities respond to climate change. The USDA established a series of regional Climate Hubs to address climate change in agriculture and forests by connecting USDA agencies, external government and non-government partners, and on-the-ground stakeholders. The Climate Hubs serve to translate and synthesize the latest science by developing tools and providing individuals informative resources they need to utilize scientific findi ngs.  With the help of the Climate Hubs, its easier to create stakeholder education, outreach, and engagement.
MIRI App, Credit: University of Arkansas Extension
For much of the last year, Joel served as the Acting Director of the Southeast Regional Climate Hub (SERCH), where he worked with partners to develop cutting-edge tools and alerts. Last year, SERCH partnered with the University of Arkansas to develop and distribute a mobile application that would automate many of the calculations required when rice farmers want to install multiple-inlet rice irrigation (MIRI). MIRI can help reduce irrigation needs by up to 25 percent, however, the calculations to determine proper pipe size and placement are a substantial burden for those wanting the adopt the technology. The mobile application developed by the University of Arkansas uses satellite imagery and user input to simplify these calculations. With the help of SERCH, Extension educators are now piloting a training program for farmers and crop advisors to encourage use of the application and MIRI technology across the state.
With his diverse background and wealth of experience Joel is sure to bring a unique perspective to the WRC and the North Central Region Water Network Leadership team. According to Joel, each of his past experiences will help him in his new role, "I am looking forward to building on my experiences and helping the water community across Minnesota and the region respond to our many challenges and opportunities."
Joel Larson, Associate Director of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center
Prior to joining the University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center, Joel served as the Acting Director of USDA's Southeast Regional Climate Hub, an analyst in the USDA Climate Change Program Office, and a social scientist with the Bureau of Land Management. Joel has a B.A. in geography from Macalester College and a Master of Public Policy with an emphasis in natural resource policy and management from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School. Most importantly, Joel is supported by his wife (Amelia), two sons (Soren and a second due in March), and their German Shepherd mix (Alice).

The Indiana Small Farm Conference is an annual educational and farmer-to-farmer networking event hosted by Purdue Extension. The inaugural conference was held in 2013, and it continues to grow thanks to the continued support of Indiana farmers and supporting organizations. The event now hosts over 500 attendees, nearly 50 exhibitors, and several national speakers

The CTC is an annual 2-day educational program with around 60 speakers in concurrent sessions.  Awards will be presented by Ohio Farmer magazine and Ohio Certified Crop Advisers. David Montgomery (University of Washington), author of "Dirt" and "Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soil back to life," will be the keynote speaker. 

2018 Midwest Cover Crops Council Annual Meeting 
March 13-March 14, 2018
North Dakota State University Extension will be hosting the 2018 Midwest Cover Crops Council Annual Meeting.  Featuring keynote speakers Ray Weil, Clark Seavert, and Daryl Ritchison as well as a plethora of breakout sessions, the meeting will highlight sustainability, soil, and contemporary cover crop topics in the Midwest.  

2018 Systems Thinking Symposium 
March 21, 2018
The 2018 Systems Thinking Symposium focuses on the application of systems thinking to a wide array of critical challenges facing national and statewide policy makers and water professionals. This year's symposium will focus on ThinkWater's Wisconsin initiatives and national fellowship that focuses principally on program development, and delivery, while summarizing the outcomes of previous studies in the areas of secondary education and high-level research.
Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN website here
Funding and Other Opportunities
EPA Local Environmental Education Grants
Under the 2018 EE Local Grant Program, 10 Requests for Proposals are being issued nationally, one in each of EPA's ten Regions. EPA expects to award three or four grants from each of the EPA's 10 Regional Offices for a total of approximately 30 to 35 grants nationwide. The purpose of the EE Local Grants Program is to support locally-funded, local environmental education projects that increase public awareness and knowledge about conservation issues and provide skills that participants in its funded projects need to make informed decisions and take responsible action towards the environment.

Applications are due March 15, 2018. Learn more.

Understanding Wastewater Treatment Performance on Advanced Water Treatment Processes and Finished Water Quality
The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is currently funding research to investigate the impact of primary, secondary, and tertiary wastewater treatment on advanced water treatment (AWT) process selection and performance for potable reuse.  The anticipated period of investigation for this project is 18-24 months from notice to proceed (NTP). A NTP will be issued to the selected proposer after WRF approval in May 2018, with an anticipated project start date in July. 

Proposals are due by March 23, 2018. Learn more.

NOAA National Sea Grant College Program 2018 Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes National Aquaculture Initiative
As part of the Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative (NAI), funding is available to help foster the expansion of a sustainable U.S. ocean, coastal and Great Lakes aquaculture sector by addressing one or more of the following priorities:
  • (a) supporting the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture in the U.S., including projects that will help stimulate aquaculture production by nascent industries;
  • (b) developing and implementing actionable methods of communicating accurate, science based messages and information about the benefits and risks of U.S. marine aquaculture to the public; and
  • (c) increasing the resiliency of aquaculture systems to natural hazards and changing conditions.
Proposals are due by March 30, 2018. Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states sponsor this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars run for 60 minutes, with 30-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

Next Webinar:

March 14, 2018 at 2PM CST, The Current 35: Evaluating Outreach Programs: Topics and Trends
Whether you're leading outreach and leadership programs or technological programming and support, evaluation is key to understanding impact and cultivating improvement. Tune in for this month's The Current webinar as we hear about successful mixed methods evaluation techniques that integrate participants and community stakeholders to better meet audience needs.
  • Amber Saylor Mase, University of Wisconsin-Extension: Evaluating Wisconsin's Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF)- Decision support for manure application in "America's Dairyland"
  • Scott Chazdon, University of Minnesota Extension: Documenting the Impacts of Collaborative Efforts: Ripple Effects Mapping

Most Recent Webinar: 

This webinar reviewed reports recently developed by the Soil Health Nexus team summarizing outputs and drawing conclusions from soil health research and existing soil health databases.  Discussion also focused on the resources in place through the Soil Health Nexus and what resources and tools the team is working on developing in the coming year.  Speakers included:
  • Linda Schott and Amy Schmidt, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Teng Lim, University of Missouri Extension
  • Steve Safferman and Jason Smith, Michigan State University


Great Lakes sea lamprey control is critical
The sea lamprey is an invasive species that entered the Great Lakes in the 1980s, causing devastation to native fish populations.   Michigan Sea Grant  and  Michigan State University Extension  recently held a fisheries educational session at the Michigan Fish Producers Association Annual Conference to educate on the dangers and control of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. Learn more.

Better kernel fill may create wetter corn in storage
Due to beneficial weather conditions that increased kernel fill last fall, producers need to take precautions to mitigate corn spoilage this spring. Mild weather during the months of September and October not only produced higher yields, but also increased kernel fill. Kernels that are "filled out" and denser like those seen during last year's harvest usually do not dry as easily, especially in higher temporal systems. The kernels will dry on the surface but when moisture equals out, they will be wetter than anticipated.  Learn more.

Rural meets urban: Cleaner water for Wichita area is the result
With a population of nearly 390,000, the City of Wichita has plenty of people depending on clean, reliable water.  Kansas State University brought rural agricultural producers upstream from the city together with Wichita officials to create a project that involves farmers voluntarily using best management practices which has yielded cleaner water for everyone involved.  Learn more.

Involving the public in water policies is key to successful municipal water systems, study finds
Melissa Haeffner, a PSU environmental science professor, alongside The Ohio State and Utah State University researchers, concluded that bridging the gap between concerned residents and policymakers over water issues helped create municipal water systems that were effective and sustainable.  Learn more.

Our Mission:

We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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