Water quality sampling
In this module, students will engage in the process of learning about and advocating on a relevant issue to watershed and/or fisheries health.
After being provided with a list of current issues, participants will choose an topic most related to their interests and research the issue with the guidance of instructors.
The research will include print sources, such as news stories, fishery/watershed papers/data, agency information, as well as meeting/calling key stakeholders such as biologists, fishery managers, etc. After researching their issue, participants will identify opportunities to act or engage in that issue. This should entail discrete, short-term actions such as writing a letter to decision-makers or newspapers (op-ed), speaking at a public hearing, or testifying at a hearing.
Each participant will write a 2-page reflection on what they did, what they learned, where the issue currently stands, and what the future might hold of that issue and/or further actions. Instructors will review student reflections to determine if participants have fulfilled all the required portions of this section of the course.
For the River Monitoring Data Collection and Assessment Techniques topic, participants will learn how to collect scientifically-defensible data. Dipping a jar into the river to collect a water sample seems like a simple task (and in reality, it is). Nevertheless, for quality data, every sample from every participant has to be collected and handled in the exact same way following established procedures. Even the slightest deviance from those protocols can render a sample invalid, possibly compromising the entire dataset.
In this respect, citizen science efforts are no different from professional programs; indeed, such volunteer efforts typically receive even greater scrutiny, raising the bar for participants who want to make sure their data is useful and their efforts are meaningful.
We will go over the step-by-step procedures necessary to consistently produce top-quality samples. We will also discuss why these procedures are important, what can go wrong if a step is skipped or executed incorrectly, and how additional, behind-the-scenes quality control/quality assurance measures are included in the program as fail-safes.
In addition to collecting water samples, we will also teach participants how to use Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to download and submit data collected by in-stream sensors that automatically monitor stream depth and temperature.
Our goal is to train participants how to be professional-level data collectors for the RiverNET program taking place on the Upper Yellowstone, as well as give them a sense of what it takes to collect quality scientific data so they can quickly adapt to different data collection protocols for other projects.
Numerous individuals and sources have provided material for this module, and their contributions are acknowledged in the text and in the Resources section. This module just breaks the surface of the subject and students are encouraged to read the primary sources as part of their continuing education.
Outfitters and guides who are registered as students of the Guiding for the Future program are required to complete each module of the course. The course is available online 24/7, features short 'chapters' and includes a final test.