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Idaho State University water quality workshop attracting experts from around the world  

March 9, 2018

Photo of ISU researchers in the field by some pine trees looking at instruments.
A 2015 photo of Sarah Godsey, an ISU geosciences assistant professor, and student Dylan Refaey working on equipment that helps measure plant transpiration rates at a research site on Gibson Jack Creek near Pocatello.

POCATELLO – Experts from Europe, throughout the United States, Idaho State University and Idaho will gather at ISU for a three-day Concentration Discharge Workshop March 12-14 focused on improving the science of water quality.

The workshop, sponsored by the Idaho’s Managing Idaho’s Landscapes for Ecosystems Services (MILES) program and Center for Ecological Research and Education (CERE), will be held in the ISU Physical Science Building. The workshop features a public session at 3 p.m. Monday, March 12, in Room 218 of the Physical Science Building.

Two researchers from France and one from Spain will be at the workshop. There will also be researchers from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Utah at the conference along with ISU faculty and students from biology, geosciences and sociology. Representatives from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will also attend.

“MILES is trying to raise ISU’s international profile,” said Sarah Godsey assistant geosciences professor and a workshop organizer. “The fact we are able to get three international scholars, who are some of the leaders in water quality field, to join us from Europe for a couple days is pretty remarkable.”

   The workshop’s overarching goal is to trying to improve scientific models and the understanding of water quality. The focus of the workshop is on the concentration-discharge relationships, determining how much of a material is present in a stream or river.

“If there is a big flood and there is some pollutant in the flood waters, for example, we could have a problem,” Godsey said. “That is why we care about both concentration of a pollutant, and the amount of flow in the river, or its discharge. We are trying to improve our models of water quality – we could do a lot better.”

The five-year MILES program was designed to build Idaho's capacity to study complex social-ecological processes, especially those associated with water demand and valuation of ecosystem services.  It involved researchers and students from higher education institutions from throughout the state working on a wide variety of collaborative research projects. MILES is winding down this spring.

“This workshop is one of the efforts by MILES to make sure the momentum and some of the research we’ve done is sustainable in the future,” Godsey said. “One of my goals from this workshop is to write a proposal with this group of people who are passionate about trying to improve our modeling and understanding of water quality, and take those ideas and move them into the future. We want to launch from MILES with this workshop and move projects forward.”

The ISU workshop follows up on another water workshop March 8 in Pocatello that was hosted by the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust and was also funded by MILES and CERE.

“That was more of a practical, local discussion of how to manage water in the Portneuf watershed,” Godsey said. “Monday’s ISU workshop is more on the academic side to understand the science so we can better inform water management.”

Besides attracting interest from renowned international scholars, the workshop has attracted the interest from a variety of ISU students in different disciplines who will be participating.

“The students love this opportunity and have been prepping since January,” Godsey said. “They’ve all read an article by every person coming and they’ve taken this workshop seriously. It’s an excellent learning opportunity.”