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RIVER LIFE

Connections On My Doorstep

March 5, 2014Reba JuettenEventsComments Off on Connections On My Doorstep

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have found that this question has meaning for everyone, not just college students wondering what to do when they are forced out (or released) into the real world upon graduation.  I have also found that there is probably a better way to ask this question—what do you want to DO when you grow up?  The River at Our Doorstep Workshop last Friday spurred me (the token college student) to ask this question of myself, once again.

In the morning, we covered research on and about the river…at least that was the idea.  In reality, our discussion (speaking here most particularly about the biological research group) spread beyond research and settled mostly on how to communicate science to induce action.  Sure there are plenty of things about the biology of rivers we don’t know yet, like what the biota of a healthy river consists of, but a more pressing issue is how to communicate about what we do know.  How can we prove the worth of the river through economic value?  How can we change the conversation about the value of our resource to be less redundant and less negative?  How do we encourage conservation and restoration above the bare minimum level?  How do we create citizens who will intentionally vote in favor of the river?  In a sense, we realized that no matter how interested we are in the biology of rivers, other people in power positions need to be motivated to take what we know about rivers and do something with it.

The afternoon brought discussions on how to integrate the river into education and programming.  All kinds of ideas for getting students and non-students involved were contrived, from zip-lines and festivals on the Bohemian Flats to story telling, courses, and student research on the river.  Everyone had a plethora of great ideas, many of which would likely be beneficial to implement, but it made me wonder, how do we know which ones will achieve our ultimate goal?  (This brings up another great question.  What are our ultimate goal(s) for river research and engagement?  Why are research and engagement good things?).  Does anyone know what really works to engage people?  Have people studied effective engagement elsewhere?

What all of these questions ultimately left me asking, was whether I could study the effectiveness of different types of engagement when I grow up.  Is this something I could DO (and maybe more importantly get paid to do)?  The Mississippi River is great; the ideas at the conference were great.  Now, how can we DO something great with them, and how can what we do here help others do equally great things elsewhere?

Thank you to Pat, Joanne, and Molly for organizing such a wonderful event!  I really enjoyed it.

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