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Several studies have highlighted issues of unreliable access to safe drinking water in the Appalachian region. In some cases, residents turn to roadside springs as a practical, and culturally valuable, drinking water source. However, public reliance on roadside springs for potable use can present concerns, as bacterial contamination of spring water has been documented throughout Appalachia. This study aimed to 1) develop a simple, low-cost protocol using household bleach to inactivate total coliform and E. coli in untreated roadside spring water; 2) provide educational materials at local roadside springs to inform users of this simple treatment strategy; and 3) assess spring user perceptions of the educational materials via a short survey. Laboratory scale trials emulating typical spring water collection and storage conditions investigated the use of household bleach (7.4-7.5% sodium hypochlorite) for total coliform and E. coli bacteria inactivation and free chlorine residual maintenance in spring water over time. Results showed that 2 drops (approximately 0.10 mL) of household bleach from an eyedropper per 1 gallon of spring water provided adequate total coliform and E. coli disinfection, while maintaining free chlorine levels below typical taste thresholds and providing sufficient residual over a 1-month trial period. An infographic communicating the disinfection protocol and a corresponding survey were created and distributed at roadside springs in rural regions of southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. The majority of spring user survey respondents (80%) reported that the infographic was generally helpful, and over half of respondents stated that they would use the bleach protocol.
Continued urbanization is likely to reduce human-nature experience, transforming human-dwelt spaces into increasingly artificial environments and removing humans from interaction with non-human living things and their ecosystems. In urban spaces, outdoor experiential educational activities can help students increase their familiarity with the outdoors and get their hands dirty. This case study reports on an environmental field day for middle school students from an urban Kentucky middle school. Students rotated through three activities (picking insects out of leaf packs, testing water quality, and planting trees), then completed a brief survey designed and administered by their faculty. Students rated the tree planting activity more highly than the other two activities (p < 0.0001), suggesting that this activity was more accessible, interesting, and engaging to a broader range of students. However, student qualitative responses to the water quality and leaf pack activities demonstrated an ability to make connections between those activities and the broader world, such as the importance of their stream-water quality for the Gulf of Mexico, or the implications of finding pollution-tolerant insects for understanding stream health. Overall, we recommend planning field days with multiple activities that offer various entry points for students with a range of prior experience of nature. We also emphasize the potential for these sorts of activities to help students develop a sense of awe or wonder in nature—seeing and handling things they never considered before but now experience as profound and interesting. These observations are consistent with the literature demonstrating the need for human-nature experience (especially in urban areas) to support developing a sense of affectivity for the environment and interest in taking environmentally beneficial actions, as well as the role of place-based experiential education in helping students bridge that gap.
Youth have an important role in current and future Great Lakes stewardship. Educating youth and empowering them to be Great Lakes stewards requires educators to be knowledgeable and confident, and therefore more likely to engage in teaching Great Lakes literacy activities in their classroom, thus contributing to a Great Lakes-literate public. The Shipboard Science Workshop (SSW) for educators is a vessel-based professional learning opportunity aboard the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s R/V Lake Guardian. During the week-long SSW, educators learn from professional scientists, Sea Grant staff, and each other about Great Lakes research through the lenses of place-based education (PBE) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The goals of the SSW are to (1) enhance understanding of scientific concepts, processes, or techniques; (2) influence changes in teaching practices, curriculum, or personal behaviors; (3) influence communication and promotion of pro-environmental behaviors with others; and (4) establish communities of practice, including educators, scientists, and SSW coordinators. Herein, we present the findings of a 10-month SSW follow-up survey to evaluate the SSW efficacy from 2016-2019. Overall, the SSW appears to have achieved its goals. We discuss the implications of these results within the PBE framework for shifting educators’ classroom approaches and empowering youth inquiry and leadership on complex Great Lakes issues.
Increased water scarcity and drought frequency are creating water management challenges for many communities in the western U.S. In response, the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors sponsored a virtual summit in August 2020 to develop a framework for identifying and addressing the most pressing water issues in the western United States (the West). Summit attendees were research scientists, university extension specialists and professionals, and federal/state agency representatives with knowledge and expertise of water management in the West. The summit elicited opinions from 54 experts on pressing water issues and possible methods for addressing them. A follow-on survey of 49 individuals increased the depth and breadth of perspectives collected. Summit and survey results show that water scarcity is a growing concern among water scientists and other experts. Increased water scarcity is leading to overallocated river basins, depleted aquifers, and elevated tensions between water use sectors. Summit and survey participants emphasized the need for increased integration—across research, extension, and education efforts; across the social and physical sciences; across uses (including ecological); and across surface and groundwater systems. These results serve as a sensing of what many of our colleagues believe to be the major western water issues over the next 30 years and, in some cases, possible solutions for addressing them. The expert opinions elicited through the summit and survey informed the creation of the Western Water Network, whose mission is to advance collaborative, proactive, science-based water decision-making that supports dynamic human and natural systems in the West.
The agricultural production in the Mississippi Delta is threatened by the water level declines in the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer (MRVAA). This study assesses the growers’ perceptions of the value and availability of water for irrigation based on data collected in a survey in 2012 in the Delta region of Mississippi, USA. The total cooperation rate for this survey was 79.3%. The results showed that 97.39% (448 out of 460) of respondents believed that water is important for farming in the Delta region of the MRVAA. Fifty-two percent of the survey respondents agreed that the major cause of groundwater depletion is agricultural irrigation water use. More than 50% of the survey respondents believed there is sufficient water in the Delta region, but it is not managed properly. The value of water for irrigation ranged from $463 to $690 per ha for corn (Zea mays L.), $399 to $615 per ha for soybean (Glycine max L.), and $223 to $336 per ha for cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). The majority of the respondents considered that there is a need for regulation of water use to protect the aquifer and ensure water availability in the future.
The adoption of cover crops (CC’s) has gained popularity in the continuous corn (Zea mays L.) production system due to their multiple benefits including scavenging or fixing nitrogen (N) in the soil. However, CC’s ability to develop early cover, scavenge N, and provide N to the following cash crop is species-dependent and affected by environment. A field study was conducted in three diverse environments to determine growth characteristics of nine CC treatments (i.e., monocultures or mixes of grasses, legumes, and brassica), and their effect on following corn crop compared to check (no cover crop, NoCC). Cover crops significantly differed for above-ground biomass, plant tissue carbon (C) and N concentrations, carbon to nitrogen ratio (C/N), and total N uptake (TNU). Among monocultures, grasses had the highest biomass and C/N ratio whereas legumes had the highest N concentrations and TN. Corn grain yield was highest following radish, whereas lowest corn yield was found following cereal rye + crimson clover mix in environment 1. Cover crops varied for C/N ratios in all three environments, but only affected corn PH and grain yield in one environment. Cover crops belonging to the same species also exhibit different responses for characteristics measured depending upon the environment. The expected returns were also variable, especially in CC mixes. The study provides valuable information on the species-specific functionality of CCs in continuous corn under variable environmental conditions. The information will benefit future studies to explore a high diversity mixture of CCs that may outperform across all three environments.
Water withdrawals for irrigation at an unsustainable rate resulted in a decline in the groundwater levels in the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer (MRVAA) in the central southern USA. This drawdown of groundwater threatens agricultural production in the Mississippi Delta, an important agricultural region in the state of Mississippi, USA. Effective and efficient use of available resources is important to sustain and enhance agricultural productivity in this area. This study assessed the opinions of farmers on water conservation management practices and technologies that improve irrigation management and save water in the Mississippi Delta region based on data collected in an irrigation survey conducted in 2012. Most landowners believed that water conservation practices were effective in reducing irrigation water use without reducing maximum crop yields and have a positive return on investment. Land forming, tailwater recovery system, on-farm storage, instream weirs to pond surface water, computerized hole selection for furrow irrigation, short irrigation runs, and irrigation scheduling were considered efficient water conservation technologies by landowners. Perceptions about use of different practices also depend upon the crops produced by the respondents. About 20 to 24% and 14.9 to 86% of survey respondents thought that on-farm storage and center pivot, respectively, were inefficient water conservation practices for irrigating crops in the Mississippi Delta. The adoption of these practices may be increased if the landowners know the economic returns of implementing them.
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