Project Flowing Waters promotes aquatic research, education

By Marc Speir
University News Service
May 7, 2008

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Texas Pioneer Foundation recently awarded Texas State University-San Marcos $2.4 million for aquatic research on the San Marcos River and to promote environmental awareness in secondary education students through a new NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program named Project Flowing Waters.

The money will support Project Flowing Waters, a five-year program designed to implement cutting-edge research into the classroom and teach sixth to 12th-grade students in San Marcos about water environments.

Ten doctoral candidates, titled NSF GK-12 fellows, from the aquatic resources and environmental geography programs will conduct scientific research and partner with science teachers within the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) to provide active, hands-on opportunities and increase student interest in the sciences and higher education.

“Project Flowing Waters primarily provides scientific research training grants for our doctoral students,” said Julie Westerlund, associate professor in the department of biology. “It also includes a secondary school component to polish the communication and teaching skills of the doctoral students.”

Department of biology faculty members Julie Westerlund, Tim Bonner and Weston Nowlin will work with department of geography faculty member Richard Earl and the SMCISD to oversee the implementation of the program and integrate water-related science research and inquiry-based teaching methods.

The San Marcos River ecosystem, site of the most consistently inhabited area in all of North America with a constant human presence of more than 12,000 years, will serve as the focal point of the program. The river provides a natural lab setting that allows the integration of several disciplines including aquatic biology, river ecology, wildlife ecology, conservation biology, microbiology, changes in water flow and geography, environmental geography and geology.

“Our doctoral students will integrate their research with various aspects of the San Marcos River watershed,” said Tim Bonner, associate professor in the department of biology. “Working with science teachers, they’ll illustrate how science and university research are easily applied and beneficial to local conditions.”

Five schools involved in the program include Owen Goodnight Junior High, Doris Miller Junior High, Pathfinder Learning Center, Pride High School and San Marcos High School.

“We have very strong San Marcos community support and connections within the schools in San Marcos,” Westerlund said. “The National Science Foundation was impressed with the strong partnership between Texas State and SMCISD in Project Flowing Waters.”

Project Flowing Waters GK-12 fellows and science teachers will hold meetings throughout the summer and implement the program in SMCISD science classrooms this fall.