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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
May 9, 2005
Volume 40, Number 10

Researchers published in journal Science
IGERT student part of river restoration team

By Steve Carr

A group of leading river scientists published a paper in the journal Science recently, presenting the first research on the state of river restoration in the United States.

On the heels of a related article published in the Journal of Applied Ecology that describes the fundamental standards for ecologically sustainable river restoration, the research documents the maturing effort to reverse rising pollution levels and declining ecological health of rivers.

“It’s important to establish measurable goals at the outset of a project against which success can be evaluated,” said UNM’s Jennifer Follstad Shah, Ph.D. candidate, and co-author on both articles along with Cliff Dahm, professor of biology.

“Monitoring of project results needs to be tied to the goals of the project. For example, a restoration group may plant riparian vegetation for a variety of reasons such as erosion control or improved habitat for fish. The best monitoring in these cases would focus on water quality or fish populations, rather than solely on the percentage of vegetation that survives.”

Project records were obtained by a dedicated team of graduate student researchers from around the country.

Shah, who studies in the IGERT Freshwater Sciences Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program, utilizes a variety of sources to acquire data including the Internet, heads of organizations funding restoration projects, databases, summaries of project reports from agencies as well as books and peer reviewed literature. Shah has more than 38 Southwest data sources from among city, county and federal agencies.

According to the authors of the Science article, more consistent monitoring of projects upon completion and sharing of data with other practitioners is the next step in the river restoration field. Only 10 percent of the 37,000 projects in the database include any mention of monitoring effectiveness, although some states are investing more in evaluation than others. Estimates of monitoring for the Southwest paint a rosier picture, where 29 percent of projects have been monitored.