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Project: Watershed resilience: student and teacher-led exploration of land use change and stream health

Project title

Watershed resilience: student and teacher-led exploration of land use change and stream health

Mentor's name(s)

Jefferson Hall, hallje@si.edu, STRI staff scientist
Andrea Miller, andrea@geoversity.org, Director of Biocultural Learning, Geoversity
Katherine Sinacore, sinacorek@si.edu, STRI postdoctoral fellow
Ummat Somjee, ummat.s@gmail.com, UT Austin Stengl-Wyler Scholar

Location of internship. Will mentor be at this location?

Agua Salud, Panama. The intern will spend time in Panama City as well as the town of El Giral, where the Agua Salud Project is located.

Project summary

Streams and rivers constitute essential components of terrestrial ecosystems, contributing significantly to biodiversity, ecological function and human health. Yet, anthropogenic activities and environmental stressors pose persistent threats to the integrity of these freshwater systems. Traditional methods of monitoring stream health often involve complex and costly techniques, including water chemistry analyses and hydrological modeling. While these methods provide valuable information, they can be prohibitively expensive and require specialized expertise to implement and interpret the results. In many stream systems globally, these costs prevent any assessments of stream health and quality over time. In contrast, aquatic macroinvertebrate stream monitoring and stream discharge methods offer cost-effective yet robust alternatives that are frequently performed by scientists and can also be easily performed by citizen scientists. This project will implement both physical (e.g. stream-flow, pH, salinity) and biological (aquatic macroinvertebrate) monitoring to assess stream health. This is a collaboration with students and teachers from the Giral School (a school located in the town closest to the Agua Salud Project), STRI, Geoversity and ProEd. Geoversity and ProEd bring expertise in nature-based learning and teacher development. The main goal is to provide people who rely on streams and waterways for their drinking water and livelihoods, the tools and expertise to manage and make science-based decisions to sustainably manage freshwater resources.

Our specific objectives are:

  1. Provide expertise to generate and interpret water quality and quantity datasets that provide essential data for the town of Giral to monitor and understand the effects of land use change on the health of their rivers.
  2. Create a sustainable feedback loop among scientists, teachers, students and the community to collect long-term stream health data.
  3. Establish El Giral as the first Panama site to contribute data to a global stream network database and establish it as the model for replication in other schools across Panama.

The watershed resilience intern will work with STRI, Geoversity and the school in El Giral to help establish and implement the science and educational goals of the project. S/he/they will have the opportunity to help collect data on stream health and work side-by-side with teachers and students to monitor the town’s waterway. She/he/they will also participate in teacher training sessions to help teachers integrate biocultural learning into core curriculum and community town halls to share results and findings with the community.

Mentorship goals

The intern will receive practical experience in undertaking research, conducting citizen science projects and implementing inquiry-based learning into the classroom. She/he/they will work alongside hydrology technicians and educational experts. The intern will gain experience in the collection, identification and a quantification of arthropod invertebrates, collection of physical hydrological metrics for stream health and opportunities to work with scientists, students and educators on this integrative project. Interested interns will have the opportunity to contribute to (or possibly lead) a scientific publication.


This project is particularly suited for someone who has a keen interest in working side-by-side with high school students and teachers, as well as enthusiasm for scientific inquiry related to watershed health. Some basic requirements include:

  • Fluency in Spanish
  • Availability to start mid-April and continue through mid-October (six months commitment) to work in-person (not a remote position).


This is a paid 6-month internship. The intern will be paid $1,250 per month. For full consideration, please email a (1) CV, (2) an unofficial undergraduate transcript, (3) a cover letter describing your qualification and interest in the position related to the project description and contact information for 3 references to SinacoreK@si.edu.

Applications are due by March 4th, 2024. Selected candidate will be notified around mid-March.

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