Growing Skills and Developing Relationships in Transdisciplinary Water Science

June 28, 2023
Haley Canham

I grew up in Upstate New York where water was plentiful. The days when it was not raining were always an excitement because I got to take advantage of the sunshine and get outside! But trips and an eventual move to California, then Utah, have shown me that plentiful, clean water is not to be taken for granted. Within my lifetime, I have seen Northeast winters shift from snow to rain and I had never lived in the western US when not in ‘drought’. To me, despite being told otherwise, this current state we have found ourselves in is the “norm”.  

My background, including undergraduate, previous work experience, and graduate school is in engineering. In my current graduate school research I am investigating how watershed disturbance, specifically wildfire, influences streamflow response. My career goal is to inform watershed management to ensure water security through a range of watershed disturbances in a changing climate. Through my engineering experience I learned how to identify and solve the problem. But in order to manage a watershed,a transdisciplinary team is needed. A successful team does not just have the technical knowledge, but also the ability to interact and develop relationships with project partners. The SW CASC Natural Resource Workforce Development (NRWD) Fellowship has provided me with an experience that allowed me to grow my skills, and develop relationships with other fellows and partners. The Fellowship has been an enlightening, challenging, and exciting experience that I am grateful to be a part of.

As a Fellowship team, with a variety of backgrounds and interests, my cohort learned how to come together with a common goal. Along the way, we learned best practices for working with project partners. We experienced the challenge of defining a Fellowship project and identifying partners that are mutually beneficial while simultaneously navigating both our (very) short timeframe and early-career skill sets. I am very excited for the direction our project has taken. We are developing a publicly available knowledge base that looks at compounding climate extremes’ impact on aquatic systems, which will be beneficial to watershed managers.

The NRWD Fellowship has provided the opportunity for me to develop my skills beyond engineering. It has allowed me to gain experience through communication with other interdisciplinary scientists and build relationships with project partners. I am grateful for the connections I have made with the other fellows, mentors, and partners, and look forward to continuing these relationships through the years as we all progress in our respective fields. I will carry the skills and experience I have gained from this Fellowship with me as I continue my personal journey towards informed watershed management and water security in a changing climate