From Classroom to Watershed: Lower Colorado River Serves as a Dynamic Outdoor Learning Experience
Written by: Doug Hendrix
Students learn about monitoring canal flows on their field trip in the Lower Colorado region.Though not as dramatic as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this year’s cadre of Pathways interns were treated to a fun-filled day-long educational trek along the lower Colorado River, south of Hoover Dam. The tour provided the young professionals an up-close look at the work-related tasks and types of positions Reclamation maintains within its employment ranks.
Nineteen students attended the tour which featured various dam sites and powerplants, Native American petroglyphs, water monitoring and aquatic habitats that Reclamation manages or maintains.
“We believe that by extending these career-minded students with a unique opportunity to examine a broad sample of sites, reflective of the work that Reclamation performs,” said Biologist Nathan Lenon. “From dams with hydroelectric powerplants, Native American cultural sites, recreation sites, hydrologic monitoring stations, and wildlife habitat restoration sites, they will learn from and eventually contribute to the growing body of work and knowledge on the river should they become full-time employees. Bottom line, during the summer internship, we want these students to be exposed to the real work we do on a daily basis along the river.”
Lessons Learned Along the Lower Colorado River
The first stop along the tour route was Inscription Rock, located at Davis Camp near Laughlin, Nevada. This Native American petroglyph site provided the interns with a look at a culturally significant site where early ancestors of today’s Fort Mojave Indian Tribe gathered for communal and spiritual experiences.
While visiting this culturally significant site, Archeologist James Kangas explained that the original inhabitants of this location along the river were the Mojave Indians – aka the Pipa Aha Maca (The People by The River). He noted that Mojave culture traces the earthly origins of its people to Spirit Mountain, the highest peak in the Newberry Mountains, located northwest of the present reservation inside the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The next stop was Davis Dam, located approximately 70-miles south of Hoover Dam. The students were taken on a facility tour by Mechanical Foreman John Sorace. They examined the dam, powerplant, tailrace, transformer decks, and the control room.
Up next was a stop at a diversion canal and gauging station located east of Needles, California. Supervisory Hydrologic Technician John Weiss, along with Hydrologic Technicians Chris Pope and Jarrett Peters, provided a demonstration of stream flow measurement technologies that are used to monitor the amount of water being diverted from the mainstem of the river.
The students waded in the diversion channel and participated in a real-time discharge measurement using an acoustic Doppler velocimeter – which is one of many devices used by Reclamation technicians to precisely monitor streamflow. The students learned how important accurate, real-time data is used to make informed decisions the use and distribution of the river’s precious streamflows.
Following a pizza lunch and much laughter at an Italian restaurant in Needles, California, the group departed for their final stop of the day at the Beal Lake Conservation Area – located immediately south of Needles, California, in the vicinity of the Topock Marsh on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.
While at this site, Biologist Nathan Lenon explained how the project offered an opportunity for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program to research efficient ways of using dredged materials excavated from the backwater to establish native riparian plant communities, including a mosaic of cottonwood, willow, mesquite, and marsh habitat types.
The Pathways Program: Reclamation’s Pipeline to Future Talent
Reclamation’s Pathways Program offers promising students a clear path to participate in paid Federal internships or summer hire programs for students from high school through post-graduate school. The program also provides meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their Federal service.
“The Pathways Program is designed to provide students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions, from high school to graduate level, with opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school and while getting paid for the work performed,” said Human Resource Specialist Anh Rhodes, lead recruiter for the Lower Colorado Region. “Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service.”
To be eligible to participate in Reclamation’s Internship Program, students must remain in good academic standing (typically maintaining at least a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and above as specified by their educational institution); be at least 16 years of age; a U.S. citizen or U.S. National; and meet the qualification requirements of the position. Following completion of the internship, the students may be converted to a permanent or term position within 120 days of successful completion of the program.
Students desiring more information about the Pathways Program should contact Anh Rhodes at (702) 293-8135 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students learn about monitoring canal flows..
James Kangas, archeologist with the Lower Colorado Regional Office, provides the Pathways Students with some insights on the meaning of the Native American petroglyphs that are found at Inscription Rock near Davis Dam. Photograph provided by Nathan Lenon..
Published on July 24, 2017