Winter 2021

River Field Studies Network

Connecting rivers, people, & science through immersive field-based education

Final call! River Field Instructor Professional Development Cohort

The River Field Studies Network is excited to recruit the inaugural cohort for the River Field Instructor & Curriculum Professional Development Program. We've had considerable interest already but there is still time to submit an application this weekend. We especially encourage applications from instructors from underrepresented groups in freshwater STEM, and instructors at MSI and community colleges. 

This program integrates expert instruction and peer mentoring in virtual and field  settings to build instructor capacity to develop and lead safe and effective river-based field lessons and  courses. Participants will “learn by doing” as they work together to create, practice, and disseminate new  open-source content as well as gaining knowledge and proficiency in:  

  • Field-specific pedagogy concepts and practices 
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to river studies 
  • Strategies for increasing DEI in field settings 
  • River-specific safety & risk management concepts and practices 
  • Leading day and overnight river field trips 
  • Publishing lesson content to online open-source dissemination outlets 

In addition, we anticipate participants will develop a greater: 

  • Sense of support and belonging to the river STEM community 
  • Connection to rivers as a place for learning and discovery 
  • Commitment to fostering stewardship of riverine ecosystems 

Other Benefits

All participant costs will be covered - including costs for travel and training. In addition, each participant will  receive a $1,000 stipend upon completion. The estimated total value of the program is $3,000 per  participant. 

Program Outline

Outcomes will be achieved through a year-long training and mentoring cycle. The training cycle is framed  around a series of virtual webinars & activities about lesson development in the spring, an in-person field  “River Rendezvous” to pilot lessons and gain in field expertise in the summer, virtual webinars & activities  framed around lesson publication, dissemination, and scaling from lessons to courses in the fall, and  culminates with a virtual winter symposium to showcase new materials to the network and new cohort. 

Participants will be paired with another participant (ideally from a different disciplinary perspective) and a  mentor from the RFSN Curriculum Committee to form teams of three. These teams will work over the year  to produce one interdisciplinary field lab that will be published to the RFSN QUBES hub and other online  repositories as appropriate. 

The successful applicant must be able to commit to the following program:  

Spring. Participate in 6 hours of professional development in the Spring semester (~ 1 activity per month)  and to working with their teams to draft a field lab lesson.  

Summer. Attend the James River Rendezvous (~May 29 - June 4) to be held at  the Virginia Commonwealth University Rice River Center and in the field on the historic James River, ancestral home of the Powhatan people.  

Fall. Participate in 6 hours of professional development in the fall semester (~ 1 activity per month) and to work with their  teams to revise and publish lessons to the  QUBES hub. Consider how best to integrate lessons into existing or new  river focused courses at their institutions. 

Winter. Present new lessons to the  winter network community at the winter  virtual workshop. 


This program is open to instructors who already teach, or aspire to teach, interdisciplinary immersive field  lessons and/or courses focused on riverine ecosystems. Our focal audience are instructors that teach  college/university-level STEM content, but those serving non-traditional students or teaching in other fields  (e.g., Indigenous Knowledge, Experiential Education, etc) are also encouraged to apply. Participants must be  willing to participate in program activities outlined above and work with a partner and mentor to develop a  new open-source curriculum module. We are particularly interested in supporting instructors from  underrepresented backgrounds or who serve underrepresented populations.  

To Apply 

Please complete this application no later than Dec 23 to receive full consideration. Please share this opportunity with anyone you think would be interested. Contact Denielle Perry ( with questions about the application, deadlines, and in general information.

Save the date - Network kick off!

On 21 January 3:00 - 4:30 pm Eastern we will have our first network wide virtual meeting. All are invited! The goals of this meeting are to reconnect & network, share RFSN goals for 2022, introduce our new cohort of river field studies scholars, and have a guest expert and discussion to help frame the “kick off” of the RFSN within the context of current national and international momentum around river stewardship. This will be the first of a series of open monthly webinars offered through the spring and fall. Stay tuned for further details and make sure to stay connected by following the RFSN on Facebook, webpage, and SLACK!
Rogue River Rendezvous

Last October 3 - 8 the RFSN hosted the Rogue River Rendezvous at the Siskiyou Field Institute and on the Rogue River in southwest Oregon. This was the last "incubator" meeting and we focused on building leadership capacity and reviewing plans to roll out the "full RCN-UBE" in January 2022. We had a diverse group of 24 participants from 17 universities across 12 states. The Rendezvous kicked off Sunday afternoon with a full schedule of programming at SFI including ice breakers and introductions, pre-river trip orientation by Steve Welch of ARTA River Trips, communal meal preparation, and an evening panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organized by RFSN Co-PI Denielle Perry (North Arizona University). The DEI panel featured Breanna Ondich of the Society for Freshwater Science's Emerge program, Sandra Clinton (UNC Charlotte) of Promoting Geoscience Research, Education, and Success (PROGRESS), Anita Marshall (University of Florida) of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) Library of Inclusive Technology (LIFT) Program,  Risa Shimoda from the River Management Society River Training Center, and Joseph Gazing Wolf from Arizona State University. We definitely wore out the jet-lagged East-coasters! Monday we headed out early to Graves Creek put in on the Wild & Scenic Rogue River. After rigging and a safety talk from our ARTA guides we launched late morning and had a gorgeous day on the river to our first camp at Wildcat, portaging around the consequential Rainey Falls en route. At camp, RFSN Co-PI and Sierra Nevada University faculty Andy Rost gave a lesson on the natural history of the region. Andy has been bringing a river field course to the Rogue for the past 10 years. After dinner, RFSN Co-PI and Prescott College faculty member Mathieu Brown facilitated a discussion around risk assessment, management and river safety.
Tuesday was a long river day to our next camp at the Rogue River Ranch, stopping at the historic cabin of author Zane Gray for lunch (and dancing lessons). Conditions were cold and rainy resulting in creative activities at lunch to keep warm and camaraderie around the fire in camp. Wednesday the sun returned. We took a half-day to layover at the ranch to create space for lesson sharing.  Andy Rost led a BOD lab for the entire group and then we broke into smaller groups for three concurrent field lab tutorials. Andy led a stream flow measurement lab, RFSN co-PI and UC Davis faculty Sarah Yarnell led a mapping/visualization exercise, and Mathieu led place-based human and natural history visualization activity. We had the good fortune to have Freshwater Illustrated photographer/documentary filmmaker Jeremy Monroe drive in and join us for the morning. That afternoon we floated the breathtaking Mule Creek Canyon and portaged around Blossom Bar Rapid before our third camp at Half Moon Bar. After setting up camp and dinner, Kari O'Connell (Oregon State STEM Research Center) PI of the NSF RCN-UBE Undergraduate Field Experience & Research Network (UFERN) taught us about the UFERN Model for designing field studies (see below) under the stars and around the campfire. Thursday, our final river day, started with a downstream hike along the Rogue River trail. Sarah Yarnell highlighted evidence of historic hydrologic mining along the way. At lunch Emily Ward from Rocky Mountain College and the UFERN Assessment team introduced us to a variety of assessment tools UFERN has gathered together to support scholarship around field pedagogy best practices. That afternoon we reached the take out and Foster Bar and said goodbye to our ARTA support team and headed up over the Siskiyous via Bear Camp Road to Grants Pass for a dinner in town and beds at at SFI. Friday we workshopped all day around the theme of turning the "vision" of our full 5-year proposal into a reality for year one. We organized by working group committees and planned next steps for the project roll out. That evening we shared a final communal dinner and time to informally connect before we dispersed Saturday morning. Post workshop assessment provided some great feedback for how to improve but the general tone was that the rendezvous was a resounding success. On a scale of 0 - 5 (N = 17), over the course of the workshop the ability to articulate the goals of the RFSN increased from 3.8 to 4.7 and participants generally left with a strong sense of our next steps (4.4). Participants also found that the workshop was very effective at promoting relationship building with other participants (4.9). Overall, satisfaction with the event (4.7) and investment in helping the RFSN reach its goals (4.6) were very high. Here is the full photo-journal from the Rogue Rendezvous
Wonders of Mule Creek Canyon, Wild and Scenic Rogue River, OR
River Field Studies Network on Talk + Water Podcast

Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief Dr. Todd Votteler interviews Dr. Denielle Perry, a water resource geographer and Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University in the School of Earth and Sustainability. Perry is the Director of the Free Flowing Rivers Lab. In addition, she is one of the leaders of the River Field Studies Network, a community of practice that aims to advance undergraduate biology education and support healthy river ecosystems through inclusive, immersive, interdisciplinary field-based education.

UC Field Work Leadership Toolkit Training Series

As we begin to plan for spring and summer river field work and courses, it is important to integrate risk assessment and management planning early in the process. With that in mind, we wanted to point River Field Studies Network members to the excellent resources of the University of California Field Research Safety Center of Excellence whose mission is promoting safe teaching and research outdoors, at remote sites, and abroad. Their Field Operations Planning Manual is a excellent broad overview of many issues to consider when leading field trips and includes helpful checklists. If you university systems lacks a good "entry point" to field studies risk assessment and management this is a great resource. The Field Research Safety Center also coordinates an excellent Field Work Leadership Toolkit Training Workshop and their materials and resources from the 2020 and 2021 workshops are available online.  I think nearly all of the recorded talks will be of interest to RFSN members, highlights include - Creating a Positive Safe Learning Environment in Field Settings, and Trip Planning: Risk Management for Field Settings (Chris Lay, Ken Norris Center for Natural History), Creating, Enforcing, and Promoting Safe Fieldwork Culture: Strategies aimed at protecting diverse researchers (Monique Avery Pipkin & Amelia-Juliette Demery, Cornell University, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Risk Assessment for Outdoor Fieldwork: Using the US Coast Guard's Green-Amber-Red (GAR) Model to Assess & Manage Operational Risks (James Fitzgerald, Bodega Marine Lab), and Building a Better Fieldwork Future Workshop: Preventing Harassment & Assault in the Field (Melissa Cronin UCSC, Conservation Action Lab). A new virtual series Field Work Leadership Toolkit Series is in the works for Spring 2022 as well as an in person training this February. So keep an on out! For more information contact Sara Souza,  Interim Health & Safety Team Manager (
A Tool for Designing and Studying Student-Centered Undergraduate Field Experiences: The UFERN Model

The NSF-RCN-UBE Undergraduate-Field Experiences Research Network (U-FERN) has been a great collaborator with RFSN since the beginning, supporting us in thinking about how to design and assess effective field studies lessons and courses.  We are excited to point RFSN members to UFERN recent publication in BioScience "A Tool for Designing and Studying Student-Centered Undergraduate Field Experiences: The UFERN Model" authored by Kari O'Connell,  Kelly L Hoke,  Michael Giamellaro,  Alan R Berkowitz,  Janet Branchaw.  

"Undergraduate field experiences (UFEs), where students learn and sometimes live together in nature, are critical for the field-based science disciplines. The Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network (UFERN) brings together UFE educators and researchers to improve and broaden participation in field education. Integrating research on UFEs and general STEM education and the expertise of the UFERN community, we present a model and evidence that describes the impact of intended student outcomes, student context factors, and program design factors on UFE student outcomes. The UFERN model is relevant for a diversity of UFE formats and the diverse students potentially engaged in them, and it supports the field science community to consider a range of ways students can engage with the field. The UFERN model can be applied to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of student-centered UFEs and to guide research on the mechanisms underlying outcomes across UFE formats and disciplines."

The UFERN approach is always described in their recent Ecological Society of America presentation

UFERN PI Kari O'Connell teaches "The UFERN Model" for field study design to participants at the RFSN Rogue River Rendezvous, October 2021
Summer 2022 River Field Courses 

Let us help spread the news about your field course! It is great to see who is doing what around the country! Sharing course information can facilitate student exchanges across the network. If you are not teaching a river field course, encourage your students to consider one of the courses below that are open to students from other programs. Beyond student exchange, sharing course information can highlight other opportunities for cross-network collaboration. For example, multiple programs offer courses on the Salmon River in Idaho - is there a benefit to combining effort and sharing expertise among faculty? In addition, knowing what river courses are being offered might create opportunities to work together to explore issues around effective river field pedagogy (e.g., if we leveraged a common assessment tool across classes, we might be able to gain deeper insight into what makes river field courses sink or float! If you want to share a information about a course planned for 2022 email

Humboldt State University
Alison O’Dowd (

During this action-packed 14-day field course (July 9 - 22), students will focus on the restoration of the Klamath Basin while studying its social-ecological systems, drawing on local cultural perspectives and historic and present-day human relationships with wildlife and the environment. Students will explore course topics via hiking to high alpine lakes, working on a variety of restoration projects in the Basin, visiting Klamath River dams, rafting a section of the mid-Klamath, snorkeling in Klamath tributaries and camping throughout the Basin. This course is an interdisciplinary synthesis of topics concerning restoration, ecology and natural history within the Klamath River Basin. Students that successfully complete this course will receive 3 units of ESM 480 from Humboldt State University. This course is open to students from any University. *This course was developed in collaboration with the River Field Studies Network. Application deadline: April 1, 2022. Online application will be available by Feb 1, 2022.

Rivers 2 Reefs Field Institute, The College of Idaho
Chris Walser (
David Fornander (

Pacific salmon and steelhead migrate 900 miles to spawn in the same high mountain streams in which they were born.  Join us on an adventure in central Idaho where we will explore the ecology, conservation, and cultural significance of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River system.  The field element of this college level 4-credit course will occur July 14-29, 2022, in and around Stanley, Idaho (at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains). Three brief online components to the course will be held prior to the field element. Program adventure activities include whitewater paddling, snorkeling, fly fishing, hiking, and hot springs. This program is open to all students who have completed at least 1-year of undergraduate study.  Please check with your home institution (study abroad coordinator or academic advisor) for their requirements regarding credit transfer, financial aid, and any other internal summer scholarships they may offer. Program Cost: $3500 USD 


Sierra Nevada University 
Andy Rost (

This exciting and rich immersive field course will combine on campus classroom work with an 50 miles of wilderness white rafting field expedition on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Southern Oregon. The class will focus on the range of natural history topics including watershed geography, geology, hydrology, forest and stream ecology, and human history through readings, discussions, lessons. Student will collect field observations in field journals and conduct a field research project which includes field data collection, data analysis and presentation of your results. Wilderness river expeditions require planning, specialized gear, trained boat handlers, and good judgment. The reward for those who can accomplish these tasks are exhilarating rapids, amazing camp locations, and memories to last a lifetime on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Students in this class will learn all of the skills required to be a river expedition member, creating a foundation to becoming a wilderness river guide. Students will be challenged every day to learn and use new skills, from rowing heavy gear boats to cooking dinner for the whole group. Everyone will participate in all aspects of the expedition, as a cohesive team. The general schedule will be days 1-3 on campus doing prep work, days 4-13 in field camping and river travel, and days 14-16 on campus cleaning up, finishing final projects and presenting your field research project. Course fee covers all student travel, food during field portion of course, gear, additional instructional staff

State University of New York, College at Oneonta Susquehanna River
Jeff Heilveil  (
Prerequisite(s): SoS; 3 s.h. of BIOL or ENVS or GEOL or ESCI.

This is a 16-day, field-based course.  Students will learn to identify the organisms commonly encountered in and around the streams and they will also have guest-led workshops on pearly mussel science and electrofishing.  The major part of the course is a student-designed research project that will be carried out in rivers surrounding our Biological Field Station.  We will also have evening seminars on careers in stream ecology and graduate school and how to get there. The Oneonta Biological Sield Station is in Cooperstown, NY, with a boat house on Otsego Lake, the start of the Susquehanna River. ents, but tents can also be provided for free. The tuition and fees for this 4-credit course come to $1270 for NYS residents, or $2922 for out-of-state students. Housing is free and students pay ~$200 in additional fees to cover all food (meals and snacks) for the 16 days.  The menu is diverse and will accommodate any dietary restrictions (vegan, celiac, halal, etc.).  
Virginia Commonwealth University
Dan Carr (
James Vonesh (

This expedition class explores the intersection of human and natural history in the James River and its watershed. By immersing themselves in this environment, students will experience this intersection firsthand, learning the landscape that shaped the development of many cultures, including our city, state and nation. The 2022 Footprints on the James Expedition will travel for 5 weeks days, covering ~200 river miles between the Blue Ridge and Tidewater, Virginia, via sea kayak, canoe, raft, and historic bateau. Photojournal from past classes. Program Cost: Est. $600. More details to follow.

Western Washington University
John McLaughlin (

This program emphasizes student-designed research on rivers and river restoration in the Pacific Northwest. ESCI Field Camp consists of four integrated courses taught in spring (29 March - May 2022). We will spend 2 weeks learning about field system histories, designing research projects, and practicing sampling methods. Then we will implement student research designs during a 2-week backpacking expedition along the Elwha River, site of humanity's largest dam removal project to date. After returning to town, we will attend a scientific conference and make final revisions to a second set of research projects. We will implement those projects on another 2-week expedition, rafting 92 miles down the Grande Ronde River to its confluence with the Snake River. We will return to campus to analyze project data and prepare poster presentations for a university-wide research symposium. Courses total 15 credits (10 semester credits). Please check with your home institution for requirements regarding credit transfer, financial aid, and any internal scholarships. Program cost: $700, not including tuition.
Rolling admissions, application available at:

University of California, Davis
Nicholas Pinter (Earth and Planetary Sciences; 
Sarah Yarnell (Center for Watershed Sciences;
Spring Quarter, 2022 

The Departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences and Plant Sciences, and the Center for Watershed Sciences, are offering a unique Spring quarter course in Applied Watershed Science. Part of the "Ecogeo" series taught in previous years through the Geology department (see, this course is a multidisciplinary study of the ecology, geomorphology and management of rivers in the western US. Open to senior undergraduate students and first-year graduate students, the course brings together students from a range of backgrounds in biological, ecological, and physical sciences, and engineering to address conservation and management issues in selected watersheds. The course provides classroom/laboratory training and discussions during the spring quarter and weekend fieldtrips to various river locations near Davis. The course will culminate with a seven-day camping and rafting trip along the San Juan River (Są́ bito' in Navajo) the week after final exams, during which students will collect and analyze field data. Following the trip, students will produce written reports using the field data that address management issues within the watershed, such as: what are the impacts of changes to the flow regime on aquatic and riparian biota in the regulated San Juan watershed, and what long-term monitoring data are needed to address on-going conservation strategies in the face of climate change?

Presentation introducing the RSFN made that the Spring 2021 SFS and RMS virtual meetings.
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