Educating about Karst Water Resources through University-City Collaboration

Leslie North
Western Kentucky University
Dr. Leslie North, Western Kentucky University
published Jun 13, 2017

The Center for Human Geo-Environmental Studies (CHNGES) at Western Kentucky University is highly engaged in its Bowling Green community. Led by Dr. Leslie North and Dr. Jason Polk, CHNGES works with the Bowling Green Public Works department to curate an outreach and educational campaign entitled UnderBGKY. This program works to inform the Bowing Green and surrounding community on the vulnerability of the region's karst groundwater. UnderBGKY operates through a variety of mediums to ensure multidisciplinary education and understanding among learners of all ages.

CHNGES administers this outreach through an interactive UnderBGKY website, fun community events, and workshops. Twice a year, CHNGES and Bowling Green Public Works put on a Streamside Field Day and invite various local middle-schoolers to engage with water resource professionals to learn about groundwater resources and conservation. Additionally, UnderBGKY offers many local workshops for Bowling Green educators and general community members. Interdisciplinary and holistic communication approaches to the complex issue of groundwater is key to ensuring safe and sustainable use of water resources. These outreach programs have seen significant success since their implementation in 2012, with students and Bowling Green consistently enjoying the educational and recreational elements of community karst education!

A network of real-time water data monitoring stations is maintained by CHNGES students, faculty, and staff as part of the collaboration. These data are made accessible to the public free of charge on the UnderBGKY website. Because of the success of all collaborative activities, the Bowling Green Public Works Department supports paid and unpaid internships to CHNGES students to help maintain the monitoring stations and offer students hands-on experience working with various environmental issues at the municipal government level. In fact, the collaboration between CHNGES and Bowling Green public works was named a "Model Practice" by the American Public Works Association! Overall, by focusing on life-long learning and multi-disciplinary education, CHNGES hopes to create a Bowling Green community that understands and appreciates its karst groundwater.

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