Montana Researchers Recieve $20 Million Grant from The National Science Foundation to Study Water Quality in Montana


Montana researchers have received an award from the National Science Foundation for investigations into water quality in the state. The 20-million-dollar cooperative agreement is part of their Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, and it will be a five-year project.

EPSCoR is a program designed to get research money to the states that usually don’t see the big budget projects. This award is from the NSF, but other agencies also coordinate EPSCoR projects. The bulk of the project is academic research, specifically in science and engineering, but it also has outreach and educational components designed to engage young learners, native communities, and the workforce.

This project, named the Consortium for Research on Environmental Water Systems looks at natural waters and the impacts of three of Montana’s most important industries: mining, agriculture, and energy. In that pursuit, researchers will focus on three geographic areas: agriculture in the Judith river basin, coal extraction in the Powder river basin, and hard rock mining in the upper Clark Fork river watershed.

Several researchers from Montana Tech are involved, including myself, I’m a post-doc researcher on a metal recovery technology within the context of the Upper Clark Fork. Primary investigators at Tech include Jerry Downey, Jack Skinner, and Katherine Zodrow. I had a chance to talk with Katherine and ask her about her work and the project in general.

What is it that you are working on and how does that fit into the greater project?

KZ: “The project is really gigantic…so we have less leaching from the soil into the water”

It seems there is a broad representation of scientists from different disciplines involved in this project, can you tell us about how that helps accomplish the goals?

KZ: “So, this research is really looking at what people like to call wicked problems…it’s a huge project, and I think that’s a nice when you’re trying to tackle these difficult problems.”

Beyond the deeper understanding of water quality issues, what do you see as long term impacts of a funding opportunity like this?

KZ: “So, I think this kind of opportunity is really cool…how can we do work at the University that will help them with whatever issues they happen to be facing.”

Well, thanks for talking with us, Katherine. We look forward to seeing what comes out of this project.

If you’d like to hear more about what Katherine and other local researchers are working on, tune in to Daniel Hogan’s new series, What Are You Studying. It airs during the Tuesday news hour.