A [Second] Year in the Life of IWI’s Conservation Corpsmember

A [Second] Year in the Life of IWI’s Conservation Corpsmember

LaRyssa Nelson, Monitoring and Education, Conservation Corps of MN & IA

I can officially say that I survived my second year as IWI’s Conservation Corpsmember!

I know I’m not alone when I say that this year, as well as last, was definitely a learning curve with many firsts.

Sorting River Watch t-shirts with Taylor, Phil, and Asher.

I returned after a month break in January and jumped right back into things. We were in the middle of finishing up our challenges for the 2021 River Watch Forum where I completed one of my most in depth education projects to date. The macroinvertebrate challenge1, intro and quizzes included, tested my research and design skills on a whole new level. It is still one of my favorite things to look back on and every time I do, am in awe of how much went into it. There’s even a brand-new field worksheet that I created to combine multiple ones we had already been using!

With the start of the River of Dreams season, came learning how to confidently present to classrooms over Zoom. I had only ever used online video calling in the past to occasionally keep in touch with family members while away at college. This year, all of our classroom visits were held virtually, which in the long run made it extremely easy for us to reach multiple classes in a day. I worked from home during all 21 presentations and my family became very familiar with the Red River Basin. By May, I bet they could have taught a whole River of Dreams class by themselves! When the end of June came, we had launched over 1,200 canoes into the Red River Basin, including students from 2021 and the 2020 students who were unable to launch last year. To check out how many have been found on their way to Hudson Bay, visit the link from the list below2.

Loading up River of Dreams canoes with Phil.


In the midst of all this, we were also collecting water quality samples on a three-week schedule for MPCA which continued until October 31st.  This year, I also collected samples for the Buffalo Red River Watershed District. Between the two contracts, I monitored 26 sites from White Rock, SD to Callaway, MN. This year’s drought slowed down our sampling routines, which made learning to juggle my new assignments a bit easier.

By fall, I had made new River Watch contacts and started leading outings on my own. We started kayaking with the teams by the beginning of September and then came macroinvertebrate surveying and water quality sampling. We are now meeting with River Watch teams to begin working on their 2022 River Watch Forum projects. To kick off the event, we created a virtual escape room that each team will complete to help them start brainstorming ideas for their project. The escape room features questions on water quality knowledge, sampling procedures, writing and grammar practice, and Red River Basin facts. Follow the link3 from the list below to see if you can complete it!

Water Quality sampling with Ada-Borup River Watch team on the Wild Rice River.

I will be returning to IWI again after this service term, but instead of being the Conservation Corpsmember, I will be IWI’s newest Monitoring and Education Specialist! I’m so excited to continue my career with the International Water Institute and to continue working with our students and rivers in the Red River Basin.



  1. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=84794bf8a3b04048a5e73113c997e2d5
  2. https://riverofdreams.org/
  3. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe_rWWndm4c6eWsRjKmB2eeI4B3KJ6lR1sgc4hxdOcTxgEVkA/viewform?usp=sf_link