People

Vicki Watson

Vicki Watson

Professor

Office: Natural Science 101
Email: vicki.watson@umontana.edu
Office Hours:

Varies by semester, so make an appointment

by calling 406-243-5153 or emailing vicki.watson@umontana.edu


Personal Website
Curriculum Vitae

Current Position

Professor of Environmental Studies

 

Courses

At UM, I have developed and taught over 20 different courses in biology, ecology, environmental science, impact assessment, watershed conservation, field research methods and a Sustainability Lecture Series. All my classes emphasize research and service learning and have contributed over 30,000 hours of service to the local community. I have directed over 90 MS theses, served on over 100 other graduate committees, advised hundreds of undergraduates, and directed hundreds of internships, independent studies and senior honors theses. I provide a weekly e-newsletter for our students, maintain a jobs listserv for our students & alums, an online Community Conservation Calendar, and  help provide numerous opportunities to k-12 students, including the Science Fair, Montana Junior Academy of Sciences, Watershed Education Network, and more.

Current undergraduate courses include:

Environmental Science, Environmental Information Resources, Applied Ecology, Applied Ecology Field & Lab Studies

Current graduate courses include:

Watershed Conservation Ecology, Pollution Ecology, Environmental Impact Assessment, Applied Ecology for Grad students

Personal Summary

Born on a small family farm in the vanishing Texas blackland prairie, I grew up watching my parents struggle to protect the small creek that ran through the back of our farm from the growing town & industry upstream. That's a battle we still fight to this day, over 60 years later. I completed a BS in biology (U. Houston) and a PhD in aquatic ecology (U. Wisconsin). After a brief time as the staff scientist for Citizens for a Better Environment, I was hired as an environmental scientist by the University of Montana in 1983 and have served on that faculty ever since.

My research, teaching and service focus on the conservation, preservation and restoration of watersheds.  My grants have included studies of the impacts of cyanide and heavy metals leaching from abandoned cyanide leach mines and the fate and effects of herbicides applied for roadside weed control. I have assisted the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in the development of a statewide water quality monitoring system and water quality standards through studies of streams and lakes throughout Montana since 2001. The work on wadeable streams in Montana’s Northern Plains and Western Mountains appears in a 2004 EPA report. I was part of a team of scientists that helped the US Environmental Protection Agency develop nutrient criteria guidance documents for the US and another team that helped MT Dept of Environmental Quality develop nutrient criteria for Montana streams.  

Much of my work focuses on western Montana's Clark Fork River Basin which contains the largest Superfund complex in the country. I helped the state of Montana design and interpret a basin wide water quality study mandated in the 1987 reauthoriza­tion of the Clean Water Act and assisted the Tristate Water Quality Council and now the MT DEQ with monitoring and management of this basin. I’ve researched metal speciation, nutrient budgets, nuisance algae and water quality in this river basin for the US EPA and US Geological Survey, and evaluated toxic metal impacts on aquatic insects and the impacts of a phosphate deter­gent ban for the state of Montana. I helped the Clark Fork Coalition develop a vision document for the protection of this river ecosystem with funding from EPA and currently provide watershed planning assistance to watershed groups through the UM Watershed Health Clinic. I currently serve on the Clark Fork Basin Task Force, and we recently developed the Clark Fork/Kootenai basin part of the Montana state water plan.

While at UM I’ve taught over 20 different courses in biology, ecology, environmental science and impact assessment, pollution ecology, ecosystem/watershed conservation and restoration and a sustainability lecture series. All my classes emphasize research and community service and have contributed over 30,000 hours of service to the local community. I have directed over 90 MS graduate committees and served on over 100 other graduate committees. I also advise about 50 undergraduates at any one time and have directed hundreds of internships, senior honors theses and independent study projects. Many of my graduate students (& some undergraduates) have presented their results at professional meetings, published government reports, and/or written successful research grants. My former students work in government agencies (national, state & local), for nonprofits or in environmental consulting firms.

To make my community service more visible and effective, I started the UM Watershed Health Clinic to match students with community groups who need technical help in conserving their watersheds. My students & I have conducted many watershed studies, helped write watershed plans & grant proposals, & provided education/training to community groups. I organize & edit the Clark Fork River Symposia (www.umt.edu/clarkforksymposium) every 5 years (from 1985 to 2015).  While serving as PI or Co‑PI on over $3 million in grants over the past 30 years, I also provided countless hours of pro bono assistance to community groups.

Education

PhD 1981, MS 1976, Botany (Ecology), University of Wisconsin at Madison

Postdoc, 1981-1983, in University of Wisconsin Bacteriology Department

BS 1974, Biology, University of Houston

PhD, 2005, Square Dancing, Lolo Square Dance Center

Research Interests

My research, teaching and service focus on the conservation and restoration of watersheds. I’ve researched herbicides, heavy metals, nutrients, nuisance algae, and other water quality issues for EPA, US Geological Survey, Forest Service, NRCS, the state of Montana & local government agencies. I helped the Montana Department of Environmental Quality develop a statewide water quality monitoring system and water quality standards through studies of streams and lakes throughout Montana since 2001. Our work on wadeable streams in Montana’s Northern Plains and Western Mountains appears in a 2004 EPA report. I was part of a team of scientists that helped the US Environmental Protection Agency develop nutrient criteria guidance documents for the US and another team that helped MT Dept of Environmental Quality develop nutrient criteria for Montana streams.  

Much of my work focuses on western Montana's Clark Fork River Basin which contains wilderness, working lands, and the largest Superfund complex in the country. I helped the state of Montana design and interpret a basin-wide water quality study of this basin, and I continue to assist the Montana Department of Environmental Quality with monitoring and management of this basin. Since 1985,  I have organized and edited a series of Clark Fork Symposia where citizens and scientists discuss the science and conservation of the basin.  I currently serve on the Clark Fork Basin Task Force, and we recently developed the Clark Fork/Kootenai basin part of the Montana state water plan.

While serving as PI or Co-PI on well over $3 million in grants over the past 30 years, I also provided countless hours of pro bono assistance to community groups.

Projects

Grants & funders

MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ (2016-2017), $96983

MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ (2015-2016), $98673

MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ  (2014-2015), $66000

MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ  (2012-2014), $78762 (state funds) + $49643 (federal funds)

MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, (June-Dec 2012), $76,112

MT Diatom Study, MT DEQ, (June-Dec 2012), $24,326

    Clark Fork River Long Term Monitoring, (M68147, M67819), MT DEQ, about $16000 per year, 2012 to present

   MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, (2007-2009)  $217075  

   MT Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, $131035 (June, 2009 – December, 2010)

   Clearwater Watershed Restoration Plan Development, CRC, $15000 (August, 2009 – May, 2011)

   Aquatic Nuisance and Invasive Species Field Guide, CESU, $50000 (Sept, 2010 – Sept, 2014)

   Clark Fork/Pend Oreille Attached Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $9700/year, 2008-2010

   Clark Fork Watershed Education Program (with MT Tech), MT NRDP, 2008-2011, ~$300,000/yr (UM/Milltown part $50,000/yr)  

2008

   MT Reference Stream Study (M67024), MT DEQ, $217075

   MT Lakes & Reservoirs Study (M67025), MT DEQ, $ 66040 continuing from last year

   Clark Fork Attached Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $9700

2007

   MT Reference Stream Study (M67024), MT DEQ, $107075

   MT Lakes & Reservoirs Study & EPA lake survey (M67025), MT DEQ/EPA, $66040

   MT Nutrient Survey Study (M67014), MT DEQ, $64,300

   Clark Fork Attached Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $8500

2006:

   Montana Reference Stream study (M27684), MT DEQ, $96817

   Montana Lakes & Reservoirs study, MT DEQ, $23051

   Montana Algae Nuisance Perception Survey  (M27885 & M27921), MT DEQ, $26897

   Clark Fork Attached Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $8500

   University of Idaho River Algae Analysis, U of Idaho, $11000

    EPA Star Graduate Fellowship, EPA, $17344

2005:

   Montana Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, $59991

   Montana Lakes & Reservoirs study, MT DEQ, $24883

   Clark Fork Attached Algae Long Term Monitoring, TriState Water Quality Council, $8500

2004:

   Montana Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, $70968

   Montana Lakes & Reservoirs study, MT DEQ, $39291

   Environmental Monitoring & Assessment Project, MT DEQ, $61929

   Clark Fork River Algae Long Term Monitoring, TriState Water Quality Council, $8500

   Support of native fish studies, Grizzly Riders, $15000

..Habitat analysis for Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction in Blackfoot Valley, MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks, $8000

2003:

   Montana Reference Stream Study, MT DEQ, $49554

   Montana Lakes & Reservoirs study, MT DEQ, $28030

   NE MT streams study, MT DEQ, $55047

   Clark Fork River Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $8500

   Lake Pend Oreille periphyton study, U of Idaho, $13000

2002: Northern Glaciated Plains (Milk River Basin) study, MT DEQ, $115,000

   Clark Fork River Algae Long Term Monitoring, Tristate Water Quality Council, $8500
   ......Lolo Creek Watershed Assessment, MT DNRC & Missoula Water Quality District, $20,000

   Clark Fork Nonpoint Sources study, MSl Water Quality District, $14000/yr

2001:   Stoner Creek Watershed Assessment, Flathead Basin Commission, $17356

   EQIP training & Outreach, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, $14064/yr

   Clark Fork River Algae Long Term Monitoring, TriState Water Quality Council, $8500

   Clark Fork River Watershed Info System, MT NRDP, $9550

   Clark Fork nonpoint source study, Msl Water Quality District, $14000/yr

2000:

   Clark Fork River Algae Long Term Monitoring, TriState Water Quality Council, $8500

   Clark Fork River Nonpoint Source Study, Missoula Water Quality District, $14000/yr

1996 to present. Clark Fork River monitoring, TriState Water Quality Council, $8500/yr

1999-2003. Clark Fork nutrient nonpoint source study, Missoula Water Quality District, $14,000/yr, 5 yrs

Field of Study

Watershed Conservation Ecology, Aquatic Ecology, Pollution Ecology

Publications

With others. 2016. Effectiveness of short sections of wildlife fencing and crossing structures along highways in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and providing safe crossing opportunities for large mammals. Biological Conservation 197: 61-68.

2015. editor of 2015 Clark Fork River Symposium proceedings. &  State of the Clark Fork Basin

With others. 2014. Clark Fork and Kootenai River Basins Water Plan. 164 pp + appendices And reports .

              Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation with the Clark Fork Basin Task Force.

Suplee, M.W. & V. Watson. 2013 . Scientific & Technical Basis of Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Montana’s Wadeable Streams & Rivers, Update. MT Department of Environmental Quality, 125 pp. Original version of report, 2008.

Watson, V.  2012. Lake water quality, trophic status, & loading sources for Clearwater lakes.   Report to Clearwater Resource Council.  66pp. 

2012. with others.  Response of algal biomass to large-scale nutrient controls in the Clark Fork River, Montana, US. 

            J. American Water Resources Association:  DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2012.00666x

2011. Creation is the Creator. Essay published in This I Believe—On Love. D. Gedman (ed). Wiley

2010. editor of 2010 Clark Fork River Symposium proceedings. &  State of the Clark Fork Basin

2009. with others. How Green is too Green? Public Opinion of What Constitutes Undesirable Algae Levels in Streams. J. American Water Resources Association. 45(1):123-140.

2007. with others. Deriving Nutrient Criteria for Prairie Streams of the Northwestern Glaciated Plains Ecoregion. submitted to Jour. North Amer. Benthological Society  (tracking number 06-076) in revision

2006. with others. Efficiency of Measuring Chlorophyll a in Stream Sediment Samples using Spectrophotometric Methods. Montana Department of Environmental Quality Report.

2005. editor of 2005 Clark Fork River Symposium proceedings. &  State of the Clark Fork Basin

2004. State of the Sustainable Campus report for UM

2003. State of the Sustainable Campus report for UM

2002. Environmental Science online course

2000. editor of 2000 Clark Fork River Symposium proceedings & State of the Clark Fork Basin

2000. with Harris, James. Watershed Restoration Assessment for Lost Creek a tributary of the Upper Clark Fork River, Montana University System Water Center Tech. Report #207, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, 30 pgs.

2000. with others. Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual-Rivers and Streams. EPA-822-B-00-002.

1999. with others. Scientific basis of a nutrient TMDL for a river of the Northern Rockies. Wildlands Hydrology. Proc. Symp. Amer. Water Resources, Assn. (AWRA).

1999. With others. A scientific critique of EPA's guidance on sufficient, credible data & use support criteria as used in Montana. Wildlands Hydrology. Proc. Symp. AWRA

1999. With W. Bollman (student). Improving stream bioassessment methods for the Montana Valleys and Foothill Prairies ecoregion. Wildlands Hydrology. Proc. Symp. AWRA.

1999. The Clark Fork River Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Plan. Proc. 6th National Watershed Conference, Austin, TX.

1996. With B. Gestring. Monitoring algae levels in the Clark Fork River. Intermountain J. Sciences. 2(2): 17-26.

1996. Modeling the response of attached algae levels to nutrient management in Montana rivers. Montana University System Water Resources Center Report 196, 24 pp.

1995. with others. Assessing ecological risks in terrestrial systems. IN Butterworth, F. M.et al. (eds.) Biomonitoring & Biomarkers as Indicators of Environmental. Change. Plenum.

1993. Biomass of aquatic invertebrates in the upper Clark Fork River, western Mont. Proc. Montana Acad. Sci. 53:15-24.

1993. Copper and zinc in aquatic insects in the upper Clark Fork River, west Mont. Proc. Montana Acad. Sci. 53:25-32.

­1990. Editor, 2nd Clark Fork River Symposium. & State of the Clark Fork Basin

1989. with others.  Environmental fate of picloram used for roadside weed control. J. Env. Quality. 18(2):198-205.

1989. Control of attached algae by N and P in the Clark Fork River. Proc. Symp. Headwaters Hydrology.Amer. Water Resour. Assn. pp. 287-297

1989. Maximum levels of attached algae. and Dissolved oxygen in the Clark Fork. Proc. Montana Acad. Sci. 49:27-35, and 47-162

1988. Environmental problem solving. and Lake Ecosystem models. In M. G. Singh (ed.), Encycl. of Systems & Control. Pergamon.

1988. with others Modeling trophic status of Lake Pend Oreille, ID. Proc. Mont. Acad. Sci. 48:119-126.

1985. Phytoplankton photosynthesis & primary production. In T. D. Brock, A Eutrophic Lake--Mendota. Springer-Verlag.

1985. Water quality problems in the Clark Fork River. First Clark Fork River Symp.

1982. Application of a model of lake loading tolerance. In Lauenroth, W. K., et al. (eds.) Analysis of Ecological Systems. Elsevier.

1981. with others. The impact of urbanization on seasonal hydrologic & nutrient budgets of a small North American lake. Hydrobiologia 77:87-96.

1979. With O. L. Loucks. Analysis of turnover times in a lake ecosystem & implications for system properties. In E. Halfon (ed.), Theoretical Systems Ecology.

1979. with others. Et al. 1979. Impacts of development on watershed hydrologic and nutrient budgets. J. Water Pollution Control Federation 51:2876-85.

1976. Modeling & analysis of ecosystems. In D. L. Jameson (ed.) Ecosystem Impacts of Urbanization. EPA 600/3-76-072

Recent Reports for grants/contracts:

Watson, V.  2012. Lake water quality, trophic status, and potential loading sources for Clearwater lakes.  Final report to the Clearwater Resource Council. 66pp.

With M. Suplee of MT DEQ. In prep. Streams of Montana’s Northern Glaciated Plains.

With M. Suplee of MT DEQ. In prep. Trophic classification of Montana’s Lakes & Reservoirs

With M. Coen (student). 2003. Physical, chemical & biological assessment of Stoner Creek, Flathead Basin, MT. Prepared for Flathead Basin Commission.

With S. Sullivan. (student) 2003. Watershed assessment of Lolo Creek. For Msl Water Quality District

With J. Lohtak & D. Shulund. 2002. Nonpoint nutrient source studies in the Clark Fork & Bitterroot Basins. For Missoula Water Quality District.

With C. Brick. 2002. Watershed Restoration Planning information system—Final report. For Montana   Natural Resource Damage Program.

With B. Anderson & T. Monroe. 2000. Montana Statewide Monitoring Program-recommendations. Report to Mt DEQ.

Annual reports to funders on: Clark Fork River and Lake Pend Oreille attached algae monitoring; Clark Fork River nonpoint source study;  NRCS EQIP education grant; etc.

Honors

Dedicated Conservationist Award, Clark Fork Coalition, 1988
Missoula YWCA Professional Woman of the Year, 1991
University of Montana's Distinguished Teaching Award, 1992
Arnold Bolle Conservation Professional Award, 1996
University of Montana Service Learning Fellowship, 1998
University of Montana's Greening UM award, 2007
Montana Natural History Center's Outstanding Nature Educator, 2007

Sustainable Business Council's Sustainability Advocate of the Year, 2011

Specialized Skills

Gardening; hiking; biking; folk dancing & singing, folk dance caller, ukulele

Teaching Experience

At UM, I have developed and taught over 20 different courses in biology, ecology, environmental science, impact assessment, watershed conservation, field research methods and a Sustainability Lecture Series. All my classes emphasize research and service learning and have contributed over 30,000 hours of service to the local community. I have directed over 90 MS theses, served on over 100 other graduate committees, advised hundreds of undergraduates, and directed hundreds of internships, independent studies and senior honors theses.

I provide an e-newsletter for EVST undergrads, maintain a jobs listserv for our students & alums, an online Community Conservation Calendar, and  help provide numerous opportunities to k-12 students, including the Science Fair, Montana Junior Academy of Sciences, Watershed Education Network, and more.

To make the community service provided by my students and myself more visible and effective, I started the UM Watershed Health Clinic which matches students with community groups who need technical help in conserving their watersheds. My students & I have conducted many watershed studies, helped write watershed plans & grant proposals, & provided education/training/field trips to community groups and schools. I served as the first chair to UM's Sustainable Campus Committee, created the original Greening UM web site, serve as chair of UM's Recycling Committee, and organize many annual service events (like Earth Day, Public Land Day, etc.) for the campus & community.

My former students now work in government agencies (national, state and local), environmental consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations.

Professional Experience

1985 to present -- Science advisor, Clark Fork Coalition, (pro bono)

1983 to present - Professor, Environmental Studies,University of Montana

1981 to 1983 - Staff scientist for Citizens for a Better Environment, WI

        and postdoc  in University of Wisconsin Bacteriology Department

1976 to 1983 -- Lake Ecology Researcher, University of Wisconsin.

 

 

International Experience

In October 2004, I traveled to Cuba with a group of water resource professionals from business & nonprofits. The group attended a professional conference on watersheds in Habana (I gave a paper at the conference) & met with watershed researchers & managers in western Cuba interested in collaboration. We toured the Almendares River Restoration project in Habana and interviewed the director of the project as well as several engineers working on improving sewage treatment facilities in Habana. We also toured the upper river’s protected watershed which supplies drinking water to Habana. Watershed professionals in Cuba were generous with their time.

A few more highlights of our trip:

learning about conservation of coral reefs on Cuba’s north coast from an activist marine biologist;  discussing Cuba’s dam building program with the president of the National Union of Architects & Engineers (who directs that program); touring some internationally financed tourist developments on rivers & the north coast with a long time Cuban environmental activist for wetland conservation; touring the Sierra del Rosario International Biosphere Reserve & some of the sustainable communities inside that reserve; attending the World Water Celebration sponsored by the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hydraulicos (where we gave water testing kits to school children). We also interviewed taxi drivers, artists, nursing students, tobacco field workers, farmers, and others citizens we met, asking about Cuba’s water problems and how they were being addressed.

We learned that Cuba now supplies potable water to almost all its population, but still only provides sewage treatment to about 20%. Finding the resources for such projects is a struggle. Most sanitation & watershed projects are funded by international aid. Habitat concerns are not really on the radar screen of most Cubans as yet. We were told that ecology is not an occupation in Cuba, so we mainly met with engineers. All the Cuban scientists & engineers we talked with expressed interest in collaboration (especially with ecologists) and asked us to write our congressional delegation and urge them to work for policies that would allow more collaboration. The Bush administration has greatly reduced opportunities for such scientific collaboration.

All the Cubans we met were very friendly towards us and expressed a strong wish for normalizing relations between the US and Cuba. They also felt that their government was doing a reasonably good job of meeting human needs, and were willing to criticize specific programs that they felt could be improved. No police followed us around to monitor our interactions with Cubans. It was very interesting to compare our life experiences with people in a society where the basic needs of life are free or very affordable, and there is a fairly narrow range of incomes. The Cubans said ‘we are poor, but we are all poor together.’ But we did note that two Cuban economies are developing – one based on those who interact with tourists & so have access to much more US dollars and another based on those who do not have tourist based jobs.

 

Affiliations

Ecological Society of America
American Water Resources Association
Association of State Floodplain Managers

Montana Academy of Science
Clark Fork Coalition, Science Advisor (pro bono)

Montana Environmental Education Association

Sustainable Business Council, Missoula

Hobbies

Gardening; hiking; biking; folk dancing & singing, playing the ukulele, participating in democracy.