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The REU on Sustainable Land and Water Resources 2020: a (Virtual) Tribal and Community-Based Participatory Research Experience
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  • Diana Dalbotten,
  • Nievita Watts,
  • Emily Geraghty Ward,
  • Antony Berthelote
Diana Dalbotten
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Corresponding Author:dianad@umn.edu

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Nievita Watts
Humboldt State University
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Emily Geraghty Ward
Rocky Mountain College
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Antony Berthelote
Salish Kootenai College
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Like most NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, the REU on Sustainable Land and Water Resources (REU SLAWR) had to choose between a virtual experience in summer 2020, or cancellation of the program due to the Covid19 pandemic. The REU SLAWR was restructured into a modular online program designed to meet the same program goals that have shaped the REU SLAWR over the past 11 years. Using program evaluations from 2011-2019, the authors will compare the results from 2020 to build knowledge on how the REU experience in 2020 was differently structured to meet the need for a virtual program, the impact this had on participant and mentor outcomes, and what can be learned for future REU programs. This provides valuable information for creating accessibility to the REU experience. The REU usually takes place at three locations (Salish Kootenai College, MT; at the Univ. of Minnesota in Mpls. and Duluth, MN). The program is centered on tribally-focused Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR), and is a place-based REU. The REU SLAWR has always incorporated a virtual experience designed to create cross-team socialization, community-building, and widen participants’ interest and knowledge about projects incorporating tribal CBPR. Summer 2020 immersed students, mentors, and tribal partners in a virtual learning environment. The PIs explored new methods for running an REU with virtual technology that will be incorporated in future programs for richer cross-team collaboration. A focus of the REU SLAWR has been to increase participants’ abilities to work on diverse teams. Collaborating virtually across distances is a skill all researchers need. Training in this can benefit next-generation researchers and STEM workers. One aspect of concern and interest is the impact of redesigning the research projects to make them possible to conduct in a virtual space. The projects were fundamentally different than previous years, with many focusing on using pre-existing data. While there were negative impacts in some aspects of building research skills (i.e., little exposure to field or lab work), other aspects (i.e., computational modeling, communicating science) showed gains. The authors explore both the limits and possibilities inherent in virtual collaboration in research for undergraduate students.