Agricultural Water Quality Research Assistant

College of Agricultural Sciences

Soil and Crop Sciences




Primary Topic:

Food and Agriculture

Other Topics:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Lead Mentor:  

Manny Deleon

Research Associate, Agricultural Water Quality Program

Internship Overview:

The primary goal of this internship is to assist in data collection on real producer managed and research fields during the summer 2023 field season for the Agriculture Water Quality Program (AWQP). The internship will have a special focus on a ranch located outside of Steamboat Springs, CO. The initial objective of the project is to understand nitrogen dynamics in mountain meadow hay systems for more precise fertilizer application by using cutting-edge, drone technologies.

This internship will involve both field work and laboratory work. This includes supporting the installation of research equipment, water and soil sample collection and processing, and preliminary data organization, processing, and mapping. More specific activities may include: flying drones for spectral imagery surveys and participation in the post-processing of subsequent raster data, installation of soil piezometers for sampling shallow ground water on a regular basis, conducting vegetation sampling, take collected water samples to CSU lab to be processed for total suspended soils, total N, total P, ortho-P, and pH. Post training, the intern will be expected to conduct independent travel and research. The student will have the opportunity to gain work experience conducting research in irrigated agriculture and water quality monitoring as well as Extension practices with real producers and a local CSU Extension agent.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

Scope: The scope includes the student technician assisting in field, laboratory, and office tasks for water quality monitoring projects. Field activities include installation/removal of water quality sampling instruments and other environmental sensors, soil sampling, plant biomass sampling, water grab sampling, and plant growth measurement. Lab activities will include testing, calibrating, and preparation of sensors and data loggers, processing soil, water, and plant samples, data entry, general cleaning/lab upkeep, website maintenance, and other tasks as needed. In addition, the student may assist with some basic farming operations, work with Extension educational materials, and help with outreach activities, writing and other project needs.

Goal: The student shall learn how to work in producer-managed systems to obtain meaningful insights on soil-water-nutrient dynamics, cumulating in a research poster at the annual CSU Extension Meeting in 2023.


– Assist in the experimental design, data collection, and analysis of nutrient management research at the ranch in Steamboat, CO

– After proper training by staff, collect water, soil, and plant data that supports the AWQP’s overall mission.

– Become familiar with drone operations, environmental sensors, and data processing

– Become familiar with environmental issues related to agriculture and water quality in Colorado

– Post (at least twice) on AWQP social media accounts

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

The geographic area of this internship will cover the state of Colorado with a primary focus in the Larimer and Routt Counties. The intern will work with a large network of external stakeholders, including but not limited to: individual farmers and ranchers, CSU Extension, Colorado Agriculture Water Alliance, CSU Agriculture Experiment Station, Colorado Department of Agriculture, and other AWQP stakeholders.

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

Student learning outcomes are: hands-on opportunity to gain research experience in both the laboratory and in the field; exposure to emerging technologies for the use in research; professional development by networking with stakeholders, and attending other outreach events; improved knowledge and experience with scientific protocols for water, plant, and soil sampling. While there are specific job tasks associated with this position, there is also room for the student to explore projects related to their own research interests as they relate to soil and water health. The AWQP program is eager to incorporate policy, economics, or other related fields into this research.

Additionally, the student will participate in networking days. The student will visit Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County Director in Steamboat Springs, Colorado to gain greater background knowledge of the research area. In addition, the student will visit at least two AES experiment stations. This position will provide a unique opportunity to learn about current agricultural research happening across the state. AWQP staff will help facilitate the meeting/tour of the selected area. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the current research that is happening across the state.
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