News & Resources

Courses That Change Your Life: Watersheds in Global Development (Biol/Geog 355)

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 20, 2015

Many courses at Au Sable are admirably devoted to specialization and fine-focused investigation of particular areas of environmental science. In contrast, Watersheds in Global Development provides students with a course investigating a fundamental and increasingly used worldwide management unit, the watershed. Although watersheds are fundamental and truly reality-based ecosystem management units in traditional management-oriented conservation sciences, they are also of increasingly vital importance in the work of mission and development, as the problems of developing sustainably clean water and sanitation systems for people in developing countries will become an increasing concern for Christian mission and development organizations.

Integrated to include best current practices of watershed identification and management as identified by national and international standards, students who complete Watersheds in Global Development not only gain skill in various types of water monitoring, but also receive four certifications from Global Water Watch after successful demonstration of these skills, as well as certification in Watershed Science from the Watershed Academy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 16 EPA modules in watershed identification and management. By the time the course is finished. Students in Watersheds in Global Development will have learned essential principles of watershed ecology, best practices of community-based water monitoring and watershed management for developing and developed countries, and how to create data access and analysis using an online relational database and data-to-action strategies.

Despite its rigorous scientific and professional standards, Watersheds in Global Development is taught as “self-contained” learning experience with no pre-requisites, and so is open and accessible to mission and development majors as well as students from more traditional science backgrounds. As one student from 2013 recalled, “The broad concept of watershed as an integrator was a very valuable concept I had never really thought of before. I realize now that it was extremely important to understand how a watershed works and the importance of its upkeep. All of the book material really increased my knowledge of water quality, monitoring and peoples influence in [maintaining] waterways and degrading them.  Hearing case studies and successes..…was educational and inspiring.” Christian Hayes of Cedarville University attests, “Watershed Stewardship was truly a unique class that has shaped my perspective on water and people. Though I had studied environmental systems for several years and examined the interconnections between the land, nature, and humanity, it was not until Watershed Stewardship that these intrinsic relationships truly came alive.”

For Hannah Pigott of Redeemer University College, Watersheds in Global Development changed her entire set of career goals. She told Bill Deutsch, “The watershed course you taught gave such inspiration for me and I have decided that I would like to incorporate my future career to deal with an aspect of a watershed issue. …Since the course, I have decided that I would like to tailor the rest of my schooling in a way that would launch me for a career dealing with watershed sustainability and river remediation.”

Bill Deutsch, Research Associate at Auburn University, brings a lifetime of international experience in research, teaching, management and implementation of watershed management to this course. The founder of Global Water Watch, Bill coordinates information on watershed status and stewardship worldwide, working with multiple organizations and governments, and with Christian mission and development agencies, to provide sustainable supplies of clean water and safe sanitation systems to people throughout the developing world. Reflecting on why this course has been a transformational experience for many students, Bill reflects, “Many students come to ASI with a desire to act out their Christian faith and improve people’s lives in practical ways. This course enables them to integrate the big-picture issues of global development and missions with the simplest act of giving a cup of clean water to thirsty person. On several occasions, students have told me that this has given them clarification in their calling, and confidence to advance their studies in ways that prepare them for careers in watershed stewardship and human development.”

Students not only learn the science, management, and politics of watershed stewardship, they may come back knowing how to start their own environmental NGO. Special Missionary Earthkeeping Fellowships ($2000) are available for students interested in this course with demonstrated interest in and commitment to work in missions and development. Change your life in Watersheds in Global Development, and learn how you can change the lives of others.