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Undergraduate Fellowship in Water Management - Meet This Year's Interdisciplinary Team

August 21, 2020

Undergraduate students from any and all majors are eligible for this unique interdisciplinary opportunity to gain hands-on experience in water resource systems and models, culminating in the research and development of a dynamic simulation model of the Middle Rio Grande. Two Honors College students, Atlin Johnson and Jewel Yoko Kentilitisca, have been selected for this year's fellowship program.



Civil Engineering

wmf-aj.jpgA native of Green River, Wyoming, Atlin Johnson’s passion for water sustainability was sparked while researching his hometown’s rich history as the starting point for John Wesley Powell’s Green and Colorado River expeditions for a school project. Seven books later on the topic, Atlin realized that his lifelong passion for STEM could be combined with his newfound passion for water sustainability. As a result, he is now a junior Civil Engineering student at UNM.

Atlin’s journey to UNM was made possible through the Regents Scholarship but his choice in coming to New Mexico was very purposeful, as the state naturally draws experts in water resource management. Escaping the brutal Wyoming winters was also definitely on his mind. Upon coming here, he quickly took advantage of this opportunity by reaching out to some of these faculty in order to secure a volunteer position in an environmental engineering lab where he worked closely with two graduate students on a patent-pending water desalination process.

In his sophomore year, Atlin went to the University of California at Santa Cruz through the National Student Exchange program for a semester to do a research project on marine sustainability in the Monterey Bay. By working with an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate students and in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they were able to develop a project to track the motion of plastic pollution in the San Lorenzo River watershed and study how plastic enters the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz.

Upon his return this past spring, Atlin was able to begin a project with the Center for Water and the Environment constructing a scale model of the North Diversion Channel in Albuquerque. This project was cut short due to COVID-19, but he looks forward to continuing it when it is safe to do so.

As for being given the opportunity to participate in our first group of fellows for the Co-op Water Management Fellowship, Atlin is excited to be able to devote a year to his passion. “The tremendous value of this opportunity cannot be overstated, [as it serves] as just yet another stepping stone to…a future in water resource sustainability and management, giving me the tools I need to serve and protect the places that I love.”



Population Health

 wmf-jyk.jpgAs a senior in the Population Health program at UNM, Jewel Yoko Kentilitisca has dedicated her educational career to studying the impacts of water stress on marginalized communities. She ultimately hopes to use the experience she has gained to lead efforts that impact significant policy changes to water management and sustainability issues.

In 2016, Jewel volunteered with a cultural immersion program in Nicaragua to facilitate a community-based intervention to construct water pumps so that rural areas could have better access to potable water.  This experience sparked an interest in community-based research methods that encourage communities to come together to create science-based solutions to local issues.

From here, Jewel studied abroad in India where she worked on a research project that monitored the hazardous effects of disinfection byproducts in drinking water. This project led to a published paper for the 2019 International Conference on Data Sciences, Machine Learning and Applications titled, “Factors Influencing Trihalomethane Formation and Methods of Reduction-A Review.”

These experiences deepened Jewel’s interest in water inequality and led her to an internship at an organization called Impact which works with Environment New Mexico to encourage local advocacy. She is also a program assistant at the UNM Women’s Resource Center where she helps encourage participation by women in STEM fields through workshops and various resources. Both of these positions have re-affirmed Jewel’s passion for community-based decision making in advancing inclusivity amongst all socially disadvantaged populations.

Jewel’s work abroad and in New Mexico has directly prepared her for the underlying social and environmental impacts of these issues on communities and she is excited to apply her knowledge of community building and social justice to the Co-op’s Water Management Fellowship program this year. “The public deserves to be educated on the long-term water crisis challenges within the Middle Rio Grande and in order to do so, we must communicate efficiently and integrate community perspectives to ensure our future meets our water commitments.”


Read more at Interdisciplinary Science Cooperative.