Drainage Ditch Decision-making in the Illinois River Basin
In the upper Mississippi River Basin, responsibility for the modification of headwater streams, and for the ensuing biophysical and socio-economic impacts, rests with local drainage districts (DD), political bodies that build and maintain drainage ditches through the leveeing of taxes on land owners within their boundaries (McCorvie and Lant 1993). Land drainage, developed over 150 years, often comprises up to 70 to 80% of the total stream length and as much as 100% of the total length of headwater streams in U.S. Midwest watersheds (Mattingly et al 1993). Although individual farmers decide whether and how to drain water from agricultural land, field drainage relies on the construction and maintenance of drainage ditches by DDs. DDs have done much of the stream modification (McCorvie and Lant 1993), and sustained agricultural productivity and the regional economy (Herget 1978; Pant 2002).
The intern will collect information from three county offices storing drainage ditch expense records as a pilot for future work. The intern will collect the statutorily-required DD reports filed with county governments for the most recent 40 years or as many years as possible. Using this information together with the data on DD expenditures, we will determine variables to include in estimates a relationship between the reported maintenance activities and DD expenditures per acre per meter of ditch and develop a protocol to allow future students to collect similar data from other counties.
This project will introduce a student to social science research and provide ten weeks for an immersive experience and one on one interaction with a faculty member. I plan to offer the experience to an undergraduate student who demonstrates an interest in social science and/or social-ecological interactions.
The ideal candidate will have strong writing skills and be detail oriented. The experience may lead to future employment and/or honors research opportunities.
The student will (1) craft a clear statement of the broader impact of their independent work, drawing from many disciplinary perspectives; (2) build skills that enable him or her to think across disciplines and produce solution-based research; (3) conduct an original research project in conjunction with a faculty or postdoctoral mentor; and (4) present research in a capstone poster session and attend a professional meeting (if this fits the student’s interests).