Project Highlight: "The Future Isn't Written"

Dr. Arica Crootof, a CREWS seed grant recipient at the University of Montana (UM) Western, recently published one of her class’s projects surrounding the contamination of the Warm Springs Ponds at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River. The project, a Story Map titled “The Future Isn’t Written” involved 21 UM Western students and engaged with the Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantric Richfield Company (ARCO), the Citizen Technical Environmental Committee, and the Clark Fork Coalition. 

This project was inspired by a survey the class conducted asking the public for their perception and use of the Warm Springs Ponds. The results showed that many respondents wanted to see the ponds cleaned up and preserved for their recreational uses. Dr. Crootof explains that because heavy metal reclamation is not simple, she wanted to find a way to explain the complexity of the issues while also creating  information that was  digestible for the general public. “The Future Isn’t Written” began as a class project, which proved to be challenging, but it  was a learning opportunity for students and faculty alike to rethink how to share information in an engaging way that the general public could comprehend.  

There is still a lot to be done surrounding the Warm Springs Ponds, specifically concerning public health, impacts on wildlife, fish, and birds. Research such as “The Future Isn’t Written” project is important to continue in order to know how bad the contamination truly is. Acquiring  data about both health and environmental impacts would be great next steps to help answer questiodns for people who frequently use the area for recreation.  

Read more about the whole project and view the Story Map here