Future Rivers

Image of a small boat and clothes hanging on a house on the Mekong River in Cambodia

Sustaining food-water-energy resources in freshwater ecosystems through innovation and interdisciplinary training

Much of the world’s population depends on large freshwater ecosystems to provide goods and services that support economies and livelihoods. Despite the important societal and economic benefits of these freshwater systems, the ability to understand the potential impacts of changes to these ecosystems on communities is limited. A better understanding of the physical, biological, and social dynamics that sustain freshwater ecosystem services will allow for better management of these critical resources.

To address this, the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of Washington will develop an innovative, culturally aware STEM trained workforce in freshwater science. Named Future Rivers, this program will prepare Trainees to become fluent in 21st century data science approaches to understand interactions among and within food, water, and energy sectors in order to expand the options for environmental sustainability. Students will learn to work in applied ways within career fields outside of academia to create a solid foundation that connects academic government and industry partners when addressing freshwater issues.

Students in the program will be given the opportunity to:
– Develop new technical and data science skills
– Experience innovative interdisciplinary and international science integration
– Improve their communication skills
– Increase their cultural awareness and inclusivity within the STEM field
– Develop professional network with scientists and non-academic practitioners

Program Details

The Future Rivers training program will initially support four student cohorts as they prepare to effectively safeguard freshwater ecosystem services for a growing world population.

Application Details

Apply by January 31, 2020 to be a part of the Autumn 2020 cohort. 

To apply, prospective students must provide a statement of interest and a letter of support.

Statement of Interest (1-2 pages) – Your statement should discuss your overarching scientific interests and accomplishments to date, planned research activities as part of your graduate degree, why you are interested in the Future Rivers program, and your desired learning outcomes as being a part of the NRT program. Also, please identify if you are requesting stipend funding from the NRT program and, if so, how many quarters are being requested and what other funding is available or pending in support of your graduate degree.

Letter of Support – A letter of support from your current advisor (if currently attending the University of Washington) or potential advisor (if you are a new student seeking admission to the University of Washington). The faculty letter should include a statement of support for your participation in the program. The letter should also clearly indicate how the faculty advisor plans to engage in the program.

Materials should be submitted by email to futurerivers@uw.edu with “Application: student name” in the subject line. Applications can be submitted anytime, however funding decisions for the autumn 2020 cohort will be made in spring 2020.

Future Rivers Factsheet


The Future Rivers NRT is an EarthLab initiative. Part research engine and part community catalyst, EarthLab identifies the places where life on our planet is at greatest risk and works with public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors to co-create solutions that make a real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

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