Calm Waters Ahead
New program technician paves the way for ambitious scientific initiative
Kyra Sims spent much of her childhood playing in the waters of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Now she plays a critical role in researching them.
Sims is a new program technician for the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute (IWRRI), a multidisciplinary research center housed in the University of Idaho’s Office of Research and Economic Development. As IWRRI’s newest staff member, she supports colleagues through various administrative roles and connects IWRRI to the public through social media.
Sims comes on board at an exciting time for IWRRI, which is planning a regional-level citizen science campaign starting this fall in the Spokane River basin area, where local citizens will help test and map nitrate and phosphorous levels in the water. Higher concentrations of these nutrients can help alert IWRRI staff to issues like the presence of pesticides or heavy metals in the area.
One of Sims’ many support roles in this effort is beta-testing the water quality testing kits for IWRRI’s citizen science campaign. These efforts will help ensure the kits and directions are easy to understand when the kits are deployed to the general public. It’s also necessary for increasing the validity of the data, which will be collected and crowdsourced.
“We want to connect people to the science,” she said. “In order to get them there, they need to be informed. That’s where I come in with the social media: to make people more aware of what we do.”
Sims is a pioneer of social media, literally.
“I started using social media when it started, back when Myspace and dial-up were popular.” Sims said. “Fun fact: I had a Facebook account the month it went public.”
Sims also produced and updated social media channels as a side business before earning her Bachelor of Science degree in economics at Eastern Washington University.
“My clients would send me info, and I’d make it pretty and post it,” Sims said. “It was fun being creative and to figure out the psychological reasoning behind why people like, follow and respond to things.”
Sims will use her experiences to build interest and awareness of IWRRI and its programs.
“I think we have a great opportunity ahead of us,” Sims said. “There’s lots of room for us to grow our social media presence. If we can build more awareness, we can get the conversations started.”
Sims has loved science ever since college and is eager to promote it with a strong drive and enthusiasm.
“Science is about more than just using beakers and test tubes; it’s about thinking critically on topics. Not to mention, it can be very cool,” Sims said. “I’m especially motivated by my co-workers’ passion for water and environmental science. I get excited when they get excited.”
Learn more about IWRRI’s citizen science initiatives by following its Facebook page at facebook.com/iwrrimoscow.
Article by Phillip Bogdan, Office of Research and Economic Development