Education and Outreach / Brooksher Watershed Institute

The Brooksher Watershed Institute

Roaring Fork Conservancy invites you to The River Center for presentations addressing our most precious resource, water. We’ll discuss the most current water-related issues at the local, state and national level, and provide opportunities for one-on-one dialogue with these water leaders.


TBD in 2024 -

Whirling Disease at Age 40?!!

Jeff Barry Nehring, retired Aquatic Researcher from  Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Whirling Disease (WD) is caused by a parasite that can infect and kill brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout when exposed during the first 2 to 3 months of life. While this malady was first described in the late 1890s in Germany, the actual life cycle of the parasite remained an enigma until 1984. It was first detected in fish hatcheries in Colorado in late 1987, found in wild trout in Colorado streams 1988-1989, and began causing the collapse of wild rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout populations in numerous coldwater streams in Colorado in the 1990s. Although it is "old news" WD continues to complicate coldwater fisheries management in the state to this day. Barry began his career as an Aquatic Researcher working on wild trout and coldwater trout streams for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) in 1978, He began working exclusively on the Whirling Disease problem in Colorado in 1993 and has continued to do so after retiring from the CDOW up to the present time. Barry's presentation will focus on: What Have We Learned? What Do We Know? What Are We Doing? What Can You Do?


Timing for each presentation varies. Always check final schedule at



Interested in underwriting an event?
Please contact Sheryl Sabandal, development director, at



Carter & Dane Brooksher

Carter and Dane Brooksher have been an integral part of RFC’s history. The Brooksher’s experience with numerous nonprofit organizations combined with a passion for rivers and an undying devotion to RFC, provided vital support for this organization over the years. During Carter’s 16-year tenure on the board she co-founded the National Council (formerly Rivers Council) and was instrumental in the creation of RFC’s annual River Rendezvous fundraiser. After stepping off the board, she continued to serve on The River Center Steering Committee and, along with her husband, provide invaluable support to RFC fundraising, staff and events.

It was back in 1998 that Carter suggested RFC create a Watershed Institute – a series of presentations with water leaders that would discuss water at the regional, state, national and international levels. It was this vision, timed with moving into The River Center, that catapulted her dream into reality. Thus, in 2019 The Brooksher Watershed Institute was born.

Previous Presenters

February 21, 2024 -

Airborne laser mapping the mountain snowpack - a new foundation for runoff forecasting and water management

Jeffrey S. Deem, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer and Formulation Lead at Airborne Snow Observatories

Airborne Snow Observatories (ASO) is bringing a new, powerful perspective to measuring and monitoring our biggest water reservoir - the mountain snowpack. Conventional, station-based measurements (like SNOTEL) provide important, continuous monitoring at a small number of locations. While these stations form the backbone of our snowpack monitoring infrastructure, their locations in forest clearings within a narrow elevation range leave us blind to the the vast majority of the snowpack within a watershed. This is an important vulnerability, meaning we can have a good bit more or less snow in the watershed than indicated by the station data.

ASO is filling this gap. Using technology and data workflows developed over nearly a decade at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ASO uses airborne laser and spectrometer mapping to provide accurate, high-resolution, and full-watershed maps of snow depth, snow water equivalent, and snow albedo. When combined with information from the SNOTEL network, we now have the necessary data resources to accurately capture the evolution of the seasonal mountain snowpack and to increase the reliability of runoff forecasting in changing climate and watershed conditions.

This presentation will explore this ongoing paradigm shift in our ability to monitor our snowpack reservoir, with examples and case studies from the Roaring Fork watershed, Colorado, and California.


January 30, 2024 -

From Flakes to Flow: Unveiling the Dynamics of Snow, Water, and Climate in Colorado

Jeff Derry, Executive Director at Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

Jeff will discuss the journey a snowflake takes once it falls in the Colorado Mountains, including the timing and distribution of snow accumulation, how we measure the snowpack, and how a streamflow forecast is made. Factors that influence snow accumulation/ablation, such as dust-on-snow and climate trends will also be discussed. Jeff will give an overview of the state-of-the-science research that Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies conducts and hosts in their Senator Beck Study Basin in attempts to improve understanding of our mountains, snowpack, and implications of the changes we are observing.

Presented in partnership with Basalt Regional Library.

View presentation slides HERE.

January 17, 2024 -

Fish, Flows & Flexibility: How Ruedi Reservoir Helps Multiple Species Survive & Thrive

David Graf, In Stream Flow Coordinator for the Upper CO River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Program at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


April Long, Executive Director at Ruedi Water & Power Authority

In 1962, Federal authorization of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project initiated construction of all components of the Fry-Ark Project, including Ruedi Dam and Reservoir. Ruedi Reservoir is intended to provide benefits to western slope water users to compensate for additional trans-mountain diversions from the Roaring Fork headwaters. Since 1962, the term ‘water users’ has expanded to include specific fishery purposes and more generally, other non-consumptive uses such as off-site hydropower generation, river health and recreation. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program was established in 1988, and in 2023 has three specific pools of water available for use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River (Palisade to the Gunnison River confluence), as well as lease water made available by Program partners that adds to the Recovery Program storage available in Ruedi. Come hear how the Ruedi Water and Power Authority and the Recovery Program collaborate on real-time flow management decision-making to sustain endangered fish in the heavily-dewatered 15 Mile Reach, and how those releases also sustain gold medal trout fishing and river health from Ruedi Dam to Glenwood and beyond. 

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


March 21, 2023 -

"A River Out of Time" Film Screening and Q&A with Expedition Leader, Dr. Tom Minckley

In 1869, a small group of surveyors lead by John Wesley Powell set out to map the unknown extent of the Colorado River Basin. 150 years later, a group of artists, writers, photographers, and scientists, led by Dr. Tom Minckley from the University of Wyoming followed in Powell’s footsteps to reevaluate Powell’s legacy, absorb the unquantifiable power of place and articulate what the future may hold for water in the American West. This is their story, and where we all find ourselves 150+ years after that unprecedented exploration.  

Presented in partnership with TACAW.

Watch the film HERE.


February 16, 2023 -

Where Do We Flow From Here?

Alex Hager, Reporter for the Colorado River Basin and Water in the West at KUNC

The Colorado River starts in our backyard, when it falls as snow in Colorado, but more than 40 million people use its water from Wyoming to Mexico. Where does the water go, and how do we balance the needs of cities, farms, tribes, and ecosystems as we decide how to divvy up the shrinking river going forward? Alex Hager travels the basin covering water issues for NPR stations. He’ll share stories of the people and places that depend on the Colorado River, and take a look at how they’re shaping its future.

Presented in partnership with Basalt Regional Library.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

January 19, 2023 -

Partnering With Beavers to Restore Colorado's Mountain Wetlands

Mark Beardsley & Jessica Doran, Founders of Ecometrics

Wetland riverscapes were severely degraded when beavers, a quintessential keystone species, were hunted to near extinction during the fur trade of the colonial era. Even though the fur trade ended abruptly two centuries ago, beaver populations have been slow to recover and the wetlands remain impoverished. Can we restore these valuable habitats mimicking, promoting, and sustaining the keystone natural aquatic ecosystem engineer? With recent examples from the Colorado mountains, this talk explores how we are learning to partner with beavers to restore wetland riverscapes.

Presented in partnership with Basalt Regional Library.

January 5, 2023 -

A Lower Basin Perspective on the State of the Colorado River

Kathryn Sorensen, Director of Research & Professor of Practice, Kyle Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute at Arizona State University

The Colorado River water imported into the desert cities of Phoenix and Tucson via the Central Arizona Project canal is low-priority water that is cut first in times of shortage. Next year, Arizona will lose around 40% of this water. Former Phoenix Water Director Kathryn Sorensen will discuss how shortage on the Colorado River impacts cities, tribes, and agriculture in Central Arizona, how the largest cities in Arizona manage their water resources, and how Arizona will continue to write its water future.

Presented in partnership with Basalt Regional Library.

December 9, 2022 -

Predicting Powder and the Science of Snow with meteorologist Joel Gratz

Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist of OpenSnow

Joel will discuss how to read weather forecasts and snow reports so that you can plan your perfect days on snow this winter. In addition, Joel will discuss the outlook for the upcoming season, new weather technology that is being developed by OpenSnow, how far out we can trust forecasts, and what shifts that we are (and are not) seeing in the climate. This talk is a fun way to get excited about winter (and it will fulfill your inner geek’s desire to learn more about the science of weather).

Presented in partnership with FirstBank, Bristlecone Mountain Sports, Altitude Audio Visual, OpenSnow, and Odell Brewing.

February 15, 2022 -

Binational Collaboration for the Restoration of the Colorado River Delta

Francisco Zamora, Ph.D., Senior Director of Programs at Sonoran Institute

The Colorado River has not reached the sea in several decades. That is, until a group of NGO’s, government agencies, two countries and private individuals came together and changed that a few years ago. What resulted is an effort to restore wetlands and riparian areas even as stream flows are still at a minimum. Find out how the delta has changed and what the plans are for its future.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

February 8, 2022 -

Earlier Summers and Nutrient Enrichment Promote Growth of Algae in Alpine Lakes

Diane McKnight, Ph.D., Professor, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at University of Colorado

High-elevation lakes are changing due to both climate warming and atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Analysis of long-term data for seven alpine lakes in Colorado, show that ice-off dates have shifted 7 days earlier over the past 33 years and that spring weather conditions—especially snowfall—drive yearly variation in ice-off timing. Dr. McKnight will share the major implications this has on the microbial community in alpine lakes and why we need to pay attention to these changes.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

January 19, 2022 -

Measuring Soil Moisture to Understand a Changing Water Supply

Elise Osenga, Community Science Manager at Aspen Global Change Institute

The past year's record-breaking drought in the Colorado River Basin highlights the urgent need to better understand how climate change is impacting water supplies in the West. Streamflow is determined by an interacting set of variables, and in recent years, one of those variables--soil moisture--has been getting increased attention as an understudied but critical component of the water cycle. This talk will explore how long-term soil moisture monitoring is carried out in the Roaring Fork Valley, how this year's conditions compare to other recent years, and how this data might contribute to understanding local climate impacts.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


December 1, 2021 -

Rolling With the Punches: Colorado Wildfires, Debris Flows, and What to Expect Next Year

Jason Kean, Ph.D., Research Hydrologist, Land Slide Hazards Program at U.S. Geological Survey

Following the worst wildfire season in history, Colorado was hit again by a series of destructive flash floods and debris flows triggered by 2021 monsoon rains. The impacts of debris flow in Glenwood Canyon were especially severe and the threat of repeat events remains. I will discuss the science of predicting post-fire debris flows and outline the ongoing interagency work to identify these hazards and mitigate impacts. I will also describe the state of vegetation recovery and discuss the likelihood of events next year.   

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


November 16, 2021 -

The Colorado River Basin: A River Doesn't Flow Through It

Mark Fuller, Former Executive Director of Ruedi Water and Power Authority

The Colorado River is well-known to residents and visitors to Colorado's western slope but most are not aware of the complicated history that has shaped the past and will dictate the future of this vital water source. This presentation will review the many factors - physical, political, environmental and social - that govern how the Colorado River is managed. We will also explore the challenges that are impacting flows in the Colorado including increased population, climate change and out-of-basin diversions, and we will take a close look at local water developments, like Ruedi Reservoir, and their relationship to the larger watershed.    

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


June 23, 2021 -

Is There Enough Water In the Colorado River to Meet Everyone's Needs?

Andy Mueller, General Manager, Colorado River Water Conservation District

Our legal mechanisms for allocating water in the Colorado River Basin are being tested by a significant decline in flows over the last two decades. While the future remains uncertain for how everyone will receive their water, what is certain is that we are using more than the river provides, and coming to a consensus on the solution continues to be both complex and challenging. Join us for this interactive discussion as we delve into the history of interstate and international water allocation in the Colorado River Basin.   

Read Andy's article on this topic in RFC's spring newsletter, pages 2-3.


March 10, 2021 -

Monitoring Mountain Snowpack for Water Supply Forecasting and Beyond

Karl Wetlaufer, Hydrologist/Assistant Supervisor, USDA-NRCS Colorado Snow Survey

How do scientists measure snowpack and use that data to forecast spring and summer river flows? Why is this area of science necessary in the West? Who exactly uses this data and what can cause uncertainly in streamflow forecasts? You’ll get answers to these questions and more, and find out what is in the 2021 Water Supply Outlook Report. 

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

February 25, 2021 -

Grizzly Creek Wildfire – Estimating Post Fire Watershed Response

Steve Hunter, PE, PH, Utilities Resource Manager, Water Department, City of Aspen, and Former Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Coordinator and Specialist on the White River National Forest

Before joining the City of Aspen just recently, Steve was the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Coordinator and Specialist on the White River National Forest. Steve still works with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management on wildfires, including the recent Grizzly Creek Wildfire. With his extensive background as a professional hydrologic engineer and hydrologist, Steve will present a synopsis of what happens after a wildfire, and provide an overview of the three phases of wildfire restoration including: 1. Suppression repair and resource advisors (READS), 2. Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER), 3. Long-term repair and monitoring with the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), United States Geological Survey Landslide Hazards Program (USGS), and researchers from Utah State University’s Utah Water Research Laboratory. 

View presentation slides HERE.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

February 11, 2021 -

Microplastics: Its Presence and Impacts In the Atmosphere and Aquatic Environments

A two-part presentation by:

Janice Brahney, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Utah State University


Austin Baldwin, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey Idaho Water Science Center

Microplastics are a contaminant class of emerging concern, with many sources and pathways to our environment. In this two-part presentation, Janice Brahney and Austin Baldwin discussed microplastic occurrence and biological uptake in Lake Mead and other aquatic environments, and atmospheric deposition as a recently-recognized pathway to protected lands across the western US. 

Janice's presentation title: Atmospheric deposition of plastics: sources, pathways, and deposition rates

Austin's presentation title: Microplastic Occurrence and Biological Uptake in Lake Mead and Other Aquatic Environments

Watch a recording of their presentation HERE.



January 14, 2021 -

Hot Times for Coldwater Sportfish

Kendall Bakich, Aquatic Biologist, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Low flow and hot, dry summers can be a challenging time for coldwater sportfish popular in renowned fisheries in the Colorado River watershed. Kendall will discuss fish biology and how our favorite coldwater sportfish are impacted during hot, dry summers on Colorado's western slope. She will also talk about how anglers are key to sustaining Colorado's renowned fisheries for the long term.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


November 17, 2020 -

The Economic Impact of River Recreation in Colorado

Molly Mugglestone, Director of Colorado Policy and Communications, Business for Water Stewardship

Rivers are major economic drivers throughout the West, and as people recreate on or near them they are spending dollars that are not inconsequential to the economy. In this presentation, Molly will provide an overview of a new study on the economic impacts of river related recreation in the state of Colorado. This new study was commissioned by Business for Water Stewardship and undertaken by leading economists Southwick and Associates, who have also worked on economic research for the Outdoor Industry Association and Audubon Arizona among many other groups. Understanding how river related recreation contributes the Colorado’s economy helps in making the case for water policy that advances healthy and flowing rivers and encourages conservation and efficiency. 

Read The Economic Contributions of Water-related Outdoor Recreation in Colorado report HERE.


October 15, 2020 -

Rising Temperatures and Declining Flows: The Current and Likely Future of the Colorado River Basin

Andy Mueller, General Manager, Colorado River Water Conservation District

Rising temperatures are robbing the Colorado River system of flows. Drought, aridification of the West and reduced river flows are driving down Lakes Powell and Mead while impacting local water users at the same time. Andy will discuss the basin wide implications through a West Slope lens.

View slides from this presentation HERE.


March 11, 2020 -

The Amazon River: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and A Quest to Kayak the Largest River from Source to Sea

Darcy Gaechter, World Kayaker & Owner/Operator of Small World Adventures in Ecuador

Darcy is the first woman to kayak the Amazon River from Source to Sea! What did it take for her to make her dream come true? Among stunning scenery and Class V rapids, she also encountered ruthless poachers and narco-traffickers, pled for mercy at the hands of one of the tribe’s, and cut her hair to pass as a boy in hopes of saving her life. Darcy will share these stories and more about her 148-day journey down the Amazon River. Her book Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and My Quest to Kayak the Largest River from Source to Sea will also be available for purchase.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


February 13, 2020-

Anchor Ice in Mountain Rivers

Edward Kempema, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, University of Wyoming

Anchor ice forms underwater and attaches to the beds of rivers, lakes, and seas in cold regions. It is a fascinating and poorly understood phenomenon. Dr. Kempema, who has studied ice for 40 years, will discuss the conditions leading to anchor ice formation, distribution in small mountain rivers, and impacts on mountain river systems - including winter flooding - and what potential management practices are available.

December 12, 2019 -

Predicting Powder and the Science of Snow with meteorologist Joel Gratz

Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist, Open Snow

Join Joel for a fun and entertaining evening full of snow and science! Joel will present what the latest research says about how far in advance we can predict powder, he’ll pinpoint which weather patterns bring the most snow to central Colorado, and he will also take you through a live forecast by showing the same satellite, radar, and weather model maps that he uses to make his daily predictions.


November 12, 2019 -

Science Be Dammed; How ignoring inconvenient science drained the Colorado, and its relevance to the future of the Colorado River

Eric Kuhn, Retired General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District and coauthor, with John Fleck, of Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River

In 2018, Eric Kuhn partnered with John Fleck, author of Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths about Water in the West, to write a book about our understanding of Colorado River hydrology. Conventional wisdom is that the compact negotiators did the best they could with a limited gage record that happened to be during a very wet period. Kuhn and Fleck show that contrary to this myth, the politicians, states, and water agencies that shaped the development of the river had the science available to them to make better decisions, but political expedience prevailed and the science was ignored. Today, the Colorado River is overused and facing a future where climate change is reducing its flows. As we shape the future of the Colorado River, will we learn from our past mistakes or will we continue to ignore inconvenient science?  His book Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River will be available in late November 2019.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

October 16, 2019 -

1,000 miles into the future: 150 years after John Wesley Powell’s journey into the arid West

Tom Minckley, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, University of Wyoming

This summer, 63 scientists, artists, authors, journalists, academics and graduate students spent 70 days retracing John Wesley Powell’s 1,000 mile journey on the Colorado River. Expedition leader, Dr. Tom Minckley, will share personal stories about this adventure, what stayed the same or changed since Powell was there 150 years ago, and what the next 150 years will hold for the Colorado River basin if we don’t heed his and Powell’s on-the-ground observations. Learn more about this expedition at

Sponsored by Mr. Adam Holt

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.

July 18, 2019 -

50 Years of River Protection

Nicole Silk, Executive Director, River Network

As water champions celebrate the 50th anniversary of the burning of the Cuyahoga River in northeastern Ohio, Nicole will share what river protections have emerged since that infamous day, and shed light on what the next 50 years of water protection will bring.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


March 11, 2019 -

Restoring Critical Riparian Habitat in the Age of Invasives

Cara Kukuraitis, Outreach & Education Coordinator, RiversEdge West

Tamarisk is an invasive plant that’s been taking over critical riparian areas, displacing much (in some places, all!) of the native vegetation.  How did this plant invade so rapidly, what other impacts does it have on our ecosystem, and what is being done to manage it and other invasive plants in the face of a changing climate?

Funded in part by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Wright Water Engineers.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


February 28, 2019 -

Plant a Seed, Grow a Snowpack: A Discussion of Cloud Seeding in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Dave Kanzer, Deputy Chief Engineer, Colorado River Water Conservation District

What is “cloud seeding” and how is it being employed today (and in the future) across the Upper Colorado River Basin? We’ll explore the science of, lessons learned to date and implications of cloud seeding as a water management tool.

Funded in part by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Wright Water Engineers.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


February 12, 2019 -

How to Manage the Colorado River for the New Normal (Drought)

Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager, Colorado River Water Conservation District

How does the 1922 Colorado River Compact impact 2019 water availability and beyond? Can a critically empty Lake Powell be an asset as we move into a more arid climate and burgeoning population’s water needs?

Funded in part by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Wright Water Engineers.

Watch a recording of the presentation HERE.


Contact Us

Roaring Fork Conservancy

PHONE: (970) 927-1290

PO Box 3349
Basalt, CO 81621

22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

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