Extension Internship Spotlight: Azmal Hossan on water conservation and community connection

Across the state, Colorado State University’s Agricultural Experiment Stations provide science-based information and technologies to support Colorado’s agricultural producers. The Western Colorado Research Center in Grand Valley, CO (WCRC-GV) focuses on innovative agricultural water use practices to support producers on the arid western slope.

In Mesa County, where the WCRC-GV is located, the annual rainfall averages between 8 to 12 inches. The mountains and valleys of western Colorado create unique environments that, when combined with an arid and changing climate, continues to make agricultural production difficult. In August 2021, the Federal government declared a Tier 1 water shortage on the Colorado River (read more from CPR). Facing shortages, communities in the west must adapt to the ongoing pressures of drought and climate change.

Colorado State University researchers and interns have stepped up to the plate to support communities in adapting to changing water resource availability. At the WCRC-GV, CSU researchers and interns work hand-in-hand with local communities to create, evaluate, demonstrate and deploy technologies that improve agricultural irrigation and water conservation.

Azmal Hossan, a PhD student in the Department of Sociology and National Research Trainee in Interdisciplinary Training, Education and Research in Food-Energy-Water Systems (InTERFEWS) at Colorado State University, joined the team at the Grand Valley research center during his summer internship with the CSU Extension Internship Program.

Azmal working on soil samples

“I got a real-life experience and hands-on training on how to establish a drip irrigation system and used the system to produce a different type of agricultural products,” said Hossan.

For Hossan, each day was a combination of experiences during his internship. His daily work involved creating social media posts in the early morning and at 9:00 a.m., going to the field to tend to the irrigation systems and produce.

“You can say I worked in the field (water conservation) and in the actual field,” said Hossan.

The internship experience also informed Hossan’s PhD dissertation about how climate change and regional political-economic structure effects irrigation-based agricultural food production and water governance in Bangladesh.

No experience necessary

The Extension internship program is open to any non-graduating CSU student. Many students choose to pursue an internship related to their field of study, but experience is not required to apply.

Dr. Perry Cabot, Hossan’s mentor at the research center, spoke to Hossan’s valuable additions to water and irrigation research despite a lack of direct experience in the field.

“Despite his lack of engineering background, Azmal enthusiastically jumped into the many technical aspects of the internship,” said Cabot. “With his help, we were able to finish another phase of our large multi-zone drip irrigation system. In fact, his help advanced the construction of the system by an entire year, such that we will now have a total of 66 zones operational by the end of 2021.”

More than just research

For Hossan, the work was not only important but also fulfilling. The Extension internship experience is not only about the job, but also about the connections made with locals, members of local communities and networking with mentors.

Azmal in a field

“At the very beginning of my internship an older guy came to the field with his car and asked if anyone could help him out with identifying a bug,” said Hossan. “I realized how the community surrounding the station are trusting the agricultural station. They know it is an irrigation-based station, but they still come to get their questions answered because they know it is attached to Colorado State University.”

For Hossan, providing a connection between CSU’s innovative research and local communities is important. The internship experience shed light on how interconnected local communities are to Colorado State University, a bridge made possible by CSU Extension’s community-based staff across the state.

Watch a short video about Azmal’s Extension internship experience here.

Extension Internship Spotlights

In this series, follow the stories of students who interned within the Office of Engagement and Extension through the Extension Internship Program. Through experiential learning in hands-on internships, students learn and grow in partnership with communities across the state. Internships for next summer will be announced in January 2022. Learn more and get started at intern.colostate.edu