May 26, 2015

Author: Kim Lennberg

In early 2014, a paper was published in the Journal of Hydraulic Engineering introducing and defining a stream restoration body of knowledge (SR-BOK) (Niezgoda et al. 2014) intended to advance the practice of river restoration. The SR-BOK includes a detailed series of competencies developed as a guide for establishing a minimum level of knowledge in the interdisciplinary fields and practices related to stream restoration. A complete pdf of the paper is attached here, and the citation is provided at the end of this blog post.

Colorado Riparian Association (CRA) members have worked with Dr. Niezgoda, a lead author of the SR-BOK paper, during its development and following its release to help introduce the concepts to Colorado. CRA encourages the use of the SR-BOK as a voluntary tool for stream restoration practitioners in Colorado.

River restoration is a multi-disciplinary field, requiring skills and input from engineers, geomorphologists, hydrologists, biologists, ecologists, construction experts, permitting specialists, and others. A successful river restoration team is often composed of several, if not all, of these disciplines. The paper argues that it is essential for all practitioners to have some level of competency in as many of these fields as possible in order to:

  • successfully practice river restoration;
  • understand the complexities involved in a particular restoration project;
  • be able to effectively communicate with the other disciplines on a restoration team; and
  • apply the proper standard of care in the practice of restoration.

No single person can be an expert in everything. Voluntary use of the SR-BOK helps us each strive for appropriate levels of knowledge in all areas of restoration with resulting benefits that include focusing our individual professional development and building comprehensive restoration teams suited for specific project needs.

The SR-BOK was generated by a panel of experts representing the technical competencies identified for river restoration. Members of the Stream Restoration Educational Materials Task Committee and technical reviewers include practitioners, government representatives, and academics in the fields of fisheries, geomorphology, ecology, and engineering.

With the lofty goal of advancing and improving the quality of restoration planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and management, the Task Committee set out to:

  • define the essential concepts and skills necessary for general practitioners in the stream restoration field to master;
  • establish a baseline for academic courses, programs, and curricula;
  • facilitate a stream restoration certification; and
  • provide benchmarks for assessing the skills and capabilities of practicing

To accomplish these objectives, the Task Committee completed an exhaustive review of the current stream restoration educational manuals, short courses, university programs, and professional certificate programs; conducted a practitioner survey to assess professional development and training needs; and synthesized and developed a stream restoration body of knowledge for education and training based on the results of the first two tasks. The SR-BOK defines the knowledge areas, key concepts, and relevant skills that constitute core expertise in the stream restoration field.

The competency areas, or “outcomes,” included in the general practitioner SR-BOK are as follows:

Foundational Outcomes:

  • Hydrology
  • Hydraulics
  • Fluvial geomorphology
  • Sediment transport
  • Stream ecology
  • Habitat structure and function
  • Fish biology
  • Plant ecology and riparian dynamics

Technical Outcomes:

  • Surveying/hydrometry
  • Watershed analysis
  • Geomorphic and habitat assessment
  • Biomonitoring/bioassessment
  • Alternatives analysis
  • Analytical techniques
  • Restoration design
  • Uncertainty and risk

Professional Outcomes:

  • Project development
  • Restoration policy (codes and regulations)
  • Communication and information management
  • Construction inspection
  • Professional and ethical responsibility

In addition to the list of outcomes (including detailed definitions of each), the paper also identifies the minimum level of learning for each of the 21 competencies that fulfills the breadth and depth requirement for practicing professionals. The levels of learning are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. For those practitioners who are engineers, one additional professional outcome is added (construction management), and the required levels of learning are slightly more rigorous.

The authors of this paper are exploring the use of this SR-BOK as a basis for a national certification program for practitioners working in stream restoration. It may also be used to benchmark educational programs such as bachelor’s or master’s-level stream restoration programs, as well as professional certificate programs. On a personal level, we at CRA encourage you to use it as a voluntary self-assessment tool for setting a professional development path and/or helping to gauge areas of weakness or limitation that would benefit from more attention and supplemental education. CRA is willing to collect feedback on the SR-BOK and any of its potential uses.

Here at CRA, we are attempting to broaden and strengthen the education and training of our members by organizing and facilitating the Colorado Stream Restoration Network (CSRN), a series of workshops designed to convene local stream restoration professionals and interested members of the public to learn and discuss all aspects of restoration. We are using the SR-BOK as a guide for CSRN topics and areas of exploration, inviting experts and practitioners to speak about many of the SR-BOK outcomes. In 2015, the meetings so far have covered project management (consisting of flood recovery case studies), fisheries biology, and monitoring. Meetings are held every other month in Longmont, and CRA members receive advanced notice and early registration opportunities. Our next CSRN seminar on June 4 will focus on riparian vegetation and urban challenges. Please join us!

Upcoming tentative CSRN meeting dates and topics are as follows:

July 30: stream structure and infrastructure

October 1: fluvial geomorphology and sediment transport

December 3: stream ecology, habitat structure and function

Future CRA blog posts will delve deeper into the competencies identified by the SR-BOK and explore some of the different ways the SR-BOK can be used by our Colorado riparian community. The next related post will include the SR-BOK’s detailed self-assessment spreadsheet tool. Interested members can download and populate the spreadsheet in order to evaluate areas where additional training or focus may be warranted. CRA advocates the use of this self-assessment spreadsheet as a voluntary tool for personal use only, and is not providing the tool as a step toward any required certification for practicing river restoration. Stay tuned for more information on this cutting-edge topic!

Niezgoda, S.L., P.R. Wilcock, D.W. Baker, J. Mueller Price, J.M. Castro, J.C. Curran, T. Wynn-Thompson, J.S. Schwartz, and F. D. Shields. 2014. Are We Certifiable? Defining a Stream Restoration Body of Knowledge as a Foundation for National Certification. ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering. February 2014, 140: 123-136.


Colorado Riparian Association