Archive for the ‘monitoring’ tag
Today is World Water Monitoring Day! Participate by ordering a test kit and submitting sample data through December of this year. Also, check out the ocean of other water citizen science projects on SciStarter.
Here at SciStarter, we spend a lot of time supporting citizen science, but we also happen to be citizen scientists ourselves. In the spirit of World Water Monitoring Day, I trekked to the Charles River in Boston to grab a water sample. Barring all potential parking and trespassing violations, it was a success! Still, you might wonder, why does this sample matter? Why care about water?
I’m glad you asked. But before I dive deeper (pun intended), here are some facts to consider. An adult human is made of ~60% water. About 70% of Earth is covered by water. We need water for our metabolic processes internally and for our day-to-day tasks externally. Water is there when you shower, brush your teeth, or guzzle down a drink after a run. Water is also essential for the productivity of farms, which, in turn, provide us food. You get the picture: we need water. Likewise, so do other animals and plants, especially those that live in or near aquatic environments.
Consequently, the sample data collected and submitted by millions of people on World Water Monitoring Day not only benefit us human beings. It also helps scientists better understand a multitude of aquatic environments around the globe.
Participating couldn’t be easier. World Water Monitoring Challenge, an education and outreach program, provides kits that you can purchase and use to sample the water in your area. Here are the main concepts behind what you can test and why it’s important to do so.
Turbidity, the measure of relative water clarity. This is important when producing drinking water for human consumption and for many manufacturing uses. Turbid water may be the result of soil erosion, urban runoff, algal blooms, and bottom sediment disturbances caused by boat traffic and bottom-feeding fish. (You can even make your own secchi disk to measure turbidity.)
pH, a measurement of the acidic or basic quality of water. Most aquatic animals are adapted to a specific range of pH level and could die, stop reproducing, or move away if the pH of the water varies beyond their range. Low pH levels can also allow toxic compounds to be exposed to aquatic plants and animals. pH can be affected by atmospheric deposition (acid rain), wastewater discharge, drainage from mines, or the type of rock in the surrounding area.
Dissolved oxygen levels. Natural water with consistently high dissolved oxygen levels is most likely to sustain stable and healthy environments. Changes to aquatic environments can affect the availability of oxygen in the water. High levels of bacteria or large amounts of rotting plants can cause the oxygen saturation to decrease, which affects the ability of plants and animals to survive in and around it.
Water temperature. If temperatures are outside an organism’s normal range, the organism could become stressed or potentially die. Temperature also affects the rate of photosynthesis in aquatic plants as well as their sensitivity to toxic wastes, parasites, and disease. Furthermore, water temperature can affect the amount of oxygen water can hold (cold water holds more oxygen than warm water).
This project is ideal for anyone who lives near a water source, educators who want ideas to teach students about water chemistry, or citizen scientists hoping to contribute to an increasingly important field of research.
It’s the perfect project to illustrate that when it comes to citizen science, you can dive right in.
“How Much Water is There On, In, and Above Earth?” USGS. Web. 9/18/13
“Importance of Turbidity.” Environmental Protection Agency. 9/18/13
“The Water in You.” USGS. Web. 9/18/13
World Water Monitoring Challenge booklet
“World Water Monitoring Day.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 9/18/13
Images: Lily Bui
Lily Bui is the executive editor of SciStarter. She holds dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine. She has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works in public media at WGBH-TV and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Boston, MA. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns. Follow @dangerbui.
This post is part of this week’s featured projects about water quality monitoring. Take a look!
Clean water. We all need it. It is necessary for human health, food security, economic growth, and preservation of natural habitats. Sadly, human activity often threatens water quality. Tracking water quality is a crucial step is maintaining safe water. It is also a huge effort.
Across the nation, individuals volunteer their time to monitor the waters in their local streams, bays and waterways. Monitoring activities include testing water chemistry, species surveys, physical assessments of watershed characteristics and surrounding habits, among others. The data collected enable researchers, policymakers, watershed organizations and local citizens to understand how our activities affect water quality, an important step learning how to protect these valuable resources.
With so many individual groups, understanding and implementing training and testing is a challenge. Recognizing this, the Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network was established. By increasing support and communication between groups, the hope is to build a cohesive “best practices” handbook for current and future groups. The network has made a significant push to help groups to get started, and to build the capacity of existing groups. Already, their website is rich with resources on training guides, equipment suggestions, to validation studies which individual groups can use to grow and develop their efforts.
Most recently, the project launched a completely updated online directory of volunteer water monitoring programs in the United States. Their directory map provides links to over 400 programs which represent 1800 different water monitoring initiatives. All programs listed were contacted to ensure they were still active and previously unlisted programs were added as well. The website also has a list of the monitoring programs.
Here at SciStarter, we have a number of water-related programs that are certainly worth checking out. Here is a small sample:
Creek Freaks – Participants gather information on stream health, posting the information on an interactive map.
Great Lakes Environmental Monitoring – Help monitor water quality around the Great Lakes.
Wading for Water Sticks – Volunteers study water sticks insects and their water environments.
Marine Debris Tracker – A mobile app that tracks debris along your local coastline or waterway.
SeaNet – Volunteers measure the effects of offshore developments on seabirds
Secchi Dip-In – Annually in July, participants are asked to take a transparency measurement in a local waterway. (Deadline for this year was July 21.)
To browse over 600 active citizen science projects, visit SciStarter’s project finder.
Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.
Calling all water monitoring groups! It is time for the annual Secchi Dip-In. From now until July 22, volunteer and professional water monitoring groups are being asked to take transparency measurements in a local body of water.
A secchi disk is a common tool for measuring water turbidity, or water cloudiness. Turbidity is caused by small particles suspended in the water and is a reflection of water quality. To take turbidity measurements, on a calm and bright day the user lowers the disk into the water until the disk is no longer visible. The depth of the disk is used to calculate turbidity. Land erosion from construction or mining, pollution run-off or increases in algae all lead to higher turbidity.
Started in 1994 at Kent State University, Ohio, the Dip-In always takes place during the first few weeks of July. Participants only have to take one transparency per body of water with their secchi disk. The project helpfully provides links for purchasing disks if you do not already have one.
While project organizers prefer that measurements are taken during the “official” dip-in period, participants are welcome to add data from anytime of the year as well as past years. Currently over 2,000 water bodies are being tracked, most of which are in North America. The data are accessible to anybody interested.
In addition to transparency measurements, participants are asked to give their general impressions of the water quality as well as the area’s general aesthetics and recreational properties. These qualitative data help project researchers ascertain the potential sources affecting water quality.
To learning more or to participate, visit Secchi Dip-In.
Find other environmental projects (and over 600+ other citizen science projects) using our Project Finder.
Dr. Carolyn Graybeal earned her PhD in neuroscience from Brown University in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. After graduating, she became a Christian Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the National Academies of Science where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the policy side of science. In addition the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science. Originally from California, she is learning to identify the four seasons of the East Coast and is getting pretty good at it.
Some of you may have fond memories of summers spent kneeling by nearby streams, peering intently for crayfish to play with (or cook up for dinner!). These tiny, lobster-like creatures are a staple of freshwater ecosystems, southern menus, and even neuroscience classes. (No kidding — I learned about action potentials from a wonderful college professor who studies crayfish!)
Not all crayfish are alike — some native species of crawdad are being outcompeted by invasive, non-native species. Indeed, nearly half of the North American crayfish varieties are considered to be threatened.
To combat the non-native invasion, Craywatch.org is enlisting citizen scientists to monitor the spread of invasive crayfish in North America. To participate, all you need is a smartphone with a camera and a GPS tag! Find a crayfish, snap a couple of close-ups, and upload to the group’s Flickr account. Presto — you’re a citizen scientist!
The Cloned Plants Project needs citizen scientists to observe the leafing and flowering of cloned plants, like lilacs and dogwoods, and submit their findings to researchers. These observations will help researchers better understand the interaction between the atmosphere (weather and climate) and the biosphere (living organisms).
The project is part of the USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN)’s nationwide effort to make phenology data available to researchers and decision-makers. Phenology is the study of life cycle events of plants and animals and how these events impact the climate. Science for Citizens is currently offering a phenology project on Robins through our partnership with USA-NPN, NBC Learn, the National Science Foundation, and Discover Magazine. (If you spot a robin, let us know here!)
I had a chance to chat with Erin Posthumus, an outreach assistant at the USA-NPN’s National Coordinating Office. She gave me all the details on the Cloned Plants Project, including how you can contribute and what will happen with all the data. Off we go!
First things first: what’s a cloned plant?
Erin: Cloned plants are genetically identical individual plants.
Why would you use a cloned plant to conduct a study?
Erin: Making observations on plants that have the same genetic make-up (clones) allows us to separate environmental responses from genetic responses. If we monitor a cloned lilac in New York and a cloned lilac in Georgia, we can look at differences between them, such as later bloom time, and better detect the climate change signal.