Archive for the ‘water quality’ tag
When you wake up in the morning and start your daily routine—take a shower, brush your teeth, cook breakfast—do you ever stop to wonder where all that water you’re using comes from? It’s availability (or lack thereof) is certainly not a common worry in the United States, where as of 2005 (the latest assessment of national water use conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey) about 86 percent of the population relies on public water supplies for household use. Turn a faucet handle, and water, the world’s most precious, life-giving resource, is simply there, ready to cool us or clean us or quench us of our thirst, wherever we need it, whenever we want it.
But for how much longer? Climate change, pollution and unprecedented global demand are already threatening the world’s water supply according to a United Nations World Water Development Report released earlier this year. (SciStarter partnered with Discover Magazine, the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn to explore the Future of Water as part of our Changing Planet series.)
In response to these challenges, two international nonprofit organizations, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the International Water Association (IWA), partnered up to launch a challenge of their own.
Today, September 18, is World Water Monitoring Day, a key component of the broader World Water Monitoring Challenge that runs from March 22 to December 31. Thousands of people from around the world will use low cost monitoring kits to test their local water bodies for the basic indicators of watershed health–temperature, acidity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen—and enter their results into a shared online database. It’s not too late to get involved. The program’s administrators hope that participants will not only learn which rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs supply their communities but also become aware of the unique combination of environmental challenges each one faces.
“These are issues the next generation will have to cope with,” said Lorien Walsh of the Water Environment Federation. “The water we drink today is the same water people have been drinking for thousands of years. It is a finite resource, and we can’t use it if it’s not clean.”
In 2011, over 300,000 people from nearly 80 countries participated in the World Water Monitoring Challenge. Taking clean water for granted might be common in the United States, but it is a luxury people can ill afford in the developing world, where three million people, most of them women and children, die from water-borne illnesses like cholera every year.
“Kids in Kansas can see the data they collected and compare it to the data collected by kids in the Congo,” said Walsh. “There’s a stark difference.”
Guest post by Kate Atkins
If your first thoughts when you hear the word “cruise” are fruity drinks with paper umbrellas, jet skis, and late nights in the hot tub: think again.
Replace the hot tub with Mendenhall Glacier, the fruity drink with test tubes of fresh stream water, and the jet ski with a whale watching boat, and you begin to get the picture. If you have the fortune to find yourself on a ship through Alaska’s Inside Passage, you’ll find an extra citizen science kick in Juneau. The Whales and Glacier Science Adventure, run by Gastineau Guiding, does not disappoint.
On the surface, the excursion seems little different from any One Day in Juneau itinerary: visiting the mighty Mendenhall, going whale watching. (I would add eating at Tracy’s King Crab Shack to the list as well, but you’re not here for menu tips.)
But on this excursion, participants collect real data that will be put to real use. On the day my family and I joined the tour, our guides were a PhD student in evolutionary biology, and a Juneau native on her way to her first biology degree. Jason and Annika did a great job engaging a group whose ages ranged from 7 to 70, which is no small feat in itself. Each of us emerged having learned something new and having gotten our hands dirty.
In the Mendenhall area, we stopped at a small fresh water stream to test water quality. Our guides provided us with kits to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and salinity. In a rapidly changing, successional ecosystem, these data are forming the baseline for tracking change as the glacier continues to melt, and as tourist infrastructure evolves around it. The data will be shared with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Juneau Watershed Partnership and other organizations for analysis in myriad projects. Read the rest of this entry »
Changing Currents, a project originating in Toronto, Canada, familiarizes middle- and high-school students with local watersheds and teaches them how to conduct water quality analyses.
This is a great way for students to become environmental scientists for a day! After heading out to a local stream and donning hip waders, students collect water samples and analyze their data. Through this program, students get out in nature for a while and learn about the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Urban watersheds can be adversely affected by many problems, including urban run-off and storm water, agriculture, and pesticide use. It is imperative to keep watersheds clean, not only for us humans (who depend on natural sources for our drinking water!) but also for the animals and plants in the larger ecosystems that these waterways support.
In addition to learning a bit about science and nature, students also contribute their data to a larger study of Toronto-area watersheds and are encouraged to take action if they find problems in their local streams and rivers. Want to see what it’s like? Check out their fun video!
The Changing Currents group created a thorough, well-organized field manual for teachers to help organize scholarly stream outings. Take a look inside and learn how to conduct a survey and identify aquatic critters!
To get involved, first register with the group and then attend a training session or host a Student Stream Assessment Workshop. Students can learn more about water quality and biomonitoring in the Student Area of the website.
We think you’d look great in hip waders, so take a look and get out there! Read the rest of this entry »
Christine Goforth is an entomology Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on the aquatic insects of the Sonoran Desert, especially the parental care behaviors of the giant water bugs and using aquatic insects to indicate and manage water quality issues in Arizona.
In July of 2009, a friend and I arrived at a lake to collect water samples for work. We had worked at the lake many times, but something was different that day: several hundred dragonflies were flying over the grass.
We often saw dragonflies, but there were 50 times the usual number and they weren’t in their usual places. We knew something exciting was happening, so we jotted down notes. I returned to the lake twice to record more observations of the swarm and simply appreciate the marvel of nature that I witnessed. Then they were gone.
That experience changed me. I am an aquatic entomologist with an interest in dragonfly behavior, but that swarm captured my attention like nothing else. I needed to know more about it! I looked into the scientific literature to find answers, but discovered that little is known about dragonfly swarms.
Energy is a strange thing. It floats around you, fills you up until you’re about ready to burst, and then it skips off, leaving you to keep up as best you can. Last Thursday and Friday were two full days of such energy, when 60 professionals from such exotic places as Alaska, Colombia and New Jersey got together to discuss why and how public participation in scientific research (PPSR) is necessary if we are to save the world’s biodiversity. The amazing thing about this workshop wasn’t so much that these people had a similar goal (after all, who doesn’t want to save the world?), but rather that the participants brought such a diversity of backgrounds, academic disciplines and institutions to the table.
Although the participation of citizens in scientific research goes back centuries, it is only very recently that there has been a push and pull from many different areas, leading to an amazing expansion of this kind of research and a demand for new ideas, ways to engage, and methods to understand how and why this can ultimately lead us forward in conservation. The 50+ projects that were represented during this workshop illustrated this expansion not only by what they had in common – citizen engagement, data collection, and links to better conservation management – but also by what they didn’t. While some projects, like FrogWatch USA or Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, invite participants from across the United States to collect data on a wide geographical scale, other projects such as Ndee bini’ bida’ilzaahi (Pictures of Apache Land) and the Fresno Bird Count are place-specific, uniquely adapted to the needs of their local community and natural environment. Read the rest of this entry »
Did you know that you can contribute to science by blowing bubbles? It’s true! The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network is asking citizen scientists in England to use bubbles to calculate wind direction and speed.
All you need to do is create a “bubble cone” using a piece of paper and some tape. Then, with some bubble solution, you’re ready to start launching bubbles and recording in which direction and how far they travel. Researchers on OPAL’s Climate Survey will use this data to investigate how human activities affect the climate.
This is just one of five easy ways that you can help scientists study the state of England’s natural environment. OPAL’s projects offer a wide range of opportunities to study biodiversity, soil health, air and water quality, and the impact of humans on climate.
The best part: people from all age groups and skill levels can participate, and the project website offers easy step-by-step instructions. It usually doesn’t take more than an hour to make an important contribution to science.
A new partnership between Microsoft and the European Environmental Agency is combining detailed scientific information on air and water quality with observations made by citizen scientists.
Ever wondered about the air quality in Copenhagen? Or perhaps the water quality in Paris?
Eye on Earth uses Microsoft’s Bing Maps to combine goespatial and environmental data from 22,000 bathing sites and 1,000 air quality monitoring stations throughout Europe. An “air quality model” provides the air pollution situation between air quality monitoring stations.
Citizen scientists can contribute their knowledge by clicking on simple user feedback icons. For each location, the map displays the average yearly value of all ratings submitted by citizen scientists. Users can then overlay the environmental data with their own observations with the click of a mouse.
The Science for Citizens Project Finder is filled with hundreds of citizen science projects, and it’s growing larger every day thanks to submissions by project coordinators, volunteers, and other members of the Science for Citizens community.
I’m highlighting a trio of recently added citizen science projects to introduce you to a few new ways to satisfy your citizen science cravings: