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Permanently Monitoring our Streams

By Jake Francis, Director of Education, Schrader Center — As part of the expansion of our Mission Ground Truth:21 program, which gives regional 8th graders a chance to explore the process of inquiry and careers in science while immersing them in nature, we have installed three permanent stream probes in the streams in and around Oglebay Park.  We have received six probes, called Waterbots, through our partnership with the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Education Lab (CREATE) at Carnegie Mellon University, that strives to empower communities through robotic technology.

Permanent stream probes are not a revolutionary new idea; in fact many old dams and weirs served the purpose of measuring stream discharge.  What is revolutionary about the CREATE Lab’s Waterbots is their low cost, which increases citizen scientist’s (like our Mission Ground Truthers) access to high quality continuous water quality data sets.

Waterbots measure two stream parameters, conductivity and temperature.  Conductivity is a measurement of how quickly electricity passes through water.  Conductivity is a good indicator of pollution because any chemical dissolved in the stream (e.g. nitrate fertilizers, ammonia based soaps, oils, etc) will change the conductivity, thus a large

unexpected fluctuation in the conductivity of our streams will indicate that we need to investigate that area a little more closely.  Temperature fluctuations affect conductivity measurements, and when both parameters are combined we are able to estimate the Total Dissolved Solutes (TDS) in the stream.  The data we collect using our Waterbots will be open to educators and the general public who are concerned about threats to our local water quality.

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One Response

  1. Crazy cool!

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