water sampling

Rare Human Species Sighted in the NYC Metro Area!

By Paula Zevin

Stop the presses! This is major news and must be reported on the spot!

It seems that the workshops held at EPA Region 2’s New York City Headquarters and at the Edison Environmental Center in New Jersey on June 19 and 20, 2012 respectively, have lead to sightings of an elusive human species: homo sapiens civis naturalis.

Homo sapiens civis naturalis

In laymen’s language this would be the Citizen Scientist. Yes, we knew that they were out there, performing such valuable work as mapping local waterways, monitoring for indoor air quality, assessing bacteria in the Hudson River or the water quality of Pompeston Creek in southern New Jersey, and educating at-risk communities about pollutants in their midst and how to improve conditions. Moreover, they seem to have found their ways into cities and suburbs in equal measure.

The Citizen Science workshops, the very first ones to be sponsored by EPA Region 2 and held under the aegis of our Regional Administrator, Judith Enck, and of the Director of the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment, Deb Szaro, were an unequivocal success. The agenda featured similar tracks for both the City and Edison sessions: on what to consider when starting a volunteer monitoring group, success stories for groups monitoring the air, water and habitat in New York and New Jersey, information on funding, academic/state government partnerships with non-profit organizations, data use by States and data interpretation, an intro to Quality Assurance, tools of the future and instrument and web tools demos. Conference feedback has been very positive and we have learned a few valuable lessons for the future of these workshops. More information will become available in the near future on a new web site specifically dedicated to Citizen Science, on Region 2’s social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, this blog), and through a Wiki. If anyone is interested in finding out more about this topic, please contact Pat Sheridan (sheridan.patricia@epa.gov).

How, do you ask, did we manage to lure h.sapiens civis naturalis out into the open and into our workshops? Well, studies have shown that this elusive species is very attracted to a food group collectively known as MAGIC BARS.

Amazing, isn’t it? This delicious food group boasts a large number of recipes with variations on the same, delectable ingredients: shredded coconut, chocolate chips, roasted or toasted chopped nuts, sweet condensed milk and a buttery crust to hold everything together. It appears that Deb’s recipe is irresistible to most, if not all h.sapiens civis naturalis and the siren song of those lovely morsels brought out the best in them. I’m pretty sure that there are a few secret specimens within the ranks of EPA, State and Local Governments, as well as in academia, because there were a couple of near-fights over who got corners or the last pieces.

Fortunately, all is well that ends well. Civility prevailed and with the assurance of future events, featuring interesting topics and Deb’s Magic Bars, the two days concluded peacefully. If you’d like to conduct your own anthropological or scientific studies, let us know, we will share the super-secret recipe with you. Hush, just don’t tell anyone else…

About the author: Paula Zevin is currently an Environmental Engineer in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment at the Edison Environmental Center. Her work is centered on the technical and programmatic aspects of ambient water monitoring. She is also the volunteer water monitoring coordinator for EPA Region 2. Paula has been with EPA since 1991, and has worked in the chemical, pharmaceutical, textile and cosmetic industries prior to joining EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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TEAM ECK H20

student

The Great Lakes are a Midwest treasure, and the students at Harper Woods Middle School in Michigan know it.  That is why they were recently recognized in a national competition for their environmental stewardship of the Great Lakes.

Team ECK H20 , as they’re called, wanted to research the unseen threats to human and environmental health in water sources, specifically the Milk River and the 10 Mile Drain which is in their community.  This team of 13 year old girls built and deployed water sampling buoys that contained plates designed to use a chemical called EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) to extract harmful chemicals that may be in the water.  They then collected the sample plates to measure the levels of pollution and toxic chemicals in each water location.  With the assistance of a lab team from University of Connecticut, the girls uncovered that there were lower levels of pollution in the 10 Mile Drain when compared to the Milk River location.  The girls’ think that the EPA’s recent clean up of the Ten Mile Drain is contributing to the lower pollution levels.

When asked about their efforts, one team member, Emily, said, “It just tells us that we have to be more careful; with how we treat our lakes and water sources.” This project has opened up Emily’s eyes to a future in environmental law.  The girls hope that they can continue their research next year as 8th graders.  In the meantime, they have coordinated beach clean-up teams and have presented their project findings to local government agencies.

Great things are happening in Michigan. Team ECK H20 is just one example.

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday:Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop Day 7!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

Workshop Day#7, Teachers teaching teachers

Tuesday afternoon the US EPA’s Research Vessel Lake Guardian returned to port in Duluth, MN, where we were joined by five teachers who were participating in a shore-based Great Lakes science workshop with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve . The teachers from theshore-based workshop had been sampling in the National Estuarine Research Reserve located in the St. Louis River, during the past two days to measure its environmental quality.

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.
NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

Our sampling plan was to sample in the St. Louis River, close to the reserve, and then sample out in the lake so that the teachers could compare the environmental quality. But as we arrived at the station and began to start our sampling, something different happened – something that had not happened while we were sampling on Lake Superior. The teachers stepped up. The scientists stood back. Those teachers who have been with us the past week described the scientific instruments to the shore-based educators. Then they explained what the data were used for and how the data should be interpreted. The shore-based educators, in turn, looked at the results and told the boat-based educators how the values we got near the reserve or out in the lake compared to the results they had obtained in the river. I was greatly impressed. The teachers were now teaching the teachers.

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

A week ago, I stood alongside our rosette, a sampling device that is lowered into the lake to measure its physical and chemical properties, and carefully explained the way it worked, why it took the data it did, and why that was useful to scientists. A week later, the workshop teachers can explain with confidence the same device and provide personal stories about how it was important to the science in which they participated during the past week. Scientific terms that were foreign are now familiar. Concepts that were difficult are now comfortable. This is all evidence for the value of this immersive experience. When we have teachers working shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists, the teachers truly internalize the information and so they have the confidence to share it with others. And now they can share it with their students – the next generation of stewards of our Great Lakes.

This blog is the last in our Workshop series, thanks for joining us on the journey! Check out the Workshop website for much more information, including blogs by the teachersand podcasts.

About the author: Dr. Joel Hoffman is a research biologist in EPA’s Mid-Continent Ecology division, and. the head scientist for the 2011 Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline workshop on Lake Superior.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Hot Work In The Summertime

By Jeffrey Robichaud

Boy did the summer get away from me. Unlike one of my fav Sly and the Family Stone songs, it was mostly Hot Work in the Summertime this year. I had intentions of posting a series of entries about urban waters, but instead we spent most of the summer conducting monitoring around Kansas City, across the Midwest, and even the Gulf of Mexico. Although, I have lots to blog about, I would be a heel if I didn’t first give a big thank you to a couple of special folks who just left us.

This year we partnered with Greenworks in Kansas City who graciously summertimeagreed to share one of their students with us to help in sampling urban lakes. Aeesha was a great help to us as we sampled over 30 lakes in the metro for chemistry, bacteria, bugs, fish, and habitat. Although I know she had fun sampling, I think her favorite part was helping to establish a mussel collection…yes you might not believe it but there are mussels in urban streams.

We also saw the return of two of the hardest working interns anywhere, Loren and Megan, who joined us for a third and fourth tour of duty. Both have grown up before our eyes, and learned a ton since the first time we had them aspirate algae off rocks (you really don’t want to know). I’m not sure that we will know what to do without them next year if they don’t return.

So a big thank you to, as my staff calls them, “our kids” who returned to school this fall, since your energy always reminds us older folks why we care about urban water quality. Or as Sly might say, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).

About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998. He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.