Field Notes
Field Notes

"Our Live Stream" citizen science event brings water to life

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Posted by
Hailey Sauer, Environmental Research Fellow

Students in the KAYSC program taught visitors how to measure water quality. (Photo by Mark Edlund)

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Maroon Tiger (1947)

This past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Science Museum of MN offered visitors the opportunity to think critically about water quality and its impact on society. Visitors, with the help of museum staff, were able to engage with the science of water chemistry and biology by testing various water samples collected from all over the nation.

Participants had the opportunity to use a research microscope to look at algae, especially diatoms and cyanobacteria, growing under the ice. Then, they tested waters from the nearby Mississippi River, local metropolitan lakes, the Colorado River, and the Gulf of Mexico for chloride, chlorophyll, transparency, and nitrates, and compared their measurements to state and federal standards.

The activity inspired excellent discussions about how water quality affects everyone’s life, and how we can protect this priceless resource.

Project “Our Live Stream” provided experiential learning around water quality issues as well as engaged people of all ages and skill levels with water science. While scientists from the St.  Croix Watershed Research Station (SCWRS) were on hand to coordinate the activities, it was a group of high school students who taught visitors how to analyze water quality and interpret the resulting data.

The high school students are part of the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC), a museum program that uses out-of-school activities and employment to expose untapped students to STEM fields, community service, as well as develop leadership skills in the name of career development. A week before the event, the crew learned about water quality and standards, discussed how water quality affects everyone’s life, and were trained by SCWRS staff on how to measure and interpret water quality data.

Sharing passion for water

A young person helps a girl and an adult as they pour water during a science experiment.

At the event, the KAYSC students guided kids and families through the steps of water quality testing and microscope analysis of algae. Data were plotted, which showed some samples exceeding Minnesota’s chloride and federal nitrate standards and led to conversations about where these compounds and nutrients come from and how we might understand and address their exceedance.

At SCWRS we’re motivated by our passion for protecting our most precious resource, water, through science.  We enjoyed working with KAYSC and other museum partners to share what we know and how we know it with a broad audience.

If you’re interested in learning more about water quality issues and how they impact your favorite lake or river join us for our next “Our Live Stream” event on Friday, July 19 from 12-4 p.m. You bring your water sample and we’ll bring the science. See you then!

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