Water Quality Conference to Bring Together Scientists, Citizen Researchers

Released: 8-Aug-2014 11:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR)
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Newswise — Citizen and university researchers involved in monitoring water quality at 54 sites on the upper Ohio River basin will gather at the first Convergence at the Confluence conference on Monday, Aug. 11, at Duquesne University.

The daylong conference will discuss findings as well as continued monitoring conducted under the umbrella of Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ) and its partner organizations.
“What is important about this is that a solid baseline of river water quality is being put in place that can distinguish among legacy pollution issues such as abandoned mine drainage, other pollutants from non-point sources and, very significantly, pollution from shale gas exploitation,” said Dr. Stanley Kabala, associate director of Duquesne’s Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), which oversees the monitoring of the Southern Allegheny River portion of the 3RQ region.

“The involvement of local groups and volunteer citizen scientists is central to the project's long-term success,” Kabala noted, making the project sustainable. “This is a matter of enhancing the technical skills of folks who know their territory, its creeks and rivers, and care about their quality.”

Every two weeks since January 2013, following a rigorous schedule and prescribed parameters, professors and students, local groups and individual citizen researchers collect samples from 54 sites on waterways of all sizes throughout the upper Ohio River basin. Their samples are then analyzed and submitted to 3RQ to provide more data and insight to help complete a picture of the basin’s overall health.

Experts will present on water quality specific to 3RQ’s program, including:
• Analyzing Water Chemistry Data in the Upper Ohio Basin (panel discussion including Dr. Brady Porter from Duquesne's biology department)
• Your Watershed, Your Voice
• Site Selection Considerations (lunch presentation)
• Status of Volunteer Monitoring
• Breakout sessions on data collection and interpretation.

Three aspects factor into the project’s significance, Kabala said. “The first is its geographic scope. Encompassing all of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers basins and a significant portion of the Upper Ohio River Basin, 3RQ is one of the largest water monitoring projects of its kind. Second is the very high quality of the water monitoring data and the fact that the same parameters are measured consistently on the same dates. Lastly, the data gather will span a period of two and a half years, which is impressive by any standard."

Dr. Beth Dakin, a post-doctoral researcher in Porter’s lab, archives the materials collected by CERE and its associates, and a student research assistant works with Dakin on collecting the samples.

Convergence at the Confluence is funded by a grant from the Colcom Foundation as part of its larger funding of 3RQ. West Virginia Water Resources Institute at West Virginia University leads the program, which also has Wheeling Jesuit University and the Iron Furnace chapter of Trout Unlimited as partners.

Duquesne University
Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic research universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Its memberships include the Council on Undergraduate Research.

Contacts: Rose Ravasio, 412.396.6051/cell 412.818.0234
Karen Ferrick-Roman, 412.396.1154/cell 412.736.1877


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