Plymouth State students oversee volunteer water sampling project

July 16th, 2013 by Lynn

    PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY Environmental Science and Policy graduate students Ashley Hyde and Matt Bartley collect water samples in the Pemigewasset River in Plymouth July 8. COURTESY

    PLYMOUTH — On July 16, volunteers throughout New Hampshire have committed to collecting water samples in the State’s rivers and streams to take a ‘snapshot’ of water quality.

    Plymouth State University is overseeing this unique water sampling project with the goal of improving the understanding of New Hampshire’s water resources and providing data to be used by resource managers, state agencies, researchers, and educators.

    How does it work? Approximately 50 volunteers throughout New Hampshire have committed to collecting water samples that will be sent to PSU and a University of New Hampshire lab for detailed lab analysis of a number of different chemicals in water.

    PSU is believed to be the first to organize such an effort in New Hampshire — and effort that has involved hours of planning and logistics. Errin Volitis, a research technician with the Center for the Environment at PSU is helping to coordinate the effort.

    “Each sampling day involves volunteers carefully collecting filtered water samples from their site,” said Volitis. “The samples are then frozen for storage and set to a laboratory for analysis. PSU has provided each volunteer with sampling supplies and instructions, but the volunteers have made the project possible.”

    Assistant professor of hydrology Mark Green is the researcher who developed the project concept.

    “The idea was to give us three snapshots of NH’s rivers and streams allowing us to better understand the difference between water resources in the State, and how these water resources respond to the different types of land use,” Green said. “The data from this project will be extremely valuable in creating new understanding about our water conditions in New Hampshire.”

    The river sites where water samples are being collected are part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation through a cooperative agreement to the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Since 2012, state-of-the-art sensors have been recording temperature, electrical conductivity, and river height continuously at each of the water sampling sites.

    The network has been designed to include all watershed sizes, shapes and land uses, which are geographically dispersed across New Hampshire. The network is coordinated by a group of researchers, staff and students at Plymouth State University and implemented by a broad group of partners, including educators, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and citizen scientists.

    “The water samples will be analyzed to determine basic measures of water quality. We are looking at concentrations of phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in addition to pH, turbidity or clarity, and major ions (Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Sulfate, Nitrate). These ions are major contributors to electrical conductivity, so they will help us interpret the water electrical conductance data we get from the sensors,” said Green.

    Data from the July 16 sampling project will be analyzed this fall and results shared then. “We can’t thank everyone enough,” said Volitis.

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