North Carolina is a paradise for anyone who loves being on a river or stream—but that’s only true as long as the water quality in those waterways stays good. Criss-crossed with numerous streams and rivers, the state is home to MountainTrue: a dedicated group of people working to protect watershed health in the state. Fortunately for them, they’re not doing that work alone. Southern Regional Director and Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan spoke to EM about the volunteer programs run by MountainTrue, and the ways those programs extend the reach of the organization.
The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) has been a hotspot for a broad range of environmental variability. Perched near Gothic, Colorado, an old mining town, RMBL, affectionately known as “Rumble,” exposes scientists and students to mountain ecosystems at only 1160 meters’ elevation on the bottom of the Black Canyon, all the way to the top of Uncompahgre Peak, at 4360 meters. Sitting pretty atop this natural theater for biodiversity is Executive Director and biologist Ian Billick.
A hue reminiscent of orange soda might be appealing at the diner, but in rivers and streams, it’s a sign of serious damage. Open pit mining, which excavates strategic minerals from huge open pits dug into the land, is particularly harmful to the environment, exposing metallic dust, radioactive elements, and other potentially toxic contaminants. These tailings can easily leach into groundwater and streams.
To deal with the damage caused by open pit mines across the country teams employ remediation techniques, depending on the specifics of the particular mine and location in question.
Biological field stations (BFS) are invaluable tools for researchers whose work takes them outside. But they’re also filled with opportunities for the general public—and when laypeople learn about science and nature at biological field stations, everyone benefits. EM spoke to Colorado State University assistant professor Jill Zarestky about her recent research on the ways learning happens at BFS across the US.
Among the most important water resources in the Lone Star State, the Edwards Aquifer lies beneath 12 Texas counties and is one of the most prolific and largest artesian aquifers worldwide. Almost two million people in Central Texas rely on the Edwards Aquifer for drinking water, including San Antonio and San Marcos. EM spoke with Paul Bertetti, Director of Aquifer Science for the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), about the wide range of tasks involved in managing this important resource.
As scientists from around the world work to advance global understanding of polar ecosystems, biological field stations in arctic and sub-arctic regions offer a unique opportunity for investigators. The Tundra Ecosystem Research Station (TERS), a multi-purpose biological field station established in 1994, plays a key role in long-term monitoring of and research into the tundra ecosystem. Robin Staples is the TERS contact on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) for water quality monitoring that takes place in the Coppermine and Lockhart Basins. . .
In the wake of a hot, difficult summer, the extension team from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture discovered that different hand-held water quality meters may offer very different results for users. Discrepancies were particularly acute as to sulphates and total dissolved solids (TDS), both of which can seriously impact livestock health. Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist Cody Elford of the Agriculture Knowledge Centre in Moose Jaw spoke with EM about the study and its implications.
Dr. Charley Liberko of Cornell College’s Department of Chemistry has an idea he’s working to bring to fruition. “Imagine a remote village in an underdeveloped country whose only source of water is a stream contaminated with toxic levels of metal ions such as cadmium and nickel,” states Dr. Liberko. “The villagers take locally available woody plant material, soak it in potash, and heat it up for several days until the wood partially decomposes. They then filter their water through this material to remove the metal ions.. . ."
Sometimes scientists have to make an extraordinary effort to study the questions that concern them. In fact, they may even need to design and build labs to their specifications. This was the case with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s (UNL’s) Fish Conservation Behavior and Physiology Lab, which serves as a locus for research on water management best practices based on fish physiology—work conducted by up and coming scientists as well as more established researchers. Dr. Jamilynn Poletto spoke to EM about how the lab was built and the work that is happening there.
In drought-stressed areas like California where every drop in the aquifer counts, seismic noise may be the key to monitoring water. Harvard University PhD student and principal investigator Tim Clements spoke to EM about the work, which might be a game changer for water watchers across the country. “The inspiration for this research was the historic drought in California from 2011 to 2017,” explains Clements. “This was the driest period in recorded history in the state. We started this research after California had implemented the first mandatory water restrictions in state history in 2015."
As of 2018, 75 percent of the main channel of the Mississippi River is monitored for water quality. This step forward is the result of an agreement between more than 30 mayors from cities close to the Mississippi River, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. Super gauges now monitor nutrients along the river, and Scott Morlock with the US Geological Survey (USGS) spoke to EM about this project.
The whole story (map) and super gauges
To get a great overview of how the USGS’s Missis...
Recently, EM reported on research from a team led by Dr. Dina Leech that shows America’s lakes are getting murkier. That study made use of the National Lakes Assessment (NLA), a unique collaboration between states, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and tribal governments. NLA is generating a tremendous amount of limnological data and making it publicly available; Tricia Lynn of the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs corresponded with EM about the NLA.
A recent renovation project in Omaha’s Fontenelle Park showcases how much good a coordinated effort to improve parks, sewers, and water quality can do. The 7.7 million dollar project is aiming to provide more recreational opportunities for locals while improving the quality of water in local streams and rivers. Adam Wilmes, an engineer with the City of Omaha, described the project, which began as a coordinated effort in 2014, to EM.
For almost a decade, the buoys of the Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) have been situated in the Caribbean Sea, providing the world with weather patterns and data about climate change. Since June 2018, a new, state-of-the-art oceanographic buoy was installed by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), which runs the CREWS system. This new addition to the CREWS buoy system offers ocean state and weather data in near real-time, all accessible from a computer or smartphone.
Limnologist Dina Leech found herself reading more and more about lakes turning green, filling up with algae, and browning. She found herself wondering, could lakes be getting murkier more generally? Dina and her team decided to use data from the National Lakes Assessment (NLA) program directed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find out, and the recent study was born.
Dr. Dina Leech spoke to EM about the study, and about why lakes appear to be getting murkier.