2016 student research
Nitrogen Uptake in an Urbanized Watershed
Over the course of the summer I wanted to pursue my interest in aquatic biology through research. The Upper Mississippi Center allowed me to conduct my own field research project on nitrate uptake in the urban streams of Rock Island. Analysis of the nitrate uptake rates of these urban streams is valuable because it indicates how much these streams have been affected by urban stream syndrome. Through analysis of the uptake rates, we hope to identify key factors that are influencing nitrate uptake in an urban stream ecosystem.
"The Upper Mississippi Center has provided me with invaluable experience in scientific research that served as an amazing entry into the field of ecology. At the UMC, professors act as mentors, guiding students through the complex scientific process while also allowing them to take the lead in their own projects."
Analysis of Bank Stability in an Urbanized Rock Island Watershed
Being a double major in geology and environmental studies, I combined ecology with geomorphology into a research project this summer for the UMC. In an attempt to better understand Rock Island's urban stream syndrome, my project aimed to analyze the stability of stream slopes, to spatially identify which sites are more or less stable, and to match these sites to depreciative levels of phosphates, TSS, TDS, and discharge measurements to make some reasonable generalizations. This data sheds light on the underlying features that affect urban stream bank erosion, such as plant root exposure, number of pipes and culverts draining into the stream, sinuosity of the streams, etc. My project should prompt the city to remediate the intense hydrological input to its streams and prevent their transformation into sewers.
"When Professor Strasser recommended that I work for the UMC this summer, I jumped on the opportunity and I can safely say it has been one of the best summers to date. Along with the useful lab skills and intensive field work, this experience has shown me the importance of collaboration and teamwork. I feel so fortunate to have worked with such a diversely interested and memorable team to help understand Rock Island's urban watershed."
Metal Anaylsis of both Ground and Surface water in the Rock Island watershed
My research project this summer focused on heavy metal levels in an urban watershed in southern Rock Island. By testing for arsenic, mercury, lead, and selenium in both surface and groundwater samples, my project aimed to compare heavy metal levels in the surface and groundwater at headwater, ravine, and confluence sites on streams within the watershed. I then compared these values to the acute and chronic aquatic life standards established by the EPA. Additionally, I attempted to identify urban factors (such as percent impervious surface above a given site, etc.) that may be causing elevated levels of particular heavy metals at certain sites. The data I collected suggests that the levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, and selenium at many of the sites from which I sampled exceed what the EPA deems as acceptable amounts for freshwater life.
"Working for the UMC this summer has been a true pleasure. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to increase my knowledge of a wide array of things, obtain invaluable skills, acquire field experience, and work alongside an extraordinary group of people. I gained a different perspective on the urban watersheds in Rock Island and developed a deeper understanding of the environmental problems that exist within them. For these things, I am very grateful."
Citizen Survey on Residents od Rock Island living near the urban watershed
My project attempts to develop an understanding of the general perceptions of urban streams. In order to uncover what landowners think of their streams, I have chosen to conduct a brief, four-part survey. This social science approach will complement the scientific knowledge that
is rapidly developing on this topic.
"Getting to know urban streams has been the dirtiest, most multi-faceted, mosquito-infested and exciting experience I have ever had. Working for the UMC was a blast."
Macroinvertebrate Diversity in an Urbanized watershed of Rock Island
My project started with collecting macroinvertebrates from multiple environments at each of our 21 stream sampling sites. Next I will identify them all macroinvertebrates to family level and some to species level to try and better understand the water quality and the environments at our sampling sites. I will do this by analyzing my data, other water quality data from those sites, and impervious surface data from around each site.
"This summer is one I will never forget. Not only did I learn more about my own project, but I got an insight into the projects of others and was able to help them collect data as well."