Augustana College printing logo

Water-related student research

Jess Flondro

Jess Flondro

(Geography-Environmental Studies Senior Inquiry Project): Assessing the Ecosystem Services Provided by Urban Forests, Wetlands, and Green Spaces

Jess is trying to understand the factors driving observed differences in water quality across the urban watersheds of the cities of Rock Island and Moline and is seeking answers to the following research questions:

•  To what degree do urban forests, wetlands, and other green spaces (parks, cemeteries, roadsides) provide ecosystem services by capturing and filtering pollutions from urban streams;
•  To what degree does the level of urbanization (percent impervious surface, i.e. buildings and pavement) influence the water quality of urban streams.

Carlisle Evans Peck

Carlisle Evans Peck

(Biology- Senior Inquiry Project): Assessment of Factors Driving Urban Forest Composition, Diversity, and Structure

Carlisle is conducting a study assessing the community composition, structure, and diversity of urban forests across eight sites as part of the Sustainable Urban Watersheds Project. By sampling forest study sites along an urbanization gradient in Rock Island and Moline,

Carlisle is looking to answer the following questions:

•  What is the variation in overstory and understory plant community composition and diversity, and especially levels of invasive species dominance, in these urban forests?
•  What is the relative importance of land-cover factors (types of vegetation, surfaces, infrastructure, etc.) driving observed patterns of community composition and diversity?

Tara Cullinson

Tara Cullison

(Anthropology- Senior Inquiry Project): Survey of Landowner Values and Attitudes towards Urban Watersheds and Stormwater Issues

Tara completed a spatial analysis examining the socio-demographic characteristics of the thirteen urban watersheds using 2010 Census and other available data. Using information on the socio-demographic spatial heterogeneity of the thirteen watersheds, she intends to survey approximately 1800 residential landowners across the cities of Rock Island and Moline to answer the following questions:

  • What is the current state of awareness and knowledge of urban watersheds and pollution; what are current attitudes (and neighborhood social norms) towards these watersheds and proposed watershed restoration strategies (rain gardens, permeable pavement, rooftop gardens, etc.) and related institutions (watershed groups, neighborhood associations, cities, counties, state agencies, etc.); and finally what are actual behaviors towards these watersheds and urban riparian forests?
  • Do landowner’s levels of awareness and knowledge, attitudes & neighborhood social norms, and behaviors differ across the thirteen watersheds?
  • What factors (underlying values and beliefs, socio-demographic, proximity to nearest urban stream or forest/green space, etc.) explain any observed differences?
Augustana students Kelsey Stockert, Carlisle Evans Peck, and Stephi Drago surveying plant communities at the Nachusa Grassland prairie.

Kelsey Stockert

(Biology/environmental studies- Senior Inquiry Project)

Aging sanitary sewer infrastructure underlies many of the urban streams of the cities of Rock Island and Moline. Kelsey is seeking to better understand the potential for leaks of this aging infrastructure to influence surface water quality. She is investigating the following research questions: What is the relationship, if any, between sanitary sewer infrastructure and downstream water quality in urban watersheds? More specifically,

•  What is the relationship between the sewage infrastructure age and downstream water quality of urban watersheds of the cities of Rock Island and Moline?
•  What is the relationship between the type of construction material of sewage infrastructure and downstream water quality?
•  What is the relationship between the proximity of sewage infrastructure to streams and downstream water quality?

Kara Noonan

(Biology/environmental studies Senior Inquiry Project)

Kara is assessing the health of the aquatic insect community of these urban streams and trying to understand the relationship between the biotic integrity of these communities and surface water quality.

White PVC pipes are a simple, cost-effective way to sample shallow alluvial groundwater and avoid mixing with surface water in the stream.

Abby Jones

(Biology/environmental studies Senior Inquiry Project)

Abby is seeking to answer the following research questions:

•  What is the relationship between the water quality of surface waters and shallow alluvial groundwater in urban watersheds of the cities of Rock Island and Moline
•  Can the amount of impervious surface and differences in land cover explain any observed relationship?

Courtney Tate

(Biology/environmental studies-sophomore independent study project)

Courtney will use the High Ecological Resolution Classification for Urban Landscapes and Environmental Systems (HERCULES) method by using high-resolution aerial photographs, to characterize the type (course vegetation, fine vegetation, bare soil, pavement, buildings, and building type), density, and arrangement of elements of the landscape within a 500m meter radius of the center of each forest study plot. Courtney intends to use this information to predictor observed patterns of native biodiversity and invasive species dominance across the urban riparian forests of the cities of Rock Island and Moline.

Local urban watersheds provide research opportunities, as students Kevin Mason and John Bialek have discovered.

Kevin Mason and John Bialek

(Biology- Senior Inquiry Project)

Kevin and Mason are examining the relationship between alkalinity/pH and land cover (forest, developed, wetland, green space) across the urban watersheds as part of their senior inquiry project.

Laura Pemberton

(Political science/environmental studies-junior independent study project)

Laura will be comparing and contrasting the current stormwater policies of the cities of Rock Island, Moline, and other jurisdictions in the Quad Cities region.