Olney Central College served as a host site for the Illinois RiverWatch Network’s Citizen Scientist training on April 2.
Illinois RiverWatch is a volunteer stream monitoring program administered by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Citizen scientist help identify potentially degraded waters and areas that may need greater protection.
Among those participating in the workshop was OCC Assistant Professor of Life Sciences Sarah Bergbower, who completed the training last spring, and assisted in promoting the recent event. In March, WSIU interviewed Bergbower for an InFocus segment discussing the Illinois RiverWatch Program. Listen here.
Several community members attended the local training including three of Bergbower’s students at OCC and two Wabash Valley College students enrolled in her online environmental biology course.
The day-long event combined classroom training utilizing microscopes in the OCC Life Sciences Lab and hands-on activities in an area waterway. The process prepares individuals to obtain and record the data needed to determine water quality. This includes learning how to collect, identify and group living organisms in a body of water.
“We are serving as the eyes and ears for the professionals,” Bergbower said. “The number and kinds of bugs found are indicators of the health of the stream. A lot of the organisms are sensitive and won’t thrive if the water is polluted.”
Bergbower plans to conduct monitoring activities this fall with the OCC Science Club and students in the Biology II course, which includes a testing unit on environmental biology.
“It will give students hands-on opportunities to learn where they aren’t just reading things from a textbook,” Bergbower said. “I try to do things that are tangible, and it will be especially helpful to the Biology II students.”