West Virginia University is helping the state to explore water quality by teaching people how to construct environmental monitoring systems according to The State Journal. A recent workshop at Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design focused on low-cost open source components for collecting data. The real reason this gets my attention is because I recognize the build—it’s a design from Shannon Hicks of Stroud Water Research Center in Pennsylvania! Shannon helped me to construct an earlier version of the monitor a few years ago, and I learned a lot about how sensors can be used for streams. It turns out Shannon led the workshop in West Virginia, getting everyone excited about citizen science.
The monitoring units use the EnviroDIY Mayfly Data Logger, which is an Arduino compatible board that Shannon developed after years of testing Arduinos and various sensors in field conditions. This data logger has a lot of benefits including Grove digital ports for sensors, a Real-Time Clock, Bee socket and a solar panel connector/circuitry. Of course the real question is what folks in West Virginia want to test.
Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology, said that with the right sensor, these modules can collect data on pH levels, depth, stream flow, carbon dioxide and dissolved oxygens levels. The modules can also be used to measure levels of moisture in the soil and can even detect Buprenorphine, an opioid commonly found in the state’s streams that affects brain development.
The grant award covers two other universities in the state and participants range from educators to state agency representatives. So, West Virginia will soon have a team of citizen scientists of all ages working on understanding the issues of water. I can’t wait to hear about the follow-up when monitors are constructed and data is used to improve water quality for this state. Education is most exciting when it becomes a tool for change.