ASHLAND — Ashland University students and faculty are involved in Ashland University’s Water Quality (AUWQua) Monitoring Program where student-led field teams collect water from pre-determined sampling sites for testing. The students involved are senior Natalie Kracker, senior Elizabeth Takacs, junior Alexis Lough, junior Alexis Flagg, sophomore Maria Kern, and sophomore Shelby Reutter.
Kern is a 2016 graduate of Eaton High School.
”I joined this research lab to gain more experience in different labs and in field work. It also seemed like a great opportunity to learn more and have experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I think my favorite part of joining this research lab is having so many new and interesting experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten without participating in research,” Kern said.
A majority of the students joined the AUWQua Monitoring Program after hearing a research presentation Dr. Jenna Dolhi, along with other professors from the Biology and Toxicology Department and Chemistry, Geology, and Physics Department, talked about the monitoring project.
Dr. Dolhi said, “The idea for the project came when I started at AU as a faculty member in Fall 2016. I have interests in water quality, especially nutrient pollution, and fortunately, AU already had active research and education programs established at the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve. During this time the Provost also offered an Innovation Grant to fund innovative and creative education projects. So all the pieces came together to allow us to build off past successes at the Wetlands Preserve and to acquire new equipment to get this exciting project off the ground.”
The Black Fork of the Mohican River and the Black Fork Wetlands have been receiving monthly “check-ups” since July 2017 from the AUWQua Monitoring Program. The student-led field teams collect water from pre-determined sampling sites for nutrient analysis in the lab and use a multiprobe to measure water temperature, pH, salinity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. This month marks the first check-up in 2018, as water quality data continues to be collected, analyzed, and used to shape our understanding of local water health.
These measurements are important in determining the current health of the water and enhance our understanding of the organisms that can live there. This type of project is especially informative in agricultural areas, as nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, which can contribute to algal blooms, are tracked. Large quantities of algae have caused concern in other nearby aquatic systems. In recent years, harmful algal blooms (HABs), caused by toxin-producing algae, have occurred in Lake Erie, Buckeye Lake, and even the Ohio River. Armed with the baseline data being collected by the AUWQua Monitoring Program, we can begin to coordinate efforts to maintain or improve best practices to protect our water quality.
The students are very passionate about their involvement in the club and as Alexis Lough, member of the club, said, “I know others, as well as myself, are excited and hope to be able to incorporate others into taking samples, whether it be K-12 students or interested citizens in the community. It would also be major step in the right direction even to get a non-student interested so we can help provide knowledge of local water quality and environmental factors to local residents, as well as to the scientific community.”