Menu

A Watershed of Curiosity

800 450 Stroud Water Research Center
Marc Peipoch

By Marc Peipoch, Ph.D.

Anybody who’s watched the film “Ratatouille” remembers its famous line “Anyone can cook!” but perhaps missed the true meaning of it. We scientists missed it too. Not everyone has the opportunity to become a professional scientist, but a great community scientist can come from anywhere. Anyone can be a part of science.

The Next Frontier in Environmental Science

Since 2017, hundreds of volunteers have been monitoring water quality in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI). They are citizen scientists: curious and concerned citizens that with the aid of Stroud Water Research Center’s EnviroDIY™ technology are exploring the next frontier in environmental science.

Their collective data can lead to important discoveries with the help of professional scientists. Stroud Center scientists Diana Oviedo-Vargas, Ph.D., and Marc Peipoch, Ph.D., have compiled and analyzed water-quality data from over 70 sites from across the Delaware River watershed.

Instrumentation at the sites are maintained by citizen science group that are part of the DRWI, launched by William Penn Foundation to address primary threats to clean water in the watershed.

Two of the water-quality parameters measured by all citizen scientists across the river basin are water temperature and electrical conductivity. Water temperature is a key regulator of all biological activity and electric conductivity is directly related to the amount of dissolved salts (sodium, chloride, calcium, etc.) present in the water.

Striking Patterns Revealed

Preliminary analysis by Oviedo-Vargas and Peipoch has revealed striking patterns in these two parameters. Temperature data clearly showed thermal stress of trout populations in some headwater streams and gave insight into which streams might support the reintroduction of coldwater fish. This information will help communities and state officials restore and protect our fish populations.

On the other hand, peaks of electrical conductivity during winter storm events in urban streams across the watershed showed salt concentrations in the range of those at the mouth of the Delaware River estuary. When road salt runoff briefly turns freshwater streams into seawater, it hurts the stream macroinvertebrates that are critical for healthy streams.

This citizen science data is helping scientists and officials identify where these water-quality problems originate and how we can solve them.

These scientific findings are undoubtedly the product of avant-garde collaboration between scientific professionals and citizen scientists. No other kind of collaboration would enable a cost-effective monitoring of the nearly 15,000 square miles of the Delaware River watershed. Only a watershed monitoring effort powered by curiosity can reach that scale of scientific exploration.

Related News

Rachel Johnson and Dave Arscott at the Watershed Heroes event.
Stronger Together: A Nonprofit Partnership Raises Road Salt Awareness
Stroud Water Research Center is honored to have received the Watershed Heroes Nonprofit Steward award from Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership.
Entomologists collect freshwater insects for a project that examines the impact of streamside restoration on water quality.
Breaking the Fall
How the Clean Water Act changed the trajectory of America’s waterways and became a beacon for freshwater science.
River with riparian forest
Protecting Forests, Clean Water Amid Changing Remote-Work Landscape
To make the case for preserving open space amid the demand for new development, it’s important to measure impact. Now scientists are doing just that.
A deicer truck spreading brine on an Oregon highway.
The Trouble With Road Salt
Take a look at the effects of road salt on our streams and rivers and learn how volunteers and organizations are working to monitor what’s happening to their freshwater resources.
Map showing forested stream buffers in the west branch of Red Clay Creek with a photo overlay of brook trout fingerlings.
Landowners Partner With Stroud Center on Stream Restoration Across Watershed
Something wonderful is happening on the west branch of Red Clay Creek. It is getting its trees back — and perhaps its native brook trout, too.
Bud Miller with his young riparian buffer, showing abundant growth of trees and wildflowers.
A Family’s Restoration Adventure, Four Years In
In 2017, Bud and Marilyn Miller were the proud overseers of a new riparian buffer. Since then, a beautiful transformation has unfolded on their property.
Loading...