What’s in the water?

Fox River Water Quality TestingThere’s more in those babbling brooks that wander through the cities, rural and natural areas surrounding Green Bay than you may think.

Students from area high schools in the lower Fox River watershed want to find out everything that’s going down stream—from fish to phosphorus—and eventually emptying into Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

The Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program partners UW-Green Bay and high schools in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Luxemburg to conduct multitudes of tests and experiments to examine what’s in the streams that flow into the Fox River.

“The students monitor physical water quality parameters, chemical water quality parameters, and biotic water quality elements,” said Jill Fermanich, UW-Green Bay outreach education coordinator. “They monitor temperature, turbidity, specific conductance and stream flow, PH, dissolved oxygen’s, phosphorus and nitrogen and they also do stream habitat surveys, macro-invertebrate surveys and bird and amphibian surveys.”

Toward the end of the school year, UW-Green Bay hosts a Watershed Symposium, where students share their results with the community.

“We’re making them do serious science,” said Luxemburg-Casco High School science teacher Charles Frisk. “It’s about as good as education can get when you can have students learn a lot, and at the same time, they’re really enjoying what they’re doing.”

The students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, said they love the hands-on learning. Many can also receive community service credit for the after-school science they’re doing.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

The Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program

Jill Fermanich, UW-Green Bay Outreach Education Coordinator

The Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program is a school-based monitoring program in which teams of high school students and teachers perform various monitoring activities in selected sub-watersheds of the Fox River basin.

The program began in 2003, and we’re monitoring five watersheds in the lower Fox basin.

We’re working with high school students and teachers from Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay and Luxemburg.

The students monitor physical water quality parameters, chemical water quality parameters, and biotic water quality elements. They monitor temperature, turbidity, specific conductance and stream flow, PH, dissolved oxygen’s, phosphorus and nitrogen and they also do stream habitat surveys, macro-invertebrate surveys and bird and amphibian surveys.

Charles Frisk, Science Teacher, Luxemburg-Casco High School
We’re always talking about hands-on education for students. This is one of those, I’d call it a very good hands-on project where, not only are they learning how to do water tests, chemistry tests, and so on and so fourth, but they’re also learning an awful lot about what contributes to stream quality and stream degradation I guess you could say.

Brian, Senior, Preble High School
I think this is giving me the experience, and it will show that I’m actually involved in the science, instead of just reading about it. I’m actually involved and want to do something to help out.

Jennifer, Senior, Preble High School
It’s way more fun. We come out here and everything’s’ just totally hands-on. I think you learn a lot more by doing it and actually seeing all the macro-invertebrates. It’s a lot easier to remember than reading about it.

Trever, Senior, Luxemburg-Casco High School
Its always fun because it’s hands-on and it’s a great learning experience.

Prof. Kevin Fermanich, Natural and Applied Sciences
With the school based monitoring, UWGB serves a coordinating role. We facilitate the training of the teachers and the students. And we provide the equipment. We provide quality control over the data so that the data is comparable from one student team to the next. We also provide technical expertise, answer their questions, and help them to learn about how to put the whole picture together through the symposium and other educational activities.

The students, one of the things that they’re able to do with this project is present information at our watershed symposium. In the process of doing that—collecting the data and analyzing the data and presenting it—it really gives them the feeling of an entire process of creating information in the scientific process. They find it, I think, really enriching as far as having a better understanding of what’s happening in their own watersheds, and for what they’re doing relative to other teams in the overall watershed.

We do have students that have now gone on to be environmental science college students, and some of them have moved on past that already.

Charles Frisk
I’m always amazed because it seems to me that we’re bringing them here, we’re making them do work, we’re making them do serious science and sometimes you think they’d go away and say that was just like being in school, but they go away and they just love it. They talk it up to their friends and it’s something that they really, really enjoy. So I guess it’s about as good as education can get when you can have students learn a lot, and at the same time, they’re really enjoying what they’re doing.