Two Ithaca-based organizations, CSI and the Sciencenter, are teaming up for a summer camp program that builds leadership while providing an up-close look at the residents of Cascadilla Creek. The program, which begins on Friday, is the result of a successful 2013 pilot program that aimed to get Sciencenter summer campers and counselors-in-training involved with real-life science projects.
The Sciencenter is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire excitement for science through interactive exhibits and programs that engage, educate, and empower. The Sciencenter’s Future Science Leaders Counselor-In-Training (CIT) program puts youth ages 12-15 in a leadership role assisting camp counselors and providing guidance for younger campers.
Youth science projects don’t always have a tangible outcome, which can be discouraging to young learners with an interest in science. Program participants have the added benefit of knowing their work not only contributes to scientific knowledge, but helps provide important data about a local stream. CSI will work with the Future Science Leaders CITs to collect and identify sample of benthic macroinvertebrates, or BMI, which are aquatic insects that live at the bottom of streams.
Since BMI organisms vary in their tolerance to pollution, the makeup of a BMI community provides valuable information about water quality. Looking at who is living in a stream and in what numbers, and who isn’t, provides an excellent indication of ecosystem health. CSI will follow the sampling protocol developed by the Hudson Basin River Watch and used by all of its adult volunteer programs. Data will be used to evaluate stream health and published on the CSI website along side results from other local streams.
Future Science Leaders will learn the sample collection procedure on Friday as they head down into Cascadilla Creek, which flows right past the Sciencenter. These future science leaders will help their fellow campers and museum visitors learn how to identify the collected insects. ID sessions will be held in the Sciencenter Community Room on July 9, 11, 23, 25th and August 6,8,20 and 22nd from 2-3 PM and are open to museum visitors.
At the end of the summer when the sample has been fully counted and identified, metrics will be used to evaluate stream health on a scale of “non-impacted” to “severely impacted”. The sample collected and analyzed last year with the pilot program indicated that Cascadilla Creek was slightly to moderately impacted. Full results can be viewed here.
Photo provided by the Sciencenter