- The Community Science Institute (CSI) is releasing a free 30 page booklet that guides kids and their families through exploring water quality in streams by looking at aquatic life.
- This “Water Quality Report Card” is intended to serve as both a field guide to recognizing some of the most common organisms found in streams, and to guide families through interpreting what they find living in a stream as indicators of water quality.
- This resource is intended to be a DIY tool for exploring stream ecology and the science of water quality monitoring. It is also intended to promote exploration and appeciation of local ecosystems and hands-on field science activities.
- The Water Quality Report Card is free and available upon request at Tompkins County Cooperative Extension, Discover Cayuga Lake Boat Tours, Ithaca Sciencenter, Cayuga Nature Center, and Museum of the Earth.
Families and classrooms (virtual or otherwise) interested in stream ecology, the science of water quality monitoring and promoting diverse outdoor activities with children now have a new resource available to them – the Water Quality Report Card (for your favorite stream). As part of CSI’s 4-H2O Education Program for promoting awareness of water quality issues and water stewardship among youth (offered in collaboration with Tompkins County 4-H and this year funded in part by a grant from the Park Foundation), CSI has developed this 30 page booklet to offer free of charge to families and teachers. This initiative supplements CSI’s summer 4-H2O educational programming that was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new booklet introduces kids and families to some of the most common, easily-seen life forms in streams (collectively called benthic macroinvertebrates or BMI) and provides a clear, step-by-step process for looking for these organisms to evaluate water quality. By completing the booklet, kids decide whether their stream is likely a pretty healthy stream or if further evaluation might be warranted. Interested families that find that their stream warrants further evaluation can become more involved in CSI’s Biomonitoring Program, where volunteers follow protocals developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to evaluate water quality in streams using BMI.
The staff at CSI are really proud of this publication. Biomonitoring Coordinator Adrianna Hirtler says, “CSI has been working to get kids involved in biomonitoring for almost a decade through our 4-H2O Education Program as well as partnerships with Discover Cayuga Lake, the Ithaca Sciencenter, Finger Lakes State Parks and the Cayuga Nature Center. This summer, in light of many restrictions on gathering put forth in response to COVID-19, we realized we had to find additional, new ways to reach kids and families. Thanks, in part, to a grant we received from the Park Foundation, we were able to put a lot of energy into creating this resource. It’s kind of like a stream scavenger hunt that helps you learn about water quality.” CSI is also considering developing another Water Quality Report Card that would be similar, but would focus on water chemistry learning activities. The beauty of the booklet lies in its do-it-yourself style – empowering kids to pay attention to the world around them as a way to keep tabs on the health of ecosystems we live in.