Thoughts on Science
Last week, we held the annual kickoff to the winter chloride volunteer water quality monitoring program. This event is an opportunity for the volunteers to visit socially, review the program, and see what kind of progress we've made. In the past, we've have presentations from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and from the Metropolitan Sewer District (the entity responsible for stormwater quality in most of St. Louis city and county). This year, for the first time, the kickoff featured guest speakers from the scientific community. Two graduate students from the Hasenmueller Lab at Saint Louis University presented about their own water research.
Teresa Baraza Piazuelo shared her research on the movement of salt through roadside soils. Thus far in her project, she only had results on the sodium ions. She is finding that sodium is more concentrated near the road and that it seems to migrate down into the soil, though some is retained at the surface. She is eager to compare the movement of chloride, which is expected to move more readily than sodium through the soil.
Emily Deeba presented her work on the proportion of stormflow that is comprised of groundwater. She used concentrations of chloride that are found in groundwater and concentrations found in rainwater to perform a groundwater separation and identify what percent of the water in the stream during summer storm events is direct runoff versus older groundwater being pushed out of the porous limestone.
We closed the evening with a conversation about next steps for our program. While becoming more involved in the community of citizen science leaders, I have been reminded that the volunteers in citizen science programs are generally capable of accomplishing far more than just the monitoring aspect of projects like ours. Science is much more than data collection; based on our conversation last night, I can see that this group of scientists is ready to take another step. I hope you'll come back soon to learn more about our progress!
To all of my amazing Stream Team chloride volunteer friends, if you haven't started your chloride monitoring, what are you waiting for?! I recommend venturing out this afternoon or Saturday morning, before the temperature drops to somewhere below freezing for the next few days.
With the changes in our overall chloride monitoring program, there have been a few changes to the documentation provided to the citizen scientists.
You can still find the basic methods (with a few minor changes), contact information for Stream Team and MSD partners, and the optional datasheet. The program hasn't really changed; we are just getting better organized and have begun the work of making sense of the data that has been collected!
On Wednesday, November 30, we held our annual Chloride Kickoff meeting. In the past, these meetings have mostly been an opportunity for Stream Team volunteers to join together and review the plan for the winter. This year was different. This year the event included the introduction to the stormwater chloride study being conducted by Saint Louis University with funding from the US EPA Urban Waters program.
This expansion of the Chloride Kickoff event also resulted in the inclusion of a new set of participants. We were pleased to welcome public works staff members from five of the six municipalities that are taking part in the grant study: Ballwin, Jennings, Manchester, Rock Hill, and Webster Groves. (Ferguson staff were unable to attend the evening.) During the social hour, it was wonderful to witness the interactions between public works representatives, State agency staff, and citizen scientists. The willingness and ability of these partners to work together will ensure the success of our combined effort to reduce chloride pollution in our suburban streams.
It is the last day of November and the time has begun to collect stream chloride data again. The winter salting season could start any day now, though you wouldn't guess it by the warm weather we've had this month. This will be the fifth year of an ever-expanding citizen science effort to understand the scope of chloride pollution problems in the St. Louis region. This study was designed and led by volunteers in the Missouri Stream Team program. They are an exceptional group of people and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with them!
In addition to this time of year being a good time to do some monitoring, today is also the day of the Chloride Kickoff Meeting. In the past, this has been a chance for the Stream Team volunteers to get together and socialize with each other. This year, the program has expanded to include public works staff from several area municipalities and a number of new faces representing State agencies. We expect to see public works staff members from the partner communities in our brine study: Ballwin, Ferguson, Jennings, Manchester, Rock Hill and Webster Groves. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation and Saint Louis University will also be represented. I am eager to get all of the partners on this project in the same room and on the same page!