Citizen Science Stream Monitoring program seeks local volunteers

by Jennifer Taggart

The Citizen Science Stream Monitoring program, a joint program run by the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District and the Cleveland MetroParks, in partnership with Medina County Soil and Water Conservation District, is looking for new volunteers to collect and test water samples at the Rocky River Watershed, which extends to the Hinckley Reservation.

Volunteers also collect water samples at the Euclid Creek Watershed and Cahoon Creek Watershed.

Current volunteers in the program range from parent and child teams to high school, college and graduate school students and even retired scientists.

“We have volunteers from all age ranges, so it’s really about ‘Do you want to look out for your local stream? Is this something you’re interested in?’” Meg Hennessey, watershed coordinator at the CSWCD, said.

Volunteers test water samples for pH levels, levels of phosphate, levels of nitrate, solvency levels and similar measurements at pre-established sites. Each site is tested about once a month. No previous experience is required, but all volunteers must attend a two-hour training session. 

Volunteers are encouraged to choose a site near their homes. Not only does this make the water testing more convenient for the volunteers, it also helps volunteers to be a good source of information to the program.

“We can just use information that the volunteers tell us about what’s been happening at this site, has anything changed recently?” Hennessey said. “If we notice any problem arising, we can go back to them and say, ‘Hey, have you noticed any dumping here recently? Has the river been a different color? Has it been higher?’”

Hennessey said volunteers also serve as ambassadors for the program and for science.

“They’re often approached by walkers or by neighbors who ask, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” she said. “We hope that they’ll tell them a little bit about ‘We’re testing the stream to see what’s in it and try to keep it healthy,’ and in that way do more outreach for the environment.”

Hennessey said she loves seeing the work all the volunteers put in collecting data for the CSWCD, the Cleveland Metroparks and the MCSWCD.

“The water is all interconnected between communities across county lines, across town lines, so we all have to pitch in,” Hennessey said.

Those who are interested in the program can reach Hennessey at ∞