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Investigating Local Water Systems through Alkalinity and Nitrate Data

Student(s):Dusty Dillon, Kayla Miller, Jon Siler, Brittany Mason, Jordi Verhoeven Lindsay Kreager, Cody Ary, Stephany Burdette, Brett Aler, Ashley Teague
Grade Level:Secondary School (grades 9-12, ages 14-18)
GLOBE Educator(s):Michele Ann Hildebrandt, Sara Ellenberger
Report Type(s):
Protocols:Nitrates, Alkalinity, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Water Temperature
Date Submitted:05/01/2013
Screen capture from presentation
Students from Madison Plains High School, London, Ohio have collected and analyzed hydrology data from local water sources. Nitrate and alkalinity levels experienced an overall increase from September 2012 to February 2013. Research has shown that there is a possible correlation between hydrology data and local climate. Also, A possible cause of increased data observed by student is local agriculture practices.


Madison Plains Students - Excellent work! You put together a fantastic research report and video. My main question for you - what can you do with the results of your research? Do you have ideas how you can continue with this research and possibly inform your communities?
The results are somewhat inconclusive, in the sense we know that agricultural factors could have played a role in the changes we observed, but we need to further investigate the local agricultural practices. Possible ideas to continue the research would be to continue to collect the data and see if trends become apparent. Also we hope it will possible to increase collaboration with our vocational agricultural classes and local farmers in order to give us more concrete information as to what chemicals or other substances are being used on the fields locally. Then from there we can see how those practices are affecting the hydrology data for our study. This process has made us aware of how human practices can impact the environment in multiple ways.
What an impressive project. I particularly liked your video describing how you did the measurements and your evident care in following protocols. I admire the amount of work devoted to your data collection.

Do you know how farming activities varied over this time in the water sheds of your measurement sites? If you do, how did these affect your data?
Thank you! As we were completing the study and beginning the analysis of the data we quickly became interested in investigating the farming activities in the area to better understand the increases in the nitrates and alkalinity. We did talk to local farmers and fertilizer companies to get an idea of their impact for this study, but we feel we just touched the surface. However, it is our hope that we can have a more in depth study of the farming practices to further the study for next year.
Did you report the data from the different sites to GLOBE? In looking at the web site I only found data for one site of alkalinity and nitrates while you all collected so many more data and really set an excellent example for an extensive effort to cover a region's waters.
We did report the all the data, however, it was all under one GPS location on the GLOBE website. There was difficulty uploading the data because it would not allow us to enter the locations of the individual sites. We hope that this issue will be resolved for next year to have a better representation of the data.

Thank you for your time, in reading our report and watching the video!
Thank you for a detailed report. It showcased your extensive, careful data collection and consideration of possible causes for the increases observed. I am wondering, do you know if, or suspect, the amount aglime and fertilizers applied to the surrounding fields varied during the time of your study? Do you suspect the pattern of change in Nitrate concentration and alkalinity you observed might be reflective of an annual pattern or a significant change that occurred during this time?
This was our first year for the investigation, and since the time of study, for the report, was limited to 6 months, it is hard to know if what we observed was a result of an annual pattern or not. We are hoping that as we are able to continue the study next, and for future years we will better be able to observe more accurate trends/patterns or changes in the data.
It was suspected that the agricultural practices and the timeline, of which the aglime is applied to the fields, could have correlated with the increases observed in the nitrate and alkalinity levels. However, further investigation of this is certainly necessary for a better understanding of the effects of the agricultural practices.
Additionally, locally we were coming out of drought season from this summer, so with the more precipitation our area received, led to an increase in the runoff from the fields, and that could have also led to the higher levels observed. So we also need to investigate more closely for annual patterns with a possible connection to precipitation.
The area of the study is also predominately limestone, and what could have also played a factor in the increase in alkalinity. Therefore, we have a lot of directions to take this study for further investigations.