Watershed project trains next generation of scientists

Minnesota native compares water quality in local streams

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 9, 2016 – Cork Brook in Scituate isn’t as far inland as you can get from the fabled coastline that gives the Ocean State its name, but it might as well be.

The stream meanders through protected forest, making it a perfect study site for the North East Water Resources Network, a three-state, $6 million initiative to study how climate variations may play a role in water quality and quantity.

URI graduate student Britta Anderson collects measurements of water quality at Cork Brook in Scituate. Photo by Amy Dunkle

Once a week this summer, University of Rhode Island graduate student Britta Anderson and two undergraduates from Salve Regina University checked the pulse of one of the many tributary streams that collect in the Scituate Reservoir before flowing as one into the Pawtuxet River and then into Narragansett Bay.

For comparison, the student researchers also studied two freshwater sources in Middletown — Bailey’s Brook, which courses through an urban location, and the Maidford River, surrounded by agricultural land. High tech sensors at all three sites measured water quality parameters like temperature, acidity and chemicals present, data that are particularly useful in understanding what happens during extreme storm events.

During each visit to Cork Brook, the students measured various indicators of stream health, including a regular sampling of the aquatic bugs present…[Read more]