CLEMSON — Now in its fifth year, Clemson University’s What’s in Our Waters (WOW) project continues to promote local conservation through citizen science.

Daniel High School students gather for the 2017 Clemson Biological Sciences Annual Student Symposium to show off Citizen Science skills they learned while participating in Clemson University's What's in Our Waters (WOW) project.

Daniel High School students and adviser Chuck Conrad gather for the 2017 Clemson Biological Sciences Annual Student Symposium to show off skills they learned while participating in Clemson University’s What’s in Our Waters (WOW) project.
Image Credit: Denise Attaway / Clemson University

On Feb. 25, as part of the Clemson Biological Sciences Annual Student Symposium, WOW participants presented posters to show off their research in such areas as biodiversity and seasonal, chemical and biological changes in waterbodies. The event took place in Clemson’s Life Sciences Facility. (See related images.)

Through WOW, Clemson graduate students mentor Daniel High School students in testing and monitoring water quality of Indian Creek in the Clemson Experimental Forest. Clemson students Lauren Garcia Chance, Erica Linard and Christie Sampson currently lead the project.

“This is a great program in that it gives (graduate students) an opportunity to expand their mentoring skills and it teaches high school students more about the sciences,” said Linard, a project coordinator and a Ph.D. student in environmental toxicology from Camarillo, California. “Programs like this get science out there and engage students to get them more interested in the field of science.”

WOW teaches students the importance of citizen science and engages them in real environmental problems and hands-on water quality research. WOW students also learn how to effectively communicate the results of their research.

“With everything going on in the world today, securing future scientists is highly important,” said Garcia Chance, a Ph.D. student in environmental toxicology from Amarillo, Texas. “At the very least, we are engaging and informing these students about the environment, science and environmental problems so that they may be better equipped to listen to and distill news and media using their own knowledge and skills.”

The high school students participated in the project as part of their AP Environmental Science class. Chuck Conrad, Daniel High School teacher for the class, said this is his third year in the program and it has grown each year.

“AP Environmental Science is an advanced class,” said Conrad, who is in his 13th year of teaching. “High school students can take the class for college credit. We are very fortunate to be able to work with Clemson University in this program. In addition to citizen science, our students are learning how to collect data, how to interpret this data and they are learning communication and presentation skills. These are valuable skills that they will use throughout their lifetimes.”

Manav Jain, a high school junior, said he learned a lot while working on this project.

“I participated in the WOW project because I wanted to learn more about my local environment and the way that it is impacted by humans,” Jain said. “Furthermore, I hoped to gain research experience by actually doing work with scientists in the field and, then, presenting my work. I was really excited to present at the symposium, as this would be a really cool experience that would introduce me to a new aspect of science.

“Getting the opportunity to create a poster and present my findings to a larger scientific audience was also one of my favorite parts of this project,” he said. “It felt really satisfying to have people take an active interest in the work that my group members and I had done. Hopefully, I get the chance to do more of this in college!”

The team of Maggie Hanssen, Grisha Post, Helen Schmidt and Sarah Grace Turner won first place for their poster, “Seasonal, Chemical and Biological Changes in Stream Sites in Upstate South Carolina.” Chris Aurich, Juan Salcido-Bravo, Spencer Dickey and Manav Jain placed second for their poster, “An Acidic Environment’s Effect on Creek Health.” Winners received gift cards and certificates.

The poster session was a collaboration between Clemson University and the Anderson Regional Joint Water Systems (ARJWS). Other partnerships for the program include Clemson Extension, Clemson 4-H, as well as Pickens and Anderson County Water Resources Centers.

Megan Posey, a source water specialist with the ARJWS, said collaborating in projects such as this is a great way to educate the public.

“By engaging the community and supporting programs like WOW, we are encouraging environmental awareness and public knowledge,” Posey said.

For more information on Clemson University’s What’s in Our Waters (WOW) project and other water quality projects, go to http://newsstand.clemson.edu/tag/water-quality/.

END