Jacksonville River Monitors make a big splash in Alabama

by Stephen G. Tsikalas, Ph.D. and Jade Patolo, M.S.
https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleRiverMonitors

Established in February of 2014 by Jade Patolo with the assistance of Ms. Francine Hutchinson and Dr. Stephen Tsikalas, the Jacksonville River Monitors (JRM) are a group of citizen and student scientists concerned about water quality and land-use management in the Coosa River Basin. Our monitors receive training through Alabama Water Watch (AWW) in water chemistry (pH, temp, turbidity, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, hardness) and bacteriology [Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other coliforms] methods for fresh water.

On site conducting water chemistry monitoring at AL 204 in Jacksonville, AL on a chilly winter day.  Left to right, LaVern Barrs, Payten Samuels, and Jade Patolo
On site conducting water chemistry monitoring at AL 204 in Jacksonville, AL on a chilly winter day. Left to right, LaVern Barrs, Payten Samuels, and Jade Patolo

Founded by geographers at Jacksonville State University, the JRM are also interested in how hazards and land-use affect water quality. To that end, we are also interested in mapping changes in our environments when we see fluctuations in water quality data. With the mentorship and training of Francine Hutchinson (awesome AWW trainer – see http://wp.auburn.edu/aww/meet-our-water-watchers-meoww-francine-hutchinson-aww-trainer-extraordinaire), we have trained and certified over 40 students and citizens in the Jacksonville area.  Our students hail mainly from geography, but we also have trained biology, chemistry, and English students as well.

Alysha Shaw and Stephen Tsikalas in the JSU Water Quality Lab showing off our AWW swag and new geography club T-shirt.
Alysha Shaw and Stephen Tsikalas in the JSU Water Quality Lab showing off our AWW swag and new geography club T-shirt.

The data collection has led to several academic presentations and currently an academic article is in progress.  A significant part of the academic presentations included the promotion of AWW, its history, and the outstanding work the volunteers do.  Our research has taken us to Tampa, FL and Chicago, IL for the annual Association of American Geographers conferences of 2014 and 2015, respectively.  We attended these conferences with student monitors Barbara Edwards, Whitney Henson, Phillip Jones, and Payten Samuels.  These conferences have allowed us to reach a wide audience of geographers from around the world!

Whitney Henson (left) and Barbara Edwards (right) in the Water Quality Lab prepping the bacteriological samples for incubation.
Whitney Henson (left) and Barbara Edwards (right) in the Water Quality Lab prepping the bacteriological samples for incubation.

One of our monitors and recent geography graduate students, Kaila Brown, presented our data at the Alabama Academy of Science Conference in the spring of 2015 and won the outstanding student presentation award.  Kaila is going to begin a geography master’s program at the University of Alabama, where she plans to continue research and monitoring of Alabama fresh water.  We are so proud of her!

Another success story is our most dedicated monitor, Whitney Henson.  She has been with the JRM since the beginning and has yet to miss a monitoring session or training date.  This is quite impressive considering we have been meeting once a month for over a year and a half and have had at least five different training sessions!  She has been a tremendous help with the organization of our group and is going to take the leadership role now that Jade is serving in Belize with the Peace Corps for the next two years.  Whitney has recently become a certified trainer for both chemistry and bacteriological monitoring and plans to hold training events at Jacksonville State University (JSU) each semester along with Dr. Stephen Tsikalas.  Whitney is a recent geography graduate and will be continuing at JSU in the Emergency Management Master’s Program.  She has been instrumental in the success of the JRM and we are very thankful to have her!

The JRM gather to celebrate one full year of monitoring (February 2015).  Left to right, Thomas Eyler, Kaila Brown, Allen Jones, Andrew Green, Payten Samuels, LaVern Barrs, Heather Carter, Whitney Henson, Zach Flynn, Barbara Edwards, and Alysha Shaw.
The JRM gather to celebrate one full year of monitoring (February 2015). Left to right, Thomas Eyler, Kaila Brown, Allen Jones, Andrew Green, Payten Samuels, LaVern Barrs, Heather Carter, Whitney Henson, Zach Flynn, Barbara Edwards, and Alysha Shaw.

The JRM is incredibly thankful to AWW for all the materials, training, and wonderful people who have helped us get this far!  We plan to continue monitoring our streams and empowering citizens to use their data to protect and restore our local waters!

Authors:
Stephen G. Tsikalas, Ph.D. and Jade Patolo, M.S.
Department of Physical & Earth Sciences  Jacksonville State University  700 Pelham Road N  Jacksonville, AL 36265  Email: stsikalas@jsu.edu

 

One Reply to “Jacksonville River Monitors make a big splash in Alabama”

Comments are closed.