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To Monitor or Not to Monitor

Originally appears in the Fall 2012 issue

All of life depends on water, and all of us are citizens of a watershed[1]. Approximately 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water[2]. The demand for ongoing water testing creates an excellent opportunity for adolescent students (and adults) to experience the world of science beyond the walls of the classroom by getting involved in a citizen science water monitoring program. With this in mind, a group of 15-17 year old students organized the first citizen science water monitoring group in Carrol County Ohio.

We all live in a watershed and every action we take has a direct effect on all biotic and abiotic factors within that watershed[3]. So the earlier we start teaching our youth how to become active in preserving the aquatic world around them, the more likely it is that they will develop an intrinsic desire within themselves to make a lifetime commitment to preserving what they have in their own community. “Citizen science projects have been remarkably successful in advancing scientific knowledge[4],” and through volunteer efforts students can learn how the quality of surface waters and ground waters are altered by their everyday actions, and how they can educate their community on local water quality issues. Volunteer water monitoring is an excellent way to introduce our youth to environmental education and the joy of learning in the great outdoors[5]!

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[1] Erwin, M. U.S Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.(2005). Monitoring our rivers and streams.

[2] USGS, (2012). Water Science For Schools: All About Water! Retrieved from <>.

[3] According to the US Geological Survey (2005),

[4] Bonney, R., Cooper, C.B., Dickinson, J., Kelling, S., Phillips, T., Rosenberg, K. V., & Shirk, J.,(2009).  Citizen Science: A Developing Tool for Expanding Science Knowledge and Scientific Literacy.  BioScience, 59(11), 977-984.

[5] World Water Monitoring Challenge, (2012). Retrieved from <>.


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Dori L.Hess is a Science instructor for Stark State College and the public school system in Malvern, Ohio.