Erin Janetski, biology MS student; Holly Travis, biology associate professor; and Josiah Townsend, biology assistant professor, were recently awarded an environmental education grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
This grant will support the development of the Western PA Water Watch (WPAWW) citizen science project for high school students in Western Pennsylvania. Students will actively participate in the scientific process by collecting samples, submitting data to
a shared database, and analyzing data for curriculum-based research projects. The WPAWW project will be facilitated by Indiana University of Pennsylvania faculty and graduate students and by local science teachers.
The WPAWW project will develop, test, and implement a citizen science water quality assessment protocol and the associated database and curriculum materials. This will be designed for use by regional high school classes and environmental organizations such as Evergreen
Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and Crooked Creel Environmental Learning Center. In addition to the activity development, kits containing the equipment necessary for consistent and complete sampling of area waterways will be assembled for use by area teachers and environmental educators.
IUP faculty and students will assist teachers with field sampling and will manage and maintain the database. Through participation in this project, students in area schools will develop an increased engagement in science and a greater understanding of
the ecological value of Pennsylvania’s watersheds while meeting Pennsylvania ecology and environment standards.
Rural students who can connect their classroom science to issues relevant to their communities are more likely to consider careers in STEM fields such as ecology, medicine, or engineering. By introducing high school students to citizen science-based authentic research
experiences relevant to their own community, as water quality certainly is, and by highlighting skills such as critical thinking and communication, this project will generate excitement about science and local environmental concerns. Students will feel connected to their local region and will develop
confidence in their ability to be an active participant in the larger science community through networking with researchers, educators, and college students.
Photo: Erin Janetski, Holly Travis, and Josiah Townsend, IUP