A group of high school students in New York is getting real-life experience monitoring environmental conditions on the upper Susquehanna River as part of a regional program for schools in the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s northernmost reaches.
The Upper Susquehanna Watershed Project is a collaborative effort among high schools from Cooperstown to Afton, New York. Students analyze water samples and monitor stream flows at seven satellite reporting stations along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.
A casual observer of the students who gathered in early December at the sixth annual Upper Susquehanna Watershed Project Conference to explain the results of their research likely would have thought they were listening to advanced college students, rather than high schoolers.
“The Upper Susquehanna Watershed Project offers students real world experience and engages them in locally meaningful projects that benefit local organizations,” said Rich Townsend, a teacher at Sidney High School and co-founder of the project.
One of the local organizations benefiting from the students’ work is the Sidney Center Improvement Group, a local non-profit organization guiding watershed management efforts in Carr’s Creek, a Susquehanna River tributary. The students will analyze water samples from the creek, and the improvement group will use the data to complete a watershed plan and pursue reductions in harmful water pollutants.
The project “is truly a win-win for all,” said Joe Lally, president of the Sidney Center Improvement Group.
Jeff Lape, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, and Peter Freehafer, an official with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, attended the project conference and were impressed with the students’ work.
“Here is the next generation embracing the principles of watershed management,” Lape said, adding that it was very encouraging to see that the students “understood the science and how it affects their own backyard.”