The Environmental Consortium of Colleges & Universities is a great opportunity for networking with colleagues and students from multiple disciplines and forging new paths of collaboration in pedagogy, as well as environmental research and problem solving.

The poster session will be held on Saturday, November 7, 2015.
Accepted Posters [click here to view accepted posters for the "Student Studies of Water Quality" track"]
TITLE: Patterns and Drivers of Conductivity and pH in an Urban Stream
AUTHORS: Mary Ann Cunningham, Cassie Stirpe ('15), Kirsten Menking, John Brandt ('16) (Vassar College)
PRESENTER: Mary Ann Cunningham, Associate Professor of Geography, Vassar College
ABSTRACT: Effects of urbanization on stream water quality include changes in runoff patterns, road salt inputs, riparian zone modification, impoundments, and other factors. How do these factors influence stream water variations on an annual or seasonal basis? We monitored specific conductance and pH in the Fonteynkill, a small stream (~0.1 m3/sec discharge) that is a Hudson River tributary in Poughkeepsie, NY. We used sondes to sample continuously at 20 minute intervals for 3.75 years at three sites: the first was in a shaded stream reach that drains Poughkeepsie city streets; the second was below a medium-size (11,300 m3) impounded lake; the third site was several hundred meters further downstream, below a wetland and a vegetated riparian zone.

We found that summer and winter baseline conductivity levels did not differ. Soil water and groundwater inputs presumably contribute to consistently high (~200-250 mg/L) concentrations of Cl- in the stream. Summer and winter patterns of precipitation responses did differ: precipitation introduces fresh water to the stream in summer but relatively concentrated brine in winter. The impoundment on the stream had a profound effect in dampening fluctuations in stream discharge, conductivity spikes after snow melt, temperature change (with T rises resulting from pavement runoff in the uppermost site) and dilution of salt after summer precipitation events. The impoundment also increased summer pH levels (from around pH 7.6 above the impoundment compared to about 7.9 below the lake outlet), presumably because of abundant photosynthesis in the shallow lake. We conclude that multiple factors act simultaneously to shape stream conditions, which can change significantly over short distances.

TITLE: Student Senior Engineering Design Projects
AUTHOR: Frank DiLorenzo Trustee, Senior Project Manager, Mt. Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society
PRESENTER: Frank DiLorenzo

Our mission is to restore, operate, and maintain the railway on the north side of Mt. Beacon in the Hudson Highlands. The society's vision includes access to and preservation of the scenic, historic, recreational, and natural resources of Mt. Beacon. These resources will be accessible to all visitors. The plans call for creating a world class nature park harnessing green building technology, with the incline railway as the central attraction. The completed incline railway will promote the economic vitality and tourism of the local community, throughout the entire region, and of New York State. Mt Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society is in its fourth year as sponsor/advisor to Stevens Institute of Technology's senior engineering design project. Each year we provide a student team with an engineering design project related to elements of our incline railway reconstruction. Throughout the senior year we meet on campus, on site, and conduct scheduled progress meetings. All senior engineering students must successfully complete a senior design project as a graduation requirement. Their projects are displayed at the SIT Exposition in April. Our organization recently collaborated with graduate student and author Gregory Bilotto to publish Arcadia Press Images of Rail book titled Along the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway. MBIRSS is focused on supporting the environment, history, and education.


TITLE: A citizen science-based approach to monitoring the spread of an invasive aquatic invertebrate, the bloody red shrimp, in the Finger Lakes and Hudson-Mohawk River watersheds
AUTHORS: Mia Foucek, Julia Roellke, Chris Canfield, Dr. Brent Boscarino, Poughkeepsie Day School
Dr. Meghan Brown, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
PRESENTERS: Mia Foucek, Julia Roellke, Chris Canfield, Dr. Brent Boscarino, Poughkeepsie Day School
ABSTRACT: Two of the primary keys in helping to control the spread of aquatic invasive species are early detection and prevention education. The involvement of citizen science volunteers in detection monitoring is a great way to aid researchers not only in determining the range of spread of an invasive species, but provides an opportunity for scientists to engage in public education and outreach. In this study, our collaborative research team developed a pilot citizen science campaign to help track the spread of an invasive aquatic invertebrate, the bloody red shrimp (BRS), from its invasion origin in the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes region to the Hudson-Mohawk River basin via the Erie Canal. We developed two versions of a budget friendly “shrimp trap” for use in citizen science surveys in regions of known inhabitance and potential invasion. The first trap design utilizes embroidery loop, mesh fabric, string, plastic collection bottle and weight to mimic a student plankton net. The second design utilizes supplies that can be found in most homes, such as small sections of PVC pipe, swimming “noodles”, and buckets to detect and capture individual BRS inhabiting lake, canal or river bottoms. These devices, in addition to invasive species informational brochures and instructional pamphlets, will be distributed to citizen science volunteers throughout the Finger Lakes and Hudson-Mohawk River basin in the spring of 2016.

TITLE: Grazing and the coupling of biodiversity in vascular plant and soil microbial communities
AUTHORS: Caroline B. Girard Cartier, PhD candidate, University at Albany
Gary S. Kleppel, Professor, University at Albany
PRESENTER: Caroline B. Girard Cartier, PhD candidate, University at Albany
ABSTRACT: In our studies of the effects of grazing by livestock on grassland ecosystems in New York, we find that grazing strategies that mimic the spatial and temporal distributions of wild herd forming ungulates, i.e., dense aggregation and frequent rotation of pastures (hereafter called IRG), results in an increase in vascular plant species richness (S). Our current study of the coupling between grazing, the soil microbial community and S seeks to identify some of the key the mechanisms underlying that result. Changes in plant and microbial communities, as well as nitrogen availability, were measured over a grazing season at two sites, a moist lowland (Longfield Farm in Altamont, NY) and drier, upland (Normanskill Farm in Albany, NY) in which different portions of the landscape were exposed to IRG, continuous grazing or no grazing. Following treatment, S was higher in IRG than ungrazed enclosures at both sites (Longfield Farm: t= 2.59; df= 16.97; p= 0.019; Normanskill Farm: t= 2.39; df=20.32; p= 0.027). S was also higher in IRG than continuously grazed sites (Longfield Farm: t= 6.23; df= 17.16; p= <0.001; Normanskill Farm: t= 2.50; df= 21.94; p= 0.021). Nitrogen dynamics and the microbial community differed between sites as well. At Normanskill Farm, S was correlated with microbial functional group diversity (r = 0.5976; p<0.05), while at Longfield Farm, S varied as a function of soil moisture (r= 0.6344; p<0.05). Our findings suggest that while IRG led to an increase in vascular plant species richness at both sites, the causes of this response may be different in in dry upland and moist lowland landscapes.

TITLE: Modelling Carbon Charge Programs at Vassar College
AUTHORS: Alistair Hall, Sustainability Coordinator, Sophie Bedecarre-Ernst, Student, James Falino, Student, Jackson Miller, Student, Mary Ann Cunningham, Geography, Ben Ho, Economics
Vassar College
PRESENTER: Alistair Hall, Sustainability Coordinator, Vassar College

An internal carbon charge program within an academic institution is a novel means of internalizing greenhouse gas emissions by assigning a price to carbon. Carbon charge programs often reference the Social Cost of Carbon as determined by the EPA, which aims to quantify the harm brought upon society by carbon emissions. Though the program can manifest in a number of ways, differing in level of charge, price, and utilization of funds, a carbon charge ultimately aims to financially enable the advancement of sustainability initiatives. Funds may become available via a high-level charge or a redistributive charge, which encourages behavior change by rewarding administrative units (of varying sizes) that reduce consumption with a rebate and reprimanding units that increase consumption with a charge. We explore the administrative, financial, and cultural structures and barriers of Vassar College to determine the carbon charge model that would garner the most success at this institution, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. We conclude that, as an institution of higher education, it is vital that Vassar take an aggressive approach to carbon abatement and pursue a thoughtful and thorough investigation of what a carbon charge program could look like at a small liberal arts college of our size, as there is no existing example.


TITLE: Teaching the Hudson River Watershed: Source to Sink in Eight Days
AUTHORS: Karin E. Limburg, Sarah J. Mount, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
PRESENTER: Karin E. Limburg
ABSTRACT: Teaching environmental science is best done with a field experience. To teach about the Hudson River and its watershed, there is nothing that surpasses spending time traveling through it. Starting in the Adirondack headwaters at ESF's research property near Newcomb, we explore the connections of land, water, and people, moving down the watershed where we meet key informants along the way. We visit lake and stream, mountains, marshes, urban sprawl, and of course Old Father Hudson. Students take part in inquiry, collecting organisms, measuring water properties, talking to experts and stakeholders. We wrap up with a waterborne finale down the estuary to New York City for a final de-briefing. Every class has a different high point, but in all cases students come away with a sense of how things fit together in this large, diverse watershed, and how much its residents care for it.

TITLE: The Hudson River Flooding Decision Support System version 1
AUTHORS: Jane Mills (Geographic Information Assistant, CIESIN), Kytt MacManus (Programmer, CIESIN), Alan Blumberg (Professor, Stevens Institute), Philip Orton (Assistant Professor, Stevens Institute), Upmanu Lall (Professor, Columbia University), Annie Gerard (Web Developer, CIESIN)
PRESENTER: Jane Mills, Geographic Information Assistant, CIESIN

Coastal storms are among the world’s most costly disasters, with strong winds, floodwater inundation, and coastal erosion capable of damaging and disabling critical infrastructure. In order to better understand the Hudson River Valley’s  vulnerability to coastal storms and their associated storm surges CIESIN at Columbia University partnered with the Stevens Institute of Technology in a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) funded project to produce the Hudson River Flooding Decision Support System version 1. Stevens Institute modeled the flood events using modern dynamic storm surge and sea level rise estimation techniques. The CIESIN team produced a database of critical infrastructure and an index of Social Vulnerability to flood hazards. The online mapping tool allows users to access these data and statistics in order to assess the potential impacts of flood inundation posed by sea level rise and storm surge events from the Hudson River on their communities.

Users can explore the interactive map to estimate the potential environmental, social, and financial impact of future flooding in order to inform planning decisions. They can download maps and statistical estimates of flooding impacts on populations, facilities, and buildings. The project website and mapping tool will help to inform community planners, public officials, resource managers, and others looking to assess risk.

TITLE: Study of Zebra Mussel Shell Morphology in the Hudson River
AUTHORS: Sahana Natesan, Senior, John Hay High School, Hopewell Junction, NY
Dr. David Strayer, Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY
PRESENTER: Sahana Natesan, Senior, John Hay High School, Hopewell Junction, NY
ABSTRACT: Invasive species play a large role in ecosystems and, for several decades they have been a source of investigation and concern for the scientists. Not only do they have an impact on the ecosystem in which they currently live, but many invasive species also tend to spread to other ecosystems, often causing large changes in the nature of the environment and its organisms. A well-studied species, zebra mussels have been found to have significant ecological and economic impacts. In this study, we looked at the long-term changes in a zebra mussel population with a specific focus on shell thickness and morphology. We studied zebra mussel shells looking for trends in their shell thickness over time. One main aspect was to determine whether the change in shell thickness was a result of the increasing predation in the Hudson River, or was it due to some other factor in the water. Using statistical methods, we were able to conclude that shell thickness has been increasing significantly over the past 25 years. We present our findings and discuss possible explanations for this behavior.

TITLE: Techno-Economic Evaluation of Ethanol Production via Corn and Corn Stover Feedstocks
AUTHORS: Sean Paul, Nicole LiBretto, Arlene Cassidy
PRESENTER: Sean Paul, Stony Brook University
ABSTRACT: The increased production of corn ethanol over the past decade has sparked a discussion over how to allocate land and resources. The competition between energy and food production has served as a driver for the research and development of methods of producing ethanol from biomass feedstocks. Understanding the economics of biomass for biofuel synthesis is important in a competitive market for biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Our reevaluation of the NREL's model has concluded that biomass-to-ethanol production is 13% higher than that of corn-to-ethanol production ($1.49 and $1.32 per gallon, respectively). This analysis relaxed preliminary assumptions used to determine a cost calculating model, and laid foundation for a user-interfaced ethanol cost calculator.

TITLE: Trash to Treasure: Optimization of Heterogeneous Catalyst Systems for Biodiesel Synthesis
AUTHORS: Adrienne Perea, Student, Manhattan College; Dr. Yelda Balkir, Professor, Manhattan College
PRESENTER: Adrienne Perea, Student, Manhattan College
ABSTRACT: The utilization of waste shells as heterogeneous catalysts for biodiesel synthesis was investigated. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that can be produced from renewable sources by way of a transesterification reaction. Traditionally, this process includes the use of edible oils such as soybean oil and a homogeneous catalyst. In this study, natural shells such as eggshells, mussel shells, clam shells and oyster shells were used as heterogeneous catalysts. Experimental results show that the reaction of Camelina Sativa oil with ethanol and KOH gave the best yield of 97%. IR, Solid IR and NMR spectroscopy as well as X-ray crystallography were used to analyze the biodiesel obtained from each reaction, the natural shells and Camelina Sativa oil.

TITLE: Research scientists, undergraduates and high school students collaborate to explore how fish may be impacted by the invasion of the bloody red shrimp into the Great Lakes and Hudson-Mohawk River watershed
AUTHORS: Elinor Stapylton, Dr. Brent Boscarino, Poughkeepsie Day School
Dr. Meghan Brown, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
PRESENTERS: Elinor Stapylton, Kate McKeon, Sonomi Oyagi, Matt Warren, Erik Hedlund, Dr. Brent Boscarino, Poughkeepsie Day School
ABSTRACT: Predicting the impacts of an invasive species on native food webs requires the integration of effective early detection methods, population analyses and controlled observations of predator-prey and competitive interactions in invaded ecosystems. In this study, we investigate the potential for key native and naturalized fish species of the Great Lakes basin and Hudson-Mohawk River watersheds to capture a recent aquatic invertebrate invader, the bloody red shrimp (BRS), through controlled feeding experiments. We report that young of year alewife (a planktivorous fish that utilizes Hudson River embayments as nursery habitat), and young of year lake trout (a valued, cold water predator of the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes region) are capable of feeding on BRS at extremely high rates. Other important fish predators native to the Great Lakes and Hudson-Mohawk River are also discussed. While BRS poses a new possible and highly nutritious food resource for native fish, it also might threaten and outcompete native species for zooplankton. This study also provides a model for how to integrate high school students into collaborative research efforts with faculty at higher education institutions and undergraduate student researchers.

TITLE: What goes in must come out—or does it? A road salt budget in the Casperkill
AUTHORS: Cassie Stirpe ('15), Kirsten Menking, Mary Ann Cunningham (Vassar College)
PRESENTER: Cassie Stirpe
ABSTRACT: We monitored chloride concentrations and discharge in the Casperkill, a tributary of the Hudson River, in order to compare the amount of road salt leaving the stream to that entering it from winter road salting. Road salt has previously been confirmed as the dominant source of chloride in regional streams. The study stream is an 18-km stream that drains suburban portions of Poughkeepsie, NY. We used a sonde and a water pressure sensor (for discharge calculations) to sample continuously (at 20 minute intervals) for 4 years. We derived salt input efforts by gathering road salting rates (average tons per lane mile) and multiplying that rate by the number of lane miles in the watershed above the sampling site.

Chloride discharge rates are generally highest in March, decline gradually through the spring, and stabilize in summer-fall. Chloride concentrations are highest during the road salting season (December-March). Preliminary salt budget calculations indicate that 40 percent or more of salt applied to roads in the watershed each year is retained in the soils and groundwater. This is consistent with other studies that have used similar methods to estimate chloride budgets. Salt levels in the stream are high enough to have important effects on aquatic organisms, including during the summer growing season, and salt applications are slow to leave the stream system.

TITLE: "The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid" - A film About the Loss of an Ecosystem
AUTHORS: Mark Whitmore, Cornell University Entomologist
Bob O'Brien, New York State Invasive Species Control Specialist
Chris Foito, Conservation Filmmaker
PRESENTER: Mark Whitmore, Entomologist, Cornell University
Chris Foito, Conservation Filmmaker
ABSTRACT: The hemlock woolly adelgid - It’s an insect few people have heard of - yet it is devastating our hemlock trees and the delicate forest ecosystems that depend upon them. The hemlock woolly adelgid is infesting our own backyards of New York, and has already spread throughout the east coast of North America from the Carolinas up into Canada. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, a film by Chris Foito, aims to engage and educate the viewer on this all too often overlooked invasive species by explaining its past, present, and what could easily be the future if significant action is not taken. Through the use of archival footage of other invasive forest pests, specifically the Emerald Ash Borer, and beautiful cinematic visuals, the film illustrates the vital importance of the eastern hemlock tree as a foundation species in North American forests, and raises the questions of what should be done to prevent the spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid and the growing phenomena of invasive species as a whole.

Accepted Posters on "Student Studies of Water Quality"
TITLE: Exploring trends in commonly used bacterial sewage indicators in conjunction with an antibiotic resistance proxy (gene cassette int1) in a tributary of the Hudson River
AUTHORS: Student Researchers: Daniella Azulai, Haley Goss-Holmes, Pola Kuhn, Marco Spodek, Wendi Wan,Tierney Weymueller
Faculty Advisors: Gabriel Perron and Eli Dueker
PRESENTERS: Daniella Azulai, Haley Goss-Holmes, Pola Kuhn, Tierney Weymueller
Bard College
ABSTRACT: Sewage associated bacteria, such as Enterococcus, Coliforms and E. Coli, are commonly used as indicators of anthropogenic pollution in aquatic environments. We wish to determine whether class 1 integrons (int1), gene units that are indicative of genes that code for antibiotic resistance, could be used to determine water quality in the same manner as sewage associated bacteria. In Summer and Fall of 2015, we tested water and sediment in multiple sites above, below and at the outflow point of a sewage discharge pipe in the Saw Kill (Hudson River tributary) for bacterial sewage indicators and relative int1 abundance. In the summer, we found that bacterial sewage indicators and relative abundance of int1 shared similar trends at sampling sites in both water or soil samples, but were dissimilar when collected directly from the outflow pipe. While we found that bacterial sewage indicators generally trended together over time in both water and sediment samples, int1 followed a different pattern. Additionally, we found that the relative abundance of int1 was consistent across water samples above and below the discharge pipe, whereas int1 was more abundant in sediment samples below the discharge pipe than above. Preliminary results from Fall sampling point to a potentially significant variation in the quantity of each bacterial sewage indicator between the summer and the fall trials; these early implications lead us to predict that the relative abundance of int1 will change as well. These changes could stem from increased stress on the water treatment facility, as well as environmental differences that accompany a change in season. These results suggest that int1 has the potential to be an indicator of pollution, however we suggest that additional studies be conducted on more contaminated environments to fully understand the utility of int1 as it relates to anthropogenic pollution.

TITLE: Enterococci in the Hudson River: Sources of Contamination at 125th Street
AUTHORS: Alison Corley, Student, Barnard College
Karina Buhler, Student, Barnard College
PRESENTERS: Karina Buhler, Student, Barnard College
Alison Corley, Student, Barnard College
ABSTRACT: New York City is serviced by a Combined Sewage Overflow System; As rainfall events overwhelm the capacity of the city’s wastewater treatment system, excess rain water and raw sewage is released into the city’s rivers and harbors. With over 27 billion gallons of untreated sewage being released into the Hudson River each year, CSO discharge points act as the greatest source of pathogens to the city’s waterways. As the pathogens released into the water can be hazardous to humans and aquatic life. Given that it is difficult and expensive to identify and measure all bacteria species present in the water, indicator bacteria can be used to estimate the presence of other pathogens. The Barnard Environmental Science Department has sampled water from the Lower Hudson River at the Harlem Piers at 125th street for the past eight years, analyzing the water for trends in Enterococcus concentrations corresponding to precipitation events. Contrary to anticipations, no correlations between precipitation  and Enterococcus counts have been found. Focus is now being directed towards increasing the precision of the study by analyzing the samples in triplicate. In addition to collecting an ongoing data set reflecting the changes in Enterococci  populations samples are also measured for other water quality parameters using a YSI. Water samples are also filtered in order to measure the quantity of suspended particulate matter, and Secchi disk readings are taken to track changes in turbidity.

TITLE: The Relative Importance of Variables to Predict Stream Water Temperature
AUTHORS: Dr. Huicheng Chien, Jared Flagler
PRESENTERS: Dr. Huicheng Chien, Jared Flagler (SUNY New Paltz)
ABSTRACT: Stream water temperature is a critical variable in regulating distributions of aquatic species and controlling the release of in-stream sediment-attached nutrients. Air temperature is a well-known predictor of stream temperature. However, the importance of streamflow in predicting the stream water temperature is not clear. The primary objectives of this study are to measure stream water temperature and air temperature and examine the importance of streamflow in stream water temperature prediction. The measured stream water temperature and air temperature will be used to test two hypotheses: 1) streamflow in a smaller drainage area is a more important factor than air temperature in regulating water temperature, and 2) by combining air temperature and streamflow data stream water temperature can be more accurately estimated. Water and air data loggers are placed at USGS streamgauge stations 01362357and 01362370, along the Stony Clove and Esopus Creeks in Phonecia, New York. The data is then analyzed using the ARIMA (autoregressive integrated moving average) time series model. Both hypotheses are rejected, as streamflow is not a significant variable in predicting stream water temperature at both USGS gauge stations. Daily mean air temperature is the only significant variable in predicting stream water temperature at this scale.

TITLE: Do Enterococcus levels decrease in response to light exposure from the Saw Mill River daylighting projects?
AUTHORS: Sarah Fiordaliso, Student, Sarah Lawrence College and Dr. Michelle Hersh, Professor, Sarah Lawrence College
PRESENTER: Sarah Fiordaliso, Student, Sarah Lawrence College
ABSTRACT: This study examined the effect of the Saw Mill River daylighting project on fecal contamination levels in two daylighted portions of the river in Yonkers, NY. We hypothesized that the levels of fecal contamination in the water would decrease from the beginning to the end of the daylighted sections because of the water now being exposed to sunlight in these areas. Evidence of fecal contamination was tested for by measuring levels of the indicator species Enterococcus. For each section, water samples were collected from the beginning of the section where water emerged from underground, and the end of the section where water returned underground. The samples were taken from 10/14/14 to 11/24/14, and again from 6/3/15 to 10/6/15, with a total of 76 samples. We found that at the Larkin Plaza project, there was a significant decrease in the levels of Enterococcus between the beginning and the end of the daylighted section (p-value<.05), supporting our hypothesis. However, in the Chicken Island project there was no significant change.  Considering that UV exposure is known to kill Enterococcus, this result could be due to the varying amount of sunlight present at each location, as the Chicken Island portion is heavily shaded while the Larkin Plaza portion is not. Further research is needed to fully examine if UV exposure is the primary factor in this decrease, or if there are additional variables present.

TITLE: Integrating Research into Instrumental Analysis Curriculum: Investigation of Environmental Pollutants in Hudson River
AUTHORS: Yi He, Kathleen Lopez; Tiffany Wong; Colleen McNamara; Sandra Swenson
PRESENTER: Yi He, Associate Professor, John Jay College, The City University of New York
ABSTRACT: Research-supportive curriculum plays an important role in the development and training of chemistry students. A new learning model integrating undergraduate research was created and implemented in the course of Instrumental Analysis at John Jay College of the City University of New York. The laboratory portion of the course consists of seven-week hands-on training on all basic instruments and seven-week of research. Students engaged in research projects to investigate environmental pollutants in lower Hudson River. Cadmium, a toxic element, and PCBs, well-known carcinogen, in water samples were determined using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy (GFAAS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) respectively. Through the project, students participated in the entire chemical analysis process including sampling, sample preparation, analytical method development and validation, data treatment and report writing and presentation. Student studies of water quality of Hudson River bridged the gap of abstract classroom learning and application of the knowledge to solve real world problems.

TITLE: Orange County's GET WET Program
AUTHORS: Teresa Thornton, PhD President and CEO, GET WET, Mitchell Center, University of Maine
Ed Helbig, Conservation Education Coordinator, Orange County Water Authority
PRESENTER: Ed Helbig, Conservation Education Coordinator, Orange County Water Authority
ABSTRACT: GET WET is Citizen Science in action. For the past five years, students from Orange County have joined students from seven states in this unique water-quality testing program: Groundwater Education Through Water Evaluation and Testing (GET WET) brings together Middle and High School students and their science teachers with students and faculty from local colleges to collect water samples from students’ homes and test those samples in their School lab. Participating students complete real-world WQ tests in their science classes which tell them about their own home’s water quality and at the same time contribute to our County-wide understanding of water quality by gathering groundwater quality data. The purpose of GET WET is to collect data that is otherwise unavailable: 85% of Orange County’s land area is served only by private wells. Because NY is a Home Rule state, regional authorities cannot require the testing of private wells. That means that for more than four-fifths of the county, no data on groundwater quality is available. In light of this situation, Dr. Teresa Thornton of the University of Maine conceived of a solution: if funding doesn’t exist to test groundwater quality over a large geographic area, maybe volunteers could do the job. Dr. Thornton founded the GET WET program to enlist volunteers to test their water and report the results. This Citizen Science effort is in its sixth year in Orange County, and has developed 1672 Water Quality data points.

TITLE: Greenhouse Gas Production in Wetland Soil Laboratory Incubations Under Varying Nutrient Conditions
AUTHORS: Brian A. Brigham, Queens College graduate student; Angel D. Montero, Queens College undergraduate student; Jeffrey Bird, Queens College Associate Professor; Gregory O’Mullan, Queens College Associate Professor
PRESENTERS: Angel D. Montero, Undergraduate Student, Queens College
ABSTRACT: Wetlands within the Hudson River Estuary receive significant inputs of readily dissolvable carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) from fertilizer watershed runoff and incomplete wastewater treatment during storm events associated with NYC and other urban centers.  The extent to which nutrient additions alter C pools in anaerobic systems and the role microbial communities play in C transformation remains unclear.  In these anaerobic systems, we hypothesize that microbial activity is limited by the availability of easily-degradable C.  Sporadic transport of highly C enriched storm derived discharge may substantially enhance greenhouse gas (GHG) production rates through the utilization of stored C pools and/or added organic C.  To test our hypothesis carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) production rates were evaluated from soil cores removed from three wetland sites (Saw Mill Creek, (SM), Piermont (PM), and Iona Island (II) Marsh(s)) located across a salinity gradient (22 – 0.5 ppt) and incubated under varying nutrient treatments with daily headspace GHG measurements. Readily degradable C but not inorganic N additions stimulated GHG production 3X compared to negative controls.  The net warming potential effect from CO2 and CH4 emissions from C-amended soils were 25X greater in the two oligohaline marshes (II and PM) compared to 2X greater in the polyhaline marsh (SM).  Most significantly, 8%, 14%, and 23% of the C added to C treatments was mineralized as CO2 and CH4 for the SM, PM, and II incubations indicating that the native wetland soil C pools are resilient to anthropogenic additions and may remain critical C sinks in urban dominated ecosystems.

TITLE: Use of Online Resources to Explore the Influence of Precipitation and Tide on Piermont Pier Water Quality During a Two-Week Classroom Project
AUTHORS: Mohammad Qurashi, Queens College Undergraduate; Allison Drayer, Queens College Undergraduate; and Gregory O’Mullan, Queens College Associate Professor
PRESENTERS: Mohammad Qurashi and Allison Drayer, Queens College Undergraduates
ABSTRACT: Many urban areas commonly rely on combined sewer systems to transport sewage and stormwater. The capacity of these systems is frequently exceeded during rain events, subsequently leading to the bypass of municipal sewage treatment and discharge directly into local waterways. Prior studies have demonstrated that fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) concentrations increase in urban waterways of the Tappan Zee area following precipitation. Using two online resources we tested how water quality is affected by tidal activities during dry and wet weather. The first online resource we used was Riverkeeper ( to gather FIB levels and dry/wet weather information. The second online resource we used was HRECOS ( to gather tidal height information (used to infer ebb, slack and flood tide). By cross referencing data collected from both websites, we were able to evaluate the range of water quality at three Tappan Zee sites, evaluate the connection of water quality to rainfall and how the tidal direction influences water quality. According to the data we collected, there is a significant difference in Enterococci count when sorted by tide for the overall data and more specifically the dry weather data. Conversely, tide did not have a significant influence during wet weather. Significantly higher FIB counts, often unacceptable according to comparison with EPA water quality guidelines, were observed during the flood tide, likely explained transport from the Orangetown outfall to the south of Piermont Pier. Inversely, water quality is improved during ebbing tide because FIB from the Orangetown outfall would be transported away from Piermont Pier and water from the Tappan Zee Mid-Channel station (of high quality) would be transported to the pier. We conclude that tidal direction, in addition to precipitation, has an important influence on water quality of the Piermont Pier. This project demonstrates the benefit of combining information from multiple publically available water quality web sites.

TITLE: Effects of Stream Restoration Activities on Turbidity Levels
AUTHORS: Christopher Wright
Dr. Andrew Gascho Landis
PRESENTER: Christopher Wright, Student, SUNY Cobleskill
ABSTRACT: In 2011, Hurricane Irene swept through the Schoharie Valley and caused severe damage to buildings, homes and the environment experienced significant erosion, down cutting and disconnection from the flood plain.  As a result ecological restoration was initiated December 2014 to bring back the natural habitat for fish and aquatic life and attempt to limit negative impacts of future flooding on Line Creek and the Little Schoharie Creek.  We were interested in how restoration construction activities affect the stream turbidity levels  and if rise in turbidity increases during rainy conditions.  Line Creek and the Little Schoharie stream restoration sites are located in Middleburgh, New York.  Turbidity samples were taken twice a day, once in the morning as construction started and once in the afternoon as construction ended.  Samples were taken directly from the creeks downstream of the construction in a plastic sample container and the water was transferred into a Turbidity Meter (LaMotte) to determine the NTU level.  Water depth was recorded at each sampling event from in stream staff gauges.  Precipitation data was downloaded from the Schoharie Weather Station (National Climate Data Center).  Out of 62 days of instream construction, between May 18 and August 24, 2015, precipitation was detected on 21 days.  On days with rain, average turbidity increase was 183 NTU on Little Schoharie and 71 NTU on Line, compared to average increases of 24 and 10 NTU, respectively, on days without rain.  It appears that restoration activities increase instream sediments on rainy days.  If construction takes on these days better management practices should be implemented to turbidity increase, such as the use of turbidity currents or larger check dams.
Co-sponsored by
Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies/Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment
and Vassar College

Vassar College