Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stream Safari Spring and Summer 2014

The Stream Safari program is part of “Ecosystems and Society”, an outreach project funded through NH EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research - established by the National Science Foundation-NSF).  The Stream Safari program is designed to reach youth, their adult mentors, teachers and their families, particularly from underrepresented audiences, primarily through informal education settings such as afterschool and summer and youth group programs.  Engaging populations underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), in particular is a critical contribution towards developing a science literate citizenry and eventually, a workforce needed for the advancement a technologically advanced economy  in NH. Stream Safari investigations include hands-on learning experiences in the field and the afterschool site/classroom, with activities used with permitted use by Project WET/WILD and Monitoring the White River. These will provide opportunities for participants to learn about stream ecology as well as to practice observing, collecting data and analyzing data, while introducing youth to individuals who work in STEM careers.

Stream Safari kicked off the spring season with a very motivated 3rd grade teacher Sara Cantrell from Maple St. Magnet School in Rochester.  Cantrell's class of 20 had been studying water this school year and she wanted to culminate the study with the Stream Safari program.

For the final assessment, Mrs. Cantrell wanted her class to design letterboxes based on research questions they were interested in.  Letterboxing combines navigational skills and scrap-booking into a treasure hunt quest.  Basically it is Geo-Caching without the technology.  The letter-boxes would include the information that students would  learn during Stream Safari.
We integrated the Stream Safari program into the final unit of the year, Mrs. Cantrell would teach some of the lessons in her class and I would visit once a week to do stream field work.

We visited the Cocheco River in Rochester several times to take abiotic and biotic samples, the students created maps of the Hanson Pines park, they conducted research and combined all of their knowledge into neat little letter-boxes that they then hide around the park for people to find.

Our sampling lead us to find an abundance of macro-invertebrates, of which came out of both the intolerant, moderatly tolerant and tolerant groupings and our abiotic tests showed that the Cocheco river stands in "fair" condition.

If you happen to be into letterboxing and would like to check out the 12 or so boxes hidden in Hanson Pines Park and to learn more about water, rivers, watersheds and the Cocheco River, please contact Sara Cantrell, at  

As soon as the Maple St. Magnet School Stream Safari program was wrapped up, I began working with the Nashua Boys and Girls club.  I started with a training of 17 interested after-school professionals who wanted to learn about  Stream Safari, environmental education and how to get involved. 
Final activity on how human development impacts a river, "Sum of the Parts", Project WET.
The training was new to our outreach efforts and was purposeful in making sure we prepared our partner teachers in helping us make Stream Safari more sustainable.  
A group of students receive their 4-H Stream Safari certificates.
The Nashua Boys and Girls Club is hosting Stream Safari at both their club and their camp, Camp Duocet this summer.  At Camp Doucet, the program is run every two weeks engaging all the campers by the end of August.  At the club, one educator is teaching the program this summer and will continue into the fall with a new group. Overall, approximately 50 students will have experiences mucking around in local Nashua streams!

Therese Mehrmann teaching about macro-invertebrates.
Derek Burkhardt teaching a game on adaptations.

Derek Burkhardt, a recent UNH Manchester graduate and Therese Mehrmann, entering her senior year, have joined me this summer as Stream Safari program assistants.  Both have taken biology classes and are seeking to further their careers into STEM education.  I am thrilled to have them part of the program and working with the kids.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for partnerships to build within the UNH student community.    

At first glance, the Salmon Brook, which runs through Nashua, seemed lifeless.  There is a small current, lots of shade, but there was so much mud!  I can't tell you how many times we have lost boots, sneakers, nets and sometimes even have gone for an unexpected dip into the water. 

Students shaking their test tubes for abiotic testing.

But through this we have found many living things lurking on the banks.  Frogs, crayfish, scuds, dragonfly nymphs, mayflies, whirligigs, snails, worms, and even some fish!  The kids, who have little experience mucking about in the water, are enjoying learning about the stream and are beginning to love the smell of stream water on their hands.  

As we continue our program through August, we are fine-tuning the lessons and activities for the variety of learners we are encountering.  The rest of the summer should bring excitement and hopefully more critters to be found!

Brainstorm of what a watershed is.

The Boys and Girls Club, Charlie Collinson is having a thrilling experience bringing his group of 15 kids to the Mines Falls Canal, where again we were very unsure of what we would find.  We trekked through the fields with our equipment only to find a wonderful array of macros and fish.  
Attempting a crossing without losing a shoe!

We conducted our physical testing and found the water to be very low in dissolved oxygen, average pH, and high in nitrates and phosphates.  Which lead us to believe that the water was not as clean as we hoped.  But still, we found many living things lurking among our feet.  The group is looking forward to their next trip to the river next week!
Camp Director, Sam Goodspeed helping students identify macroinvertebrates.

As you can see, we are very busy in Nashua, but with a little planning, collaborative partners and enthusiastic group of kids, we have already learned so much about the streams and waterways in Nashua.  

Posted by Sarah Grosvenor, UNH Cooperative Extension STEM Field Specialist

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Albedo: From the Granite State to Summit, Greenland

There’s nothing like the first big snow of the season. Having grown up in New Orleans, I still get a rush of excitement when I wake up to the blanketed ground and the tree branches heavy under the weight of snow. As this winter season begins, I look forward to the skiing, the ice skating, the snowy woods and even some shoveling now and then. But sometimes, you just can’t get enough of winter, from the thrill of bundling up to go out into the cold to the joy of watching the delicate snowflakes slowly coat the ground. So what do you do when you’re down in the dumps because the last of the snow has melted in New Hampshire and the ice has left the ponds? Well, this past summer, the answer was to travel to Summit, Greenland, a land of perpetual snow and ice! 

Summit, Greenland. An expanse of snow and ice as far as the eye can see.
Through Dartmouth’s IGERT program, I was able to spend nearly four weeks at Summit Station at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet. While I was there, one of my research goals was to study the snow albedo, which is a measure of the fraction of incoming solar radiation that is reflected off of the ground surface. Thanks to the EPSCoR project and the work that our group has been doing to study snow albedo in New Hampshire, I had a wealth of tools and techniques readily available for this research. While at Summit, I made daily measurements of snow albedo and snowpack characteristics such as grain size and shape, chemical impurities, temperature and density. Ultimately, I hope to compare my snow albedo studies at Summit with those that we have made here at home. 

Left: Making snow characterization measurements in New Hampshire last winter. Note the grass visible in the snow pit! (Photo: Wesley Whitaker) Right: Making albedo measurements using the ASD FieldSpec at Summit, Greenland. (Photo: Christine Urbanowicz) 
My trip to Summit also provided us with the opportunity to interact with the students of the Joint Science Education Project. This program brings together high school students from Greenland, Denmark and the United States to travel around Greenland and learn about the science research that occurs around the country. Thanks to the CoCoRaHS Albedo program, we brought a few snow albedo kits along with us and used them to investigate the snow around Summit Station.

Making albedo measurements with the JSEP students using the CoCoRaHS snow kit! (Photo: Christine Urbanowicz)
We discussed how different types of snow grains and changes in snow chemistry can affect the albedo. We made measurements on fresh snow, snow that had been compacted by heavy machinery and snow that had experienced lots of exhaust from a recent C-130 cargo plane landing. It quickly became clear to the students that not all snow is the same. It was exciting to see the same types of measurements that are being made by schools all over New Hampshire also taking place in the center of the Greenland Ice Sheet!

The JSEP group after a successful day of albedo measurement! (Photo: Christine Urbanowicz)
Traveling to Greenland over the summer was a fantastic opportunity, providing a platform to extend my snow research and to connect and share with a fantastic group of international students. But for now, there’s no need to venture northward, because winter comes to us! Here in New Hampshire, we will dive into a series of new snow albedo measurements right in our backyard.

Let it snow!

Posted by Alden Adolph, PhD Student, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College