Data Interpretation: Conodoguinet and University Run Stream Teams

Event: Data Interpretation Workshop, February 16, 2021

Olivia Spildooren ’21 and Hiba Aoid ’21 leading a breakout discussion room with two Stream Team members to talk through data trends.

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, I helped co-facilitate small group discussions during ALLARM’s Cumberland Stream Team Data meeting, which focused on the Conodoguinet and University watersheds. I had so much fun with this experience because I got to engage the data interpretation experience from a full circle perspective – I helped out with the Cumberland chemical monitoring workshop in September of 2019 and I developed graphs that were used in the meeting. This workshop had 10 Stream Team volunteer groups whose sample sites spread throughout the Conodoguinet Creek watershed, plus we added on the University Run group. To create well-rounded data visualization, this workshop offered land cover and geology maps, monitoring site-specific watershed delineations, land cover and geology statistics, donut graphs, and bar graphs for each of the sites. It was quite a group effort to be able to achieve this level of detail and visualization with three full time staff and five students working on this project. I contributed bar graphs for each monitoring parameter: temperature, conductivity, pH, and nitrate-nitrogen for each site, a total of 40 bar graphs. I also created presentation slides for each site’s bar graphs which was used to facilitate the small group interpretation discussions.

I had originally intended to only contribute bar graphs to the meeting but then was offered an opportunity to help facilitate small groups during the workshop. I am glad for this experience because I was able to use the bar graphs I had created to help the volunteers discover stories and meaning behind their year-long data collection. I also enjoyed hearing their unique observations or anecdotes about their sites which helped add more understanding to the data trends that the numbers might not have expressed by themselves.

I was inspired by the volunteers’ passion for monitoring, love of their sites, and dedication through consistent monthly monitoring for a full year or more. It is also impressive to me how with the help of many volunteers we could amass a very comprehensive view of the Conodoguinet Creek with many sites upstream and downstream. This gave us detailed pictures of each site and then a more holistic outlook at watershed-wide trends in water quality. This workshop helped affirm why I am passionate about citizen science. I love seeing individuals build scientific knowledge and understanding in addition to embracing the agency we all have to find stories in data.

I have enjoyed the collaborative nature of preparing for data workshops. These experiences at ALLARM have been invaluable and inspiring as a college senior exploring job possibilities. I hope that I can find similar camaraderie and community empowerment in my future career.