Finding the Stories Hidden in Data

On Wednesday, June 8th, Candie Wilderman (Founder and Science Advisor), Stephanie Letourneau (Community Science Specialist), Phoebe Galione (Outreach Manager), and student watershed coordinators Charlotte Kratovil-Lavelle ‘24 and I joined Stream Team volunteers virtually for a follow up to the Data Exploration Workshop held in mid-April. During this Data Finding’s Meeting, each monitoring team had the opportunity to reflect on their discoveries, share their stories, and listen to common trends across different counties in Pennsylvania.

Each team began their reflections with a brief overview of their site’s characteristics (like geology and land use), before sharing trends they identified after combining their knowledge about the area with the data provided to them in their ALLARM data packets. Charlotte and I both enjoyed hearing the volunteers’ findings. For Charlotte, it was because the volunteers “provided insight and passion that only they, the local experts, could provide.” Listening to the volunteers’ stories made me realize the power of crowdsourcing and being able to leverage a wide spectrum of expertise between the volunteers’ prior research of trends, local understanding, and appreciation of the area. The result of these findings can ultimately help identify problems and inform how we can best support and direct volunteers to receive the assistance they need.

Screenshot shows volunteer presenting a photo of his site

The story of Kreutz Creek is one that exemplifies this mission. During the interpretation meeting, the volunteers explained that their site was downstream of a landfill and agricultural hubs in the region, and experienced heavy pollution. They knew that it violated guidelines and worked to raise flags and get external help, but unfortunately, not much has changed since. While they feel that a lot of people put business before the environment, they hope to continue monitoring and working towards making a difference in their local waterway.

Candie wrapped up the meeting by sharing a combined and comparative site analysis, including all sites with over a year’s worth of data. “This was my first-time watching Candie present, and it was a great learning experience. She covered a diverse array of scientific ideas and presented the material in a way that was easy to understand. I was particularly struck by the way she explained regression analysis using everyday examples such as the relationship between children growing and height,” Charlotte recalled.

One of the strongest trends she identified was the correlation between land use and conductivity: the variability in how developed the land is can explain 40.82% of the variability in conductivity. To put that into perspective, percentages of over 30% in natural environments may be considered statistically significant because of the variability in aquatic systems! As Stream Team continues to grow in the years to come, we are incredibly excited to see changes in comparative data analysis and reckon with new trends supported by our data.

Screenshot shows the graphs that help exemplify the trend between conductivity and land use