Stepping into the Shoes of a Volunteer Monitor

On September 29th and October 2nd, ALLARM had the pleasure of visiting Professor Rebecca Connor’s first year seminar, “From Kyoto to Paris to Carlisle: Human Impact on Global and Local Environments.” ALLARM was asked to lead the students through an experience that would give a community science lens on data collection, as well as insight into water quality monitoring protocols and interpretation.

Emma Spinelli ‘25: I got to take part in the first visit to Professor Rebecca Connor’s class where our primary focus was on communicating what community science was, its importance, and the work that goes into our volunteers’ monitoring efforts. In addition to the introductory lecture, our visit included giving the students hands-on experience with the different testing equipment that our volunteers utilize for chemical monitoring to better understand what water monitoring for ALLARM’s Stream Team entails. It was really an amazing experience working with Phoebe Galione (Outreach Manager), Prerana Patil ’24 and Charlotte Kratovil-Lavelle ’24  to guide the students through conductivity, pH and nitrate-nitrogen testing while talking about the relevance of each of these tests. In preparation for the visit, I underwent the training procedure that volunteers complete in order to know how to properly go about testing, and I also read a collection of articles that highlighted what c-science is and the value of involving the public in science. My favorite moment from the class visit was definitely getting to see the students slowly become more comfortable with the procedure, especially by the last test, nitrate-nitrogen. From practicing on my own, to guiding others through the procedures, I felt it was a very powerful experience to help others understand how to successfully complete different tests and feel confident in the conclusions they reach. I learned that when it comes to community science, individuals with different backgrounds and experiences levels are working together for a common goal, and that by engaging with the diversity in knowledge while building capacities with new skills, we can help strengthen the connection to waterways around us.

Max Carfrey ‘26: On the second class visit, Phoebe and I recapped the experiences students had during Friday’s class before explaining how our volunteers go from data collection to data interpretation. This was my first ALLARM event outside of the office, so I was super excited to experience what it would be like to teach others of the importance of water quality monitoring! In order to prepare for this presentation, I watched a previous Stream Team Data Findings Meeting spotlighting our volunteers’ data to get a sense of what each monitor looks at when they do their data collection. I focused on Mill Creek as a case study, and took notes on things like site characteristics, issues with the site like runoff for example, and what new policies are being implemented (based off of our volunteer’s local knowledge) so that I could share with the class. Although I only focused on one site, I found the experience informative and important to talk about because these findings are integral to interpreting what causes could be affecting the water bodies. I learned how essential it is to have these volunteers monitoring because they are the local experts and have a deep connection to the places they monitor. Hearing their stories is impactful and pushes me to learn more about how we can aid these locations while at ALLARM and outside of it. A favorite memory of mine was helping a student who had a question about geology and the impact it has on specific water bodies because it made me feel like I was using the knowledge I have gained from ALLARM to educate others!

Overall, we both really enjoyed getting the opportunity to interact and engage with students to teach about the importance of water quality monitoring and data interpretation in our communities. We can’t wait to see the final projects that the students create and are excited for more of our own opportunities to get involved with similar events soon!