Testing My Local Streams

This week’s blog was written by John B., a Brookies alumni. John is a senior in high school. He found out about the academy from his Chinese teacher who thought that he would enjoy it. John figured he would enjoy the camp because he enjoyed a conservation camp that he attended previously. John loves spending time outdoors and often goes fishing. His plan is to attend college next fall to pursue biology and possibly Chinese too.

Here in Lancaster County, we don’t have the cleanest waterways in the state, so as a result, we have to keep an eye on them! Last October I joined the Lancaster County Conservatory to help with monthly water tests around the country. Back in the summer, during the brookies field school, we were given small water test kits that could test the temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and turbidity. Although these measurements can give one a fair idea of the water quality, the conservancy uses many more tools and methods to check the water’s quality. Two factors of importance in Lancaster are the nitrate and phosphate levels because extensive use of fertilizers can cause high levels in the water. These two ions in excess can be damaging to the health of aquatic animals. Additionally, many other possibly dangerous qualities are tested such as alkalinity, salinity, and total dissolved solids. These tests are made possible by using equipment such as testing chemicals, a colorimeter, precise glassware, and a multi-test sensor pen. For the few months I have been on the job, Climber’s Run, my testing site, has yet to move out of the acceptable ranges. This is great news as Climber’s Run is one of the few streams in Lancaster County that can support native Brook Trout.

Here is a Brook Trout that I caught in one of Lancaster County’s few streams that are still able to support them.

Before the chemistry tests are performed, we must go down to the stream to get the water sample. Here, we do many more tests on the physical structure of the stream and its surroundings. A few of these include temperature, surrounding land use, streambed composition, and water flow rate. These physical tests allow the conservancy to have a record of the history of the stream. One way this could be beneficial is if they notice a housing development upstream of the test site and see an increase in a certain chemical in the water 2 months later, they can recognize the development as the new variable that caused the change.

Overall, I really enjoy working with the conservancy to help test the local waterways. This simple effort helps to ensure that the waterways stay safe for recreation and aquatic animal survival. Working on this project has encouraged me to keep pursuing conservation efforts in the future because I enjoy the work and the learning that comes with it.

The photo used in this blog belongs to the author.