Every two weeks over the course of the field season, Mad River Watch volunteers visit their field sites to make careful observations and to test water quality parameters like temperature, nitrate/nitrite, phosphate, and conductivity. Our volunteers help us understand the health of the watershed and inspire us to deepen our connection to it at the same time. Check back in to this page after each set of field days to see the most recent highlights from the field.
As we aggregate, analyze, and understand the data collected from the field - we will share insights learned here.
This is our volunteer's most important task. Careful observations are the basis of any sound scientific inquiry, and our volunteers pay close attention to changing conditions at their field sites.
Stream temperature influences everything else. It influences bacteria levels and drives all biological activity, makes geochemical reactions happen more quickly, and increases the pace of plant and algae growth. Aquatic life thrives within certain temperature ranges. Knowing the water temperature is a critical element of all of our other monitoring work.
Electrical conductivity measures the ability of a sample of water to conduct electricity. Road salt applications across cold regions of the country are linked to increased salinization of freshwater resources, with increasing trends of sodium and chloride. Having this data allows Friends to begin to understand how and when components of road salt are moving into the Mad River.
Phosphate is the “reactive” form of phosphorus and the easiest to measure in water. It is the form of phosphorus that plants take up and assimilate into their tissues; it drives biological activity as it is a necessary nutrient for life. However, when there is too much of it, it can lead to increases in toxic algae blooms like those seen closing beaches in Lake Champlain.
Nitrate and nitrite are forms of nitrogen that (like phosphate) are highly reactive and therefore easy to measure with low-tech tools like test strips. Measurement of nitrate/ nitrite along with phosphorus can help identify potential sources of pollutants because their ratios differ depending on the source (i.e., roads, farms, septic).
By tracking the human use and impact at field sites across the watershed, volunteers help us develop and prioritize more comprehensive plans that bring others in the community together towards shared stewardship goals.