Budding biologists present findings at Student Watershed Watch Summit

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 4:50 PM EST
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200 students from 10 schools were at the Toledo Zoo today for TMACOG's Student Watershed Summit, aimed at getting 5th through 12th graders engaged in local biology.

"We're talking to a bunch of kids who are all involved in measuring water quality, both at their schools and out in the community," says conservation coordinator Dr. Ryan Walsh. "All these kids are really getting a head start on becoming biologists themselves."

Over 20,000 students have taken part in the Watershed Watch over the last 3 decades. Today's summit is a culmination of months of research, and it's that sense of discovery that keeps the program going."

"The public in general is a lot more acutely aware of water quality issues in northwest Ohio," says Dr. Walsh, "and that attracts a lot more kids to get involved."

We talked with some Northview students, who were among the first to present their findings, including limestone making their sample site in Sylvania more basic. Each category from nitrates to solid waste is assigned a Q, or quality level.

As Cecile Schreidah explains: "If you have a pH of 7 -- and that range only goes from 0 to 14 -- but if someone else has a different value that spans from 0 to 100, how exactly would you compare the two? It's just a standard level that can be used for comparison."

Students are also judged on their creativity, and this group had a bit of showmanship up their sleeve, singing out a scientific summary.

"It actually started after our science teacher ended up going to one of our choir concerts and saw we had some decent skills in singing," explains Blake Schiffel. "Most of the challenge was figuring out how to pack words I could barely pronounce myself, into about a 2-minute timespan!"

The ultimate goal for both TMACOG and the zoo is to keep the next generation of scientists interested in the world around them.

"It's not always easy becoming a scientist and getting a job in the real world," Dr. Walsh recalls. "As professional scientists, I think that's what most of us will be talking to them about: 'Here's what we would do if we could go back and do it again'."