When students enter the classroom of Kirsten Martin, Ph.D., associate professor of Biology, they must be prepared to get their hands dirty. As founder, organizer, and leader of the Scantic River Water Monitoring Program, Dr. Martin oversees the sampling and monitoring of the river’s E.coli levels. As a result, her students regularly join forces with volunteers from the local community to test monthly water samples from every road crossing near the Scantic River.
During the summer, testing increases, as Dr. Martin’s interns collect weekly water samples from sites along the river, analyze them for E.coli levels, and post results online for residents to review. However, two of her summer interns this year – Lauren Held and McKenna Driscoll – took their duties a step further, helping members of the East Windsor American Heritage River Commission repair Bridge Four along the Scantic River Trail System. Together, the volunteers drilled new boards into the existing bridge, hammered nails into posts, and dug holes to anchor the legs of the bridge.
“Although it was hard work, it was an extremely enriching experience and I was so humbled to be a part of it,” said Driscoll. “It felt great to take part in building something that the East Windsor community and other visitors will use for years to come.”
Added Dr. Martin, “The opportunity for students to participate in field work and field research is invaluable. When students have the opportunity to be involved in crucial projects, the experience not only enriches their educational experience, but it highlights the connections between science concepts learned in the classroom, public service, and future career opportunities.”
Her students agree, and recognize the impact these projects have on their learning.
“I feel very fortunate to be a part of this Biology internship and work alongside Dr. Martin,” Driscoll said. “I’ve grown and learned so much from her already, and I look forward to future learning experiences with her throughout the rest of my time here at USJ!”
Driscoll will likely have the opportunity to work on these projects again, as Dr. Martin’s continued efforts keep USJ at the forefront of water monitoring research in Connecticut.
“USJ was one of the first groups in Connecticut to participate in the Connecticut River Conservancy’s ‘Is it Clean?’ E.coli monitoring program. Without the data collected by USJ students throughout the summer, the general public and local conservation groups would have limited access to information about water quality.”
Interested in learning more about USJ’s Biology programs? Click here.