Over the course of this summer I worked on a research project called “Can filter feeders restore water quality in Coney Island Creek?: The role of mussels and oysters in nitrogen removal.” The goal of my project was to collect data on the general water quality conditions within the creek. Coney Island Creek is heavily polluted and there is a lack of data available on the extent of this pollution. In addition to that, I sought to use the information I collected to begin to assess the role that oyster cages may play in improving these conditions.
Every week we ventured out into the field and collected water quality samples based on the tidal cycle. We started sampling as the tide came in and then waited to do our second round of sampling as the tide went back out. At each site, we recorded measurements of dissolved oxygen, velocity, pH, and temperature. Many of our sampling sites were inaccessible, so we often used a bucket attached to a rope to collect our samples from bridges. We also used oranges and a stopwatch to measure velocity at our inaccessible sites. At the end of our sampling period, we used a cooler to maintain the nutrient concentrations of our collections and transported them to the Pleasantville campus for analysis.
At this point in time, we are still in the process of analyzing the samples we collected. At each site we collected three samples, resulting in several dozen collected water samples. To determine the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and ammonia, we are using the Seal Analytical AutoAnalyzer. This machine uses reagents to analyze the samples and creates a standard curve, which can then be used to determine our final nutrient concentrations. It also allows us to duplicate and “spike” samples for quality check analysis. Quality check allows us to make sure that the results we receive are accurate.
Overall, conducting this research has been a rewarding and challenging experience. I’ve learned a great deal about water systems and the complexities surrounding maintaining them. I also now know how to use the standard techniques employed for water quality monitoring. Being in a public area also granted me the opportunity to interact with members of the community and hear their thoughts on the pollution in Coney Island Creek. Speaking with these people and hearing how passionate they were about improving the water quality conditions was a great privilege. Many residents expressed that they felt a lack of transparency between researchers and the community because information regarding the pollution in the Creek is inaccessible to them. Their comments showed me how important it is that we as researchers involve and engage communities when doing research in their neighborhoods. In addition to the field techniques I learned, I will carry that valuable message into my future research endeavors.