FIU@Home: Explore water quality monitoring

By Nicholas Ogle

Home is the first learning laboratory. This series brings opportunities to discover, explore and create to life-long learners everywhere. Through books, experiments, adventures and digital journeys, FIU@Home engages the whole family with fun, curated educational experiences. Don’t forget to share on social media and tag @FIUCASE.

What’s in the water?
Water is one of the most essential resources on Earth. Clean, fresh water at the twist of handle is something most people have come to expect and take for granted. But it is important to remember that water comes from somewhere in the environment and it is the responsibility of everyone in our communities to conserve it and keep it clean. The healthy working ecosystems we all depend on for life and recreation are reliant on healthy water resources. Nutrients, chemicals and sediment can all have a negative effect on water quality. Water quality monitoring is no small task and is necessary to provide the objective evidence needed to make decisions that guarantee high quality water in our freshwater and marine systems today and beyond. FIU scientists have been on the front lines of providing information on the condition of our water for decades, from the Florida Everglades to Biscayne Bay and everywhere in between.

“Humans have a lot to do with why our water resources are so threatened,” Candice Allouch, Institute of Environment’s program director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships said. “It’s up to us to get involved and take action so we can restore what has been damaged. As an essential part of any creature’s survival, water keeps us alive – now it’s our turn to make sure our water resources are healthy and thriving.”

Water quality monitoring in action – Biscayne Bay
The recent events in Biscayne Bay helps us better understand the role water quality monitoring can play in our community. In response to large scale fish kills, FIU researchers in the Institute of Environment rapidly mobilized to find answers. Water quality monitoring tools, such as sensors, cutting edge monitoring buoys and even an automated sampling vehicle were deployed to collect data. Water samples were analyzed in the CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment’s Nutrient Analysis Core facility. In this case, high temperature and low dissolved oxygen conditions were discovered in many of the places the fish kills were being observed. Based on the findings, the FIU Institute of Environment and its partners worked to aerate the water, swift action based on water quality science. But rapid response to disasters is only one small piece of the puzzle. Aquatic ecosystems are complex and long-term water quality research paired with comprehensive community decision making is the only way to prevent the water quality catastrophes of the future.

Knowledge is key in addressing a critical large-scale issue such as water quality. FIU is committed to providing resources and data for the community to explore. The FIU Institute of Environment is providing ongoing updates on the health of the bay, including access to real time water quality data from a network of sampling buoys. A comprehensive assessment of regional coastal waters is provided by the Water Quality Monitoring Network directed by Research Professor Henry Briceno. The Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Research Network led by FIU delivers data based on long term research in an effort to identify the causes leading to declines in water quality.

Get Involved
Reducing the use of fertilizers to limit phosphorus and nitrogen inputs, maintaining septic systems and simply reporting suspected water quality issues are all important actions individuals can take to be good stewards of our water and aquatic ecosystems. Volunteers can join the ranks of FIU citizen scientists collecting tide and water quality data during the upcoming Sea Level Solutions Day on Oct. 17. Every member of our community has a role to play in conserving our most important shared resource. Tag @FIUCASE and @FIUEnvironment to share the steps you take in becoming a water warrior.