For immediate release…
Monday – April 14, 2014
By Michelle Debevec
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - A new water-quality app developed by six Northern Kentucky University students is getting national attention at a prestigious Environmental Protection Agency student design competition this spring. NKU's Water Quality Pro app could potentially boost the EPA's efforts to monitor our nation’s rivers and streams with the help of local citizen scientists.
Five of the six students who worked on the app will showcase the Water Quality Pro app at the EPA’s People, Prosperity and Plant (P3) competition (http://www.epa.gov/p3) April 26-27 in Washington D.C. The conference promotes next-generation solutions to environmental challenges.
The Water Quality Pro app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/waterquality/id569193509?mt=8) for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and eventually Android, will allow citizen scientists – as well as amateur and professional scientists – to efficiently record and collect data from local rivers and streams.
In addition, students are developing a website where data can be stored and accessed to better report and monitor stream conditions. Water Quality Pro has the ability to make the information from citizen scientists more credible and consistent. That makes the data attractive to the EPA, said NKU biology professor and lead investigator Richard Durtsche.
“One of the big problems is there are not enough people to get out and sample from the agency, and to sample correctly,” Durtsche said. “It is labor intensive. If you could have citizen groups monitoring their backyard and neighborhood streams for their own information and providing it to the agencies, as long as the data is credible, that will alert them to areas that may have more acute problems.”
The EPA currently has the capability to test Ohio streams every 15-20 years. Water and land conditions can greatly change in this amount of time. Citizen scientists, who live near these bodies of water and have a vested interest in the water quality, can check conditions on a more consistent basis.
Taking this information into consideration, NKU students are developing this app so these two science-minded groups can work together to collect accurate and timely data. The NKU team applied for and was awarded a $15,000 EPA grant to participate in the invite-only competition. The P3 grant will fund the students’ housing, transportation, and living expenses when they attend the National Sustainable Design Expo (http://www.epa.gov/p3/nsde) later this month. They will compete with nearly 40 other student groups from across the country that also received a P3 grant.
This project is unique in its transdisciplinary approach – students from different NKU degree programs and colleges have worked together on the app and website. Students creating Water Quality Pro come from geology, biology, graduate and undergraduate computer science, and media informatics.
Madeline Walker, a New Media student involved in creating Water Quality Pro, emphasized the importance of each team member and what they bring to the table. She said she believes each one is necessary to make the project come together, as they each bring their specific area of expertise to the project.
Julie A. Moses, a senior biological sciences major, is one of five students who will present the app at the national expo. “I became interested in water quality very early in my childhood when I discovered the creek in my backyard that connects to the Ohio River watershed,” Moses said. “Working on a mobile app that will allow citizen scientists and professionals alike to record credible data that can be used by environmental agencies has inspired me and fulfilled my sense of environmental duty.”
While at the expo, the students will set up a booth and visual aids to provide judges and other competitors information on Water Quality Pro. They’ll also have an artificial stream on display to demonstrate the app. Expo participants will be competing for a $90,000 grant, which would help bring a higher quality version of the app to the market.
“I look forward to sharing my excitement for the app with the public, and teaching them the importance of watershed monitoring as it relates to our most valuable natural resource,” Moses said. “My goal at the National Sustainable Design Expo is to inform the judges and the public of the potential Water Quality Pro holds in changing the way we look at collecting credible water-quality data.”
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