This past week I’ve been busy laying the foundation for the project I will be working on for the rest of the summer. My end goal is to develop a sustainable citizen science program that will monitor the condition of informal trails within CVNP. Before I engage with any volunteers though, I have to work out my protocols and define the scope of this pilot program. That’s what I’ve been up to recently – I spent the first days this week curled up at my desk poring over existing research on monitoring formal trails, engaging citizen science in monitoring efforts, and the impact of informal trailing. I don’t know how this sounds to the average person, but this former lab rat was not unhappy spending a day or two deep in the literature, especially since my perch has a great view of a historic railroad crossing! At this point, I’ve roughly drafted my data collection protocols and I plan to spend the next couple of days scoping out and mapping the social trails I will focus on for this project.
I was also trained in water quality testing this week. We sample from the Cuyahoga River, which runs through the park, and test for turbidity and E. coli. This data, and information from a USGS gauge, helps inform those who decide whether or not to put up an advisory for paddlers and others who spend time in the water. I was surprised to discover that the most intimidating part of the process for me is not the getting up close and personal with E. coli. The type we encounter in our waters are non-pathogenic. We test for them because they serve as a good estimation of the concentration of other potentially harmful bacteria present. It turns out that the most anxiety-inducing part for me is when I have to stand on a bridge and lower a surprisingly heavy bucket into waters below to collect the sample. It’s perfectly safe and people say it’s healthy to face your fears. I’ll be facing my acrophobia on a weekly basis for the span of this summer and I’ll be just a little bit disappointed if I don’t have kryptonian immunity by August.