First visit to research site in State College, PA

Last week was spent preparing to visit our field sites in Central Pennsylvania. We washed bottles, coordinated plans with fellow researchers, made sure our equipment was working and that we had plenty of extra, charged batteries. Jim Berglund and I left on Wednesday and met up with Dr. Ellen Herman, who is a professor at Bucknell University and doing similar spring monitoring work with her undergraduate students. There are two clusters of springs in the Nittany Valley and we went first to the  closer grouping and downloaded the temperature data from loggers installed there, which are programmed to record the temperature every 15 minutes. One of the springs is part of a karst window, which is a really cool feature where water comes above ground from a spring in the rock, flows above ground and has the appearance of a stream, and then takes a dive and goes back underground.

100Springs2_Rachel

Downloading temperature data at Hundred Springs

Thursday was our big day for field work at the other grouping of springs, about an hour and half drive from where w were. Our first stop was Hundred Springs, where we have 7 temperature loggers previously installed and we downloaded the data from those and also found 4 new springs! The area has many seeps and so we weren’t too surprised to find more springs and they were along similar elevation and rock types as the ones that were already being monitored.

We then visited our main research site, the springs Tippery and Near Tippery, outside of Tyrone, PA. Our goal for the afternoon was to install an ISCO water sampler and pH logger at each site. The ISCOs are situated behind and above the mouth of the spring and have a sensor attached to a stake just above the surface of the water. The goal is to have a significant enough rain event occur that it raises the water level, which then triggers the ISCO and it will begin collected a sample of water, one liter bottle every 1.5 hours for 36 hours. The pH loggers are programmed to read and record the pH every 15 minutes, just the like the temperature loggers. Ellen came out to meet us again and was a big help in deciding where to place the ISCOs so that they are close to the spring, on a level spot, secure and not too far up that the battery will die just trying to pump the water uphill. It was a lot of fun to get out in the field and see all the details and planning come to fruition. A packing list of all the tools and gear you need is essential as well as a to-do list to make sure you’ve completed everything you set out to do. An extra pain of socks and a chocolate bar can’t hurt too…

 

IMGP0516

Jim and Ellen securing the ISCO sensor at Near Tippery

IMGP0521

Jim and the ISCO sampler at Near Tippery

 

Frances Velay Fellowship 2016 Summer Research

IMG_1347

Area surrounding a spring near Malvern, PA

I am very excited to be working with Dr. Laura Toran this summer after being awarded the Frances Velay Fellowship to promote women in science. I will be studying the ion ratios of two springs that are located in the Nittany Valley in central Pennsylvania before and after storm events. We are looking at the springs to gain a better understanding of how ground water flows through karst aquifers, which are conduits created by limestone dissolution. So far, I have been doing some training work in the lab on samples that Dr. Toran, phd student Jim Berglund and I collected from 7 springs near Malvern, PA on Monday, May 23rd. The lab work consists of alkalinity titrations to determine pH, using the Dionex machine for anion counts and the ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma mass spectrometry) for cation counts. Data is then entered into Excel and we have been comparing the numbers of these suburban areas with data that Jim has compiled from springs in Central PA, which are more rural.

About

I am currently an Environmental Science major at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. I am from Bucks County and have returned to college to finish my bachelor’s degree after 10 years of working, baking, farming and traveling.