University of Guelph (U of G) students in a fourth-year freshwater course will be able to use custom-made field kits to conduct stream sampling and learn from home.

The freshwater course aims to teach students about water chemistry and the effects of pollutants on aquatic health in local streams close to home.

“Usually we take students to streams and lakes, and they sample the water using different equipment,” said Sheri Hincks, lab coordinator in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. “We’re changing our sampling protocol.”

The kits will be provided along with virtual instruction including videos for up to 75 students in the course, according to Hincks.

And for the first time in the Fall of 2020, the materials will also enable students in Limnology of Natural and Polluted Waters to share their findings with an international citizen science project intended to assess and improve the health of streams and rivers more broadly.

Using the new kits, “students still get to experience fieldwork,” said Hincks. “This is real-life stuff that aquatic biologists would be doing. They can get into a local stream in their watershed and decide whether it’s being impacted and what’s causing it.”

Fieldwork normally involves wading knee-deep in Guelph’s Speed and Eramosa rivers to take physical and biological samples. Sampling typically happens upstream and downstream from municipal water treatment plants or corporate plants.

U of G will be mailing kits to students. The kits include everything from bags and sorting trays for collecting insects to live Daphnia (water fleas) used in freshwater toxicity testing.

In 2020, the class will also take part in the Leaf Pack Network (LPN), a project run by the Stroud Water Research Center based in Avondale, Pennsylvania that enlists citizens and school groups to assess stream health. Established in 1967, the U.S. centre is intended to improve knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through research, education and watershed restoration.

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