The Eagle Rock School Student as a Citizen Scientist
At the risk of sounding boastful, I’d have to say that our Dragonfly Citizen Science class (offered in 2014 and again earlier this year) had global implications that far surpass what’s going on in the pristine areas surrounding our mountainside campus. And really, that’s why citizen science is so important.
Put simply, Eagle Rock School students enrolled in this class took samples of dragonfly larvae from water sources within the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park in order to determine the mercury levels within that larval stage. Mercury is a toxic pollutant that can be harmful to the health of both humans and wildlife. And because dragonflies spend most of their lives in the larval stage, our students visit the national park and collect dragonfly larvae from ponds and lake bottoms with nets.
As citizen scientists, Eagle Rock School students have the exciting opportunity to be involved in a national project coordinated by the National Park Service by investigating the risk and transfer of mercury around food webs. The samples are then sent to the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center for mercury analyses. The study connects people to parks and provides baseline data to better understand the spatial distribution of mercury contamination in national parks.
Our Dragonfly Citizen Science students discussed what mercury is, where it comes from, and why National Park personnel around the country care about this. Students also became experts on identifying dragonfly larvae — among other living species — taking water samples and using sampling protocols.
When students find themselves within a national park several times a week, taking samples, gathering data and hiking to remote locations, they soon find themselves rooted in real science and research.
We aren’t sitting in a classroom, watching slides about dragonflies or discussing the dangers of mercury. Instead, we’re Continue reading…