WIG Intern Amanda Li ’19 Collects Water Quality Data for Monitoring with Kooskooskie Commons

My name is Amanda Li and I am a current senior, Environmental Studies-Biology major. This summer I had the opportunity, through the Summer Whitman Internship Grant and the Student Engagement Center, to work with the local Walla Walla non-profit, Kooskooskie Commons. I was then lucky enough to have the chance to continue this internship through the academic year through the SEC and the new, year-long Whitman Internship Grant.

As the school year begins, the summer days shorten, and Sunday mornings get colder and colder, my monthly excursions out to the field to collect water quality data grow considerably less enjoyable. But Nathan, a fellow co-worker at Kooskooskie Commons, and I brave the cold with our trusty monitor, Hanna, and our tidbit reader. The air is brisk and the water chills our fingers as we reach in to grab the PVC pipe that houses our water temperature monitors. Our current project involves collecting monthly data on stream temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen levels, turbidity, and fecal coliform in a collection of streams in the Walla Walla area. While it takes some time to get to each of the 16 or so sites we have now, we’re both just happy to get to work outside. My favorite thing about going out during these fall and winter months is that as we wait the 10 minutes for our data to upload, the streams roar by with more water than they’ve had all summer. It’s an incredible show of the ways in which our world works and how our resources cycle through the earth.

Without the weekly meetings and free time to go to planting sites with my supervisor, Judith Johnson, much more of my work this semester is spent on my own, indoors. However, this does not mean that there is a shortage of things to be done. There is always more data to be analyzed and new ways of looking at the numbers we collect. Graphs are made, trends are seen, and ultimately, the website can be updated.

Kooskooskie Commons was able to have their grant extended for an entire year. This means that the monitoring work that this local non-profit has done on the waterways of the Walla Walla Valley can continue to provide data for even longer. However, much of my work has also involved working with representatives from the Washington State Department of Ecology in order to upload these data sets into our project on their website. Because of the length and depth of this project, there is much maneuvering to be done with this data. I have worked in conjunction with Judith and the past Whitman College Community Fellow, Evan Romasco-Kelly (’18), to utilize a program that Evan has helped create to streamline this process. Hopefully, as we continue to fine-tune it, this computer program will be able to see our data and create a usable form that we can easily upload to the Department of Ecology’s EIM (Environmental Information Management) site. I’m so excited to be able to work with Judith and Kooskooskie Commons this year as they transition through this project and move on to the next.

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