Dr. Stephen Jones and Drury students track water quality in Missouri and Arkansas rivers and creeks.
Drury students working with Dr. Stephen Jones have an opportunity to dive into research examining the health of Ozarks waterways. In conjunction with the
James River Basin Partnership, Jones and his students work to protect and improve the water quality of streams, lakes and rivers by determining the overall ecological health of a stream.
The chance to apply her classroom knowledge to actual problems and develop real-world solutions was why Amy Buffington jumped at the chance to join Jones' research. During the summer of 2002, she spent many long days lugging nets and equipment to remote test sites, dragging nets through creeks and rivers, then picking up everything, moving to a new location and doing it all again.
Grueling as it was, the research allowed Amy her first glimpse at working in an aquatic environment, and she relished the beauty of the remote locations and felt proud of the work she was doing. "The really rewarding part for me," she says, "is knowing that the research we are doing is going to be used to help educate people on the health of our local streams. "
Spending several days at one site, teams assess water quality, land use, stream habitat and the fish communities to determine the index of biotic integrity, (IBI), a standard measure. In the past several years, Jones and his students, collaborating with Southwest Missouri State University and the James River Basin Partnership, have measured the health of Bull and Swan Creeks, the Finley River and Table Rock Lake. They find an increasing impact of development along and near these areas.
These projects give undergraduate students a chance to work with field protocols at a level usually not available until graduate school. The undergraduate students work with graduate students gathering information on the physical and chemical properties of the streams as well as human impact on the water.
Continued research will help establish benchmarks for drainageways, and data-driven strategies for protecting them. In a region where outdoor recreation and tourism are important economic forces, the studies have gained political importance as well, and are followed closely by municipal, county and state leaders. Says Buffington, "Maybe when we realize the impact that we all have on the delicate balance it takes to maintain these waterways, we will make a much larger effort to preserve them."
Related Links:Drury hosts Lakes Area Water Quality Summit