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2011.03.22 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

UNO Seeks ‘Citizen Scientist’ Volunteers for Elkhorn River Study on April 23

Omaha - Students and adults with an interest in science can volunteer to participate in a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) water research experiment on the Elkhorn River Basin for the “What’s In Your Watershed?” Test Day next month.

On Saturday, April 23, about 150 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in Nebraska will become “citizen scientists” and collect small samples of water from the Elkhorn River. With an easy-to-use kit – resembling an at-home pregnancy test – provided by UNO, volunteers will test the level of atrazine in the river water and then visit a UNO webpage to enter their data.

In Omaha, volunteers can collect water at the Elkhorn River Research Station near 245th and Q Streets.

Outside Omaha, volunteers can collect water along the Elkhorn River watershed as far west as O’Neill. A detailed map of the Elkhorn River watershed boundary is available online at www.unomaha.edu/envirotox/atrazine.php. Volunteers can also view a video demonstration at the webpage.

No previous research or experiment experience is necessary to participate.

The research project is organized by Alan Kolok in the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory, housed in UNO’s Department of Biology.

“The data that we will gather from the experiment on April 23 will be used to advance the knowledge of how atrazine is transported in the environment,” Kolok said. “Although atrazine has been used for nearly 50 years, never before has anyone attempted to gather pesticide data across an entire watershed.”

Atrazine is the most commonly applied herbicide in the U.S., with more than 75 million pounds used annually across the country. Being a largely agricultural state, Nebraska farmers apply thousands of tons of the herbicide each year to their fields.

Although atrazine can increase crop yields, large amounts often escape through rainwater runoff and enter waterways. Once in the water, atrazine is taken up by aquatic life and can have a negative effect on reproductive organs.

“The phenomenon is commonly known as endocrine disruption,” Kolok said. “The Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory has been researching endocrine disruption in the Elkhorn River for the past several years; and now we’d like the public’s help, as citizen scientists, to perform a one-day, large-scale inventory of atrazine in the basin.”

To volunteer as a citizen scientist on April 23, contact Gwen Ryskamp: (402) 554-3302 or gryskamp@unomaha.edu.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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