OMAHA – The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and University of Nebraska Foundation are launching a new statewide initiative designed to engage citizens in monitoring water quality throughout Nebraska.
The Nebraska Environmental Stewardship Taskforce (NEST) officially launched on Wednesday, April 26, as leaders and representatives from across the state joined members of the Nebraska Watershed Network for a special event at Stinson Park.
At the event high school students helped demonstrate firsthand how every Nebraska citizen can participate in researching and ensuring the state’s water sources by doing their own test of Little Papillion Creek.
“This initiative is something that is the culmination of years of research but also the strong support of the community,” said Alan Kolok, professor of biology at UNO and director of the Nebraska Watershed Network. “To date we’ve done work mostly in the immediate Omaha area, but now we are now expanding across the state.”
Ultimately, the NEST program will allow colleges and universities across the state to partner with their communities to collect data on various water pollutants from natural water sources.
The resulting database, which will be available to all of the participating citizen scientists, will be maintained at UNO and provide a unique resource that can provide everything from early detection of potential public health concerns to trends that could lead to economic benefits for communities across the state.
“Many people don’t realize that even if they are not drinking water directly from somewhere like the Platte River, chemicals in the water can affect us,” Kolok said. “For example, fish exposed to river water locally are genetically altered due to the exposure in ways that can impair reproductive development.”
Over the last decade, the Nebraska Watershed Network has worked to identify and monitor water quality through citizen scientist events in Omaha, Bellevue and Papillion.
The Nebraska Watershed Network also currently has a research station on the Elkhorn River, that was constructed in 2012, that provides real-time monitoring of water quality, with a second research station is planned for Papillion Creek.
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