Earlier this year, AP science students at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep traded in their textbooks for field equipment to study water quality in the North Branch of the Chicago River. The Hydrolab allows students to monitor water characteristics like dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity with sensors similar to those used by scientists at the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. The teacher, Dianne Lebryk, borrowed the equipment through the Limno Loan program to help students better understand the connection between water quality and man-made landscapes. 
Several students wrote in to share their experiences working with the Hydrolab. Today we hear from Alex Perez. 

The Hydrolab was an amazing idea that allowed us to grow and learn from our own Chicago River. We learned what affected our city river and, at a larger scale, what happens to other parts of the world in similar cases. Our river is a very polluted stream, and it showed us many things, like our pH level being 6.47. With my teacher, the Hydrolab also allowed me to learn about the different pollution levels of the river, and we learned about the effects and causes of such things.  

I used to think that think that there isn’t much in the Chicago River, but now I see how much is in the water and how it is affected. The area near where we used the Hydrolab had many goose dropping that allowed the high nitrate poop to run into the water and unbalance the water chemistry. The poop allowed for the plants and food chain to grow and make the best of the dirty river. The nitrogen cycle occurs here, and we learned how nitrogen can be hard for plants and animals to get, but the plants in the Chicago River can grow. 

We also saw how oxygen levels affect how clean or dirty water is. If there is more oxygen in the river, it allows more life. Since the river connects to a large area and goes across much of Illinois, fertilizer and other pollution ends up in the river and can travel across the land and damage a lot of ecosystems throughout Illinois. The pesticides and fertilizers damage the plants and animals in the river, plus the river itself, and it is a chain reaction.  

My teacher plans to use this information to teach and to continue this project to show other students what really makes effects and results. The teacher and I can really take the information from this Hydrolab to prevent pollution in our area and help find ways to educate more on ways to prevent and help waterways like this. 

See what Lane Tech student Timie Ogutuga had to say about their Hydrolab project.