Nick Milkovich looks through a transparency tube to help assess water quality. (Photo: Josh Martz)
By Jake Lemon
Citizen Science Day 2018 celebrates the work of the amazing volunteers who power the field. Nick Milkovich is a citizen scientist who recently participated in a Water Quality Snapshot Day event in the Allegheny National Forest.
This effort by Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Penn State University involved citizen scientists in assessing water quality conditions throughout the forest and establishing a baseline for future comparison.
More than 50 volunteers, USFS Staff and partners were organized into 17 groups that collected data and samples at 85 sites on 64 streams. Nick was gracious enough to answer some questions about his experiences.
How did you find out about your project?
This past fall while browsing through a Pennsylvania fly fishing website that I frequent, I came across a flyer about a brook trout spawning survey in the Allegheny National Forest. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to volunteer. It was a very worthwhile experience, and through that event I found out about the Water Quality Snapshot Day.
Why did you get involved?
I have a passion for our fisheries and the outdoors, and these events were great opportunities to give back to the resources I love. Plus, it’s a good excuse to be in the woods and hike along some beautiful streams!
What do you do through citizen science?
During this particular survey we gathered data and samples (to be later tested in a lab) relating to water quality, such as pH, conductivity, turbidity, and methane content. We would also keep an eye out for metal precipitation on the stream beds, as well as any other important observations such as barriers to fish migration.
What are the joys you find in this work?
Everyone I have met during these events all have the same interest and passion for the outdoors. Meeting like-minded people, making new friends, visiting new places, and just working in the great outdoors is what I love about this type of work.
What advice do you have for folks who are curious about citizen science?
Get involved! Keep an eye out for various events, surveys, and projects near you or in areas you would like to work in. Even if you don’t feel fit for the job, don’t ever be afraid to volunteer and experience something new. Being interested and passionate makes you more than qualified. Get involved with conservation groups, as they usually need volunteers throughout the year.
Jake Lemon is the eastern angler science coordinator for Trout Unlimited. He is based in Pennsylvania but works across the East.