Preparation for the project includes a topographic maps lab, which uses maps of the watershed; two graphing exercises using previous years' data; and background research about the types of data the students will collect. During the data collection, each of six lab sections is assigned a reach along the river, and each section is divided into groups responsible for studying discharge, sediment load, and water chemistry. After collecting the data, each group presents its findings to the rest of the lab section, and compares its data to those collected along other reaches during the same week, and in other months at the same site. After a group discussion of the possible relationships between the discharge, sediment, and chemistry, and the relationships to geology and land use, each group writes a paper.
Student response during the pilot semester was mixed, ranging from interesting it was cool testing a local river and checking its quality to it was OK kind of irrelevant. Our future plans include incorporating discussion of the project into lectures and other labs, and emphasizing the project's relevance to local water issues.