Dr. Aaron Sakulich, Civil and Environmental Engineering, develops accessible technologies for citizen scientists who monitor and document water quality.
The 20 lakes and ponds located in the city of Worcester represent valuable water resources for residents and wildlife as well as no-cost recreational activities enjoyed by a large part of the city’s population. The city’s Department of Public Works and Parks established the Blue Space program, which collaborates with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and local non-profit groups such as the Indian Lake Watershed Association (ILWA). This program relies heavily on the work of citizen scientists. After the closure of the Indian Lake in 2014, due to toxic Cyanobacteria bloom, local residents developed a monitoring initiative and collected water samples from the different water sources and delivered them to local universities to be analyzed.
Working with Dr. Aaron Sakulich, undergraduate students work on a 3 month summer project where they work with stakeholders (all of ILWA, the City of Worcester, and state agencies) to identify low or no cost technologies that can be easily adapted to promote and support citizen science efforts. This project (a) strengthens citizen science efforts in Worcester, (b) nurtures relationships between the civil and environmental engineering department and the local community, (c) develops faculty expertise in the application of technology for the public good, and (d) helps students learn to work with the public sector on issues affecting the local communities’ well-being.