By Jessie Forand/ECHO    Wiliam "Breck" Bowden speaks during the first Brown Bag Lunch gathering  (Photo: Jessie Forand) ...

Brown Bag brings ECHO and partners together to lunch and learn

By Jessie Forand/ECHO 

 Wiliam "Breck" Bowden speaks during the first Brown Bag Lunch gathering 
(Photo: Jessie Forand)

ECHO joined forces with partners from the Lake Champlain Basin Program, the Rubenstein Lab and the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Wednesday for the first installment of a Brown Bag Lunch lecture series.

These groups were given the chance to network and hear about the latest from the Sea Grant during this kickoff gathering, sharing thoughts and having an opportunity to meet those who share space within the Leahy campus but whose paths may not regularly cross.

To get the series started, William “Breck” Bowden  of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Patrick Professor of Watershed Science & Planning Director of the Vermont Water Resources and Lake Studies Center, Director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Program, and Director of Theme 1 for the Northeastern States Research Cooperative, and husband of ECHO Guest Experience Liaison Linda Bowden, offered a talk about new and exciting ways to collect data from waterways.

The talk was called “Opportunities in Watershed Research Made Possible by Emerging Technologies and Approaches.”

Bowden explained the standard approach to measure nutrient patterns in waterways, which include field sampling, laboratory analysis, and automatic sampling, can be a time-consuming process.

Bowden discusses different nutrient outputs in different land types following a storm event
(Photo: Jessie Forand)

An alternative approach involves two unique tools that directly record light absorption, of fluorescence, rather than using chemistry to analyze waterways and store the information for examination. The optical sensors offer a “no mess, no fuss" operation, Bowden said. Other similar instruments measure temperature, dissolved organic matter and more.

These instruments offer a suite of water quality parameters, the data for which can be sent directly to a database utilized by universities locally (UVM) , in Rhode Island, and Delaware.

Doing this allows for connections to be drawn about the patterns and processes in watersheds and stream ecosystems, Bowden said.

Bowden also shared the work of a PhD. student, Matthew Vaughn, who is using these instruments to measure nine different parameters in four different watersheds: an agricultural area on in the Missisquoi watershed, a forested area in the northeast kingdom, an urban/suburban area in South Burlington, and an area near the Swanton dam.

Findings showed a regional storm offered different discharge shapes and nitrate patterns in the areas watched, and indicated that more nitrate comes out of the agricultural watershed than the urban/suburban and forested regions.

Bowden likened the potential of monitoring these nutrient outputs to following the Dow Jones index for those interested in finance. We can see the numbers shrinking and growing, and realize one is a positive outcome while the other is negative, but using the tools available can help researchers determine the why factor.

Installation of the equipment is hefty – in the $50,000-range for each site, but it does eliminate costs associated with manual sampling, the chemicals involved, and protects sample integrity, as hands-on and sample collectors are taken out of the mix.

Learn more about the Lake Champlain Sea Grant.

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