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Biology students from Minot’s Central Campus assist in international water study

Students engage in international study

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Honors biology student volunteers from Minot’s Central Campus took water samples from the Souris River Friday, testing for levels of phosphorus and dissolved oxygen. Observing is instructor Joe Super.

Not only were they learning, but they were gathering vital information that will have implications on both sides of the United States-Canada border.

“For us it is an educational citizen science project that’s going to have international ramifications,” said Joe Super, Central Campus biology instructor.

A small group of honors biology student volunteers were engaged in sampling Souris River water Friday morning in southeast Minot. It was much more than just a break from the classroom. The students were participating in a project undertaken by the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to evaluate phosphorus and dissolved oxygen levels in a portion of a drainage that eventually merges with Canadian waters.

“Blue-green algae is the real killer,” explained Super. “Our data is going to go somewhere and make a difference.”

While algae is common in lakes and rivers, the growth of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can be a serious cause of concern. Blue-green algae can cause death for animals of all sizes and brings recreational use to a standstill. It is phosphorus, in particular, that triggers unwanted algae blooms.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Data gathered from water taken from the Souris River will be used as part of an international project on water quality conducted by the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.

“Phosphorus causes the blue-green algae to grow. When that algae dies the bacteria eats up all the oxygen in the water, creating dead zones,” said Rachel Markle, 10th grade student who was participating in the water sampling.

The Central Campus students were the first in the state to obtain samples for the Lake Winnipeg Foundation project.

“We’re not just trying to learn from a book, but get out where it is real,” explained Super. “Later some of our students will video conference with Canadian students and talk about the water issues and what difference the research is making on the Canadian side.”

Kaitlyn Starkey was among those doing the sampling Friday. She noted that the international project also has provides local benefits.

“I think it’s really important for us to do this because this river is a really important part of our community here,” said Starkey. “To do this we will be able to bring down phosphate rates and also learn how the water quality changes on its route to Canada.”

Other volunteer phosphate monitors were Grace Kersten, Mikkail Nehring and Isabelle Von Osterheldt, all from Central Campus.

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