Agronomy/NRES Ambassador volunteers to improve water quality​

By Sayde Uerkwitz

Claudia Benitez is always looking for ways to give back to her community. The Purdue Natural Resources and Environmental Science junior from Dallas, Texas found a way to give back this spring. She, and 250 other volunteers, participated in the Wabash Sampling Blitz.

The Wabash Sampling Blitz is a volunteer program put on by the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation (WREC) since 2009.  The program’s goal is to assess water quality in the Wabash River watershed.

“I volunteered with a fellow Agronomy/NRES Ambassador, Brittany McAdams,” Benitez said. “This program normally conflicts with my class schedule so I have not been able to participate in the past. I was excited that I was able to be part of a learning opportunity that also allowed me to give back to the West Lafayette and Purdue communities. A lot of student understand there is pollution in the Wabash River, but don’t know how to help. This program is a perfect solution to that dilemma.”

Jane Wiercioch, undergraduate program coordinator and Agronomy/NRES Ambassador advisor, said she loves seeing students volunteer.

“It is great seeing the ambassadors, really any of our students, volunteer in community events,” Wiercioch said. “It is a great way to give back to others and show appreciation.”

Each group of volunteers were assigned three locations where water temperature, turbidity, nutrient levels and pathogen concentrations were measured and water samples were taken.

Benitez said when arriving at each location, finding access points to the streams involved miniature hikes through bushes, shrubs and hill slopes.

“When we returned to the Celery Bog, we tested the nitrate, nitrite, pH and phosphate levels of our samples and then recorded them on a large color-coded map where all the other samplers would also document their findings. Needless to say, we had a blast and were sad when our time pretending to be professional water quality testers came to an end,” Benitez said.

 Benitez was kept informed about programs like this through her courses in the Purdue College of Agriculture.

The Wabash Sampling Blitz is an activity I definitely recommend participating in; not only was it loads of fun, but it also helps maintain important and current water quality data for the Wabash River,” Benitez said. 

Sample results and other WREC programs can be found on the WREC website.

Learn more about what the Agronomy/NRES Ambassadors are doing by viewing their blog.