James River Research Corridor: Mountains to Sea Innovative Water Quality Network

Science Center Objects

This successful partnership brings together Randolph-Macon College (RMC), Washington and Lee University (W&L), and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in partnership with the US Geological Survey (USGS) to foster growth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through summer student internship experience, awareness of USGS science in the class room, and increased understanding of new and advanced technologies employed as part of the water-quality and streamflow monitoring network in the James River.

Student Summer Experience With the USGS

The primary goal for the internship was to train up students regarding USGS water quality sampling and continuous monitor calibration protocols. The students returned to their parent schools, taught other students how to sample, and developed a monthly-dataset for two streams not previously in the network that the USGS maintains. The students were exposed to cleaning procedures, sample collection, YSI sonde calibration and servicing as they worked on routine water-quality data collection.

Summer experience translates to school-year experience

To date Washington and Lee University and Randolph Macon College have collected monthly water-quality samples each. The RMC sampling was coordinated by Aaron Bartlett as part of a course activity lead by Dr. Charles Gowan. The W&L sampling was conducted by Gabby Kitch as an effort conducted independently, or with one student or professor volunteer. USGS visited Fall 2014 class sampling field trips to provide background about USGS program and discuss USGS methodologies.

New Technology and New USGS Stations

A strength of this collaboration was the addition of a new streamflow and water quality station in the tidal freshwater reach of the James below the Fall line. VCU, DEQ and other agencies have been sampling regularly in this reach but continuous flow or water quality was not readily available on the web prior to this establishment in July 2014.



The Weyanoke Point station employes a Continuous Nitrate monitor SUNA (Submersible Ultraviolet Nitrate Analyzer), which is a chemical-free UV nitrate sensor, an Acoustic Doppler Velocity Meter (ADVM) and stage monitor, and a multiparameter water-quality sonde.



The Cartersville station employes a multiparameter water-quality monitor, monthly nutrient and sediment sampling, and storm sampling, to determine Trends and Loads. A new chemical-free UV Continuous Nitrate monitor (Submersible Ultraviolet Nitrate Analyzer) was recently added.

Student Testimonials

“I grew up in central Virginia. Since I was old enough to cast, I have enjoyed bass fishing on the James River. My experiences fishing have developed my interest in the environment and I hope to preserve our freshwater resources for future generations."

- Aaron Bartlett