Junior Volunteer Riverkeepers Program
The Junior Volunteer Riverkeepers Program is an inquiry-based learning experience for 8th grade students in the Craven County School System, made possible through a partnership of the NCSU CAAE and the Neuse River Foundation (http://www.neuseriver.org/). Through this partnership, which is aligned with the NC Standard Course of Study for Grade 8, young people can learn about the value of estuaries and the importance of tracking water quality and river “health.”
The goal of this program is to help eighth graders become more effective stewards of our state’s natural resources, through practical knowledge and experience. The ongoing program is designed to reach half of the schools in Craven County each year. After a classroom session, students can take a field trip where they visit the New Bern Wastewater Treatment facility. Then, aboard the NCSU CAAE’s research vessel, the RV Humphries, students leave from New Bern and travel upstream to the CAAE’s automated platform sampling station at Mills Branch. This station is one of several automated platforms operated by the CAAE that provide real-time remote monitoring data on an hourly basis, 24/7. Students learn the answers to frequently asked questions about the Neuse River and Estuary, and a background of water quality issues and concerns. Students also take water quality readings using a Secchi disk (to assess the turbidity of the water) and a Hydrolab (which takes measurements of physical and chemical conditions through the water column). They also observe the NCSU scientists take a full array of water quality samples that will be analyzed in the CAAE’s state-certified laboratory, including samples for a suite of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, silica, dissolved organic carbon), fecal coliform bacteria, phytoplankton biomass (indicated by the concentration of the “universal plant pigment,” chlorophyll a), and phytoplankton species abundances (including potentially harmful algae that can hurt humans as well as fish).