Taking the Pulse
About CRWO (Chester River Watershed Observatory)
This pioneer observatory, an initiative of Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society, is designed to take the pulse of every aspect of the Chester River. The aim is to make the Chester the best understood watershed in the country. Water quality is measured by sensors in the Chester River, augmented by wells, sampling stations on land and autonomous vehicles “swimming” the river. Water flow, benthic habitat, and land use are investigated to better understand system dynamics and the interplay between people and the environment.
A system installed in the Foreman’s Branch of the Chester River tracks water temperature, conductivity, pH, turbidity, nitrates, phosphates (nutrients) and dissolved oxygen. Data generated has been used by Washington College students for classes and Senior Capstone Experiences. Every twenty minutes, five miniature observation buoys send water quality data, including water temperature, conductivity, salinity, turbidity, pH, and dissolved oxygen, to a central, publicly accessible website. The water quality data is augmented by the installation of five weather stations around the watershed. These sensors and many others are providing a dense network of monitors, collecting real‐time information on a host of variables critical to the health of the river.
Data is reported on this website and available for public, academic and scientific use. CRWO research programs incorporate experience with hands-on learning opportunities with student-built buoys and underwater robots, as well as analyzing data. Our research vessels have an array of the latest electronics and environmental instruments for use in mapping and evaluating environmental features of the Bay and its tributaries. Teacher training programs and the involvement of K‐12 schools throughout the “schoolshed” are an integral part of the project, working alongside scientists, undergraduates, and volunteers.