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Public Lab Research note


Getting the scoop on Wastewater: Summary of a research area review

by bhamster , alejobonifacio | October 15, 2021 15:03 15 Oct 15:03 | #27852 | #27852

Public Lab's latest research area review on wastewater is wrapping up.


Our review of this topic started in July with a kick-off call (notes here). Many informative conversations followed during weekly Open Calls, in one-on-one chats, and on the website! (See the great comments to a question about signs of wastewater pollution here.)

Many thanks to all who contributed their time, knowledge, and questions to this topic! ❤️

@alejobonifacio, @jesseslone, @imvec, @fongvania, @Ag8n, @denissebn_06, @a1ahna, @amirberAgain, Kirsten McDade, Courteny Morehouse, Virginia Usseglio, Juan, and Gise

💭 We'd love to hear from anyone who participated in this research area review or joined a call. Please share your thoughts via this brief feedback form, and indicate if you'd like to receive updates!



Summary of events

💧Presentation on wastewater monitoring methods + community discussion


This event presented new step-by-step activities and accessible methods for detecting wastewater and stormwater pollution. Slides from the presentation are below, and you'll find a recording of the call plus all the links shared on the call here.

@alejobonifacio then led a conversation where people on the call shared more about the local research and teaching they're doing on environmental monitoring and water quality. One person who spoke about their experience is a biologist and teacher working in Chacra de la Merced near Córdoba, Argentina, where the river is polluted by a non-functional wastewater treatment plant. They're interested in low-cost and open methods for assessing water quality as their neighborhood has received little attention from the city. People there are currently working to bring more visibility to the problem.




🎤Guest speaker panel: Community scientists monitoring wastewater pollution


We heard from two guest speakers who are doing on-the-ground research, testing and using open source tools to document wastewater pollution.

Xose Quiroga (@imvec) spoke about several investigations in Spain--from heavy metal testing at a river sitting on the industrial belt in Barcelona, to simple but striking photo documentation of trash-strewn trees from ineffective wastewater treatment along the Guadarrama River near Madrid.

Alejo Bonifacio (@alejobonifacio) showed us his water quality assessments from the Suquía River in Argentina, where he observed discharge from city storm drains despite no recent rains. He found that results from several open source methods for evaluating water quality generally agreed with those from more conventional commercial methods.

Find a recording of the call plus all the links shared on the call here.


🔬 Live build of a low-magnification "dissecting" microscope


Research Curation Fellow @fongvania first showed us step-by-step how to build the "dissecting scope" version of the community microscope intro kit. Low-magnification dissecting microscopes are good for viewing thicker or opaque objects--such as small aquatic insects! Demonstrating this use, @alejobonifacio then showed us how to use a DIY dissecting microscope to view mayflies and blood worms from sampled river water as indicators of water quality.

You can learn more about dissecting microscopes in this activity post explaining how to set up the microscope camera (which serves as the lens). The instructions for building the microscope stage are here. And, Alejo's activity explaining how to sample aquatic life for assessing water quality is here (in English and en español).



Our next quarterly research area review will be on an air quality topic. More details are coming soon, please follow the research-area-review tag if you'd like to keep updated! And please comment below if you have any questions, ideas, or feedback!


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@bhamster has marked @alejobonifacio as a co-author.

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