Elisa Friedmann, completing the Environment & Sustainability BDP, developed a interactive web application to present and compare water samples collected by the Longhorn Stream Team with those from high-profile data sources, such as the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. She also compared data received from lab testing to that collected on-site, to determine the reliability of citizen science testing implements.
Please describe your project and how you came up with the idea
My research project involved creating an interactive web application to visualize water quality data and collecting grab samples from four Texas rivers to test for major ionic components. My project was inspired by the Longhorn Stream Team, a citizen science organization that teaches students how to paddle rivers to access stretches that would not otherwise be monitored. Through this experience, I learned to code using R Shiny, water chemistry lab technique, and the complexities of river health.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your Connecting Experience?
This experience gave me the opportunity to code for the first time, showing me that coding knowledge is a useful tool to connect people with science as it became immediately relevant to a UT organization trying to work with water quality data. I also enjoyed doing water chemistry to understand river dynamics, which combined my passion for rivers with more in-depth field and laboratory analysis methods. This experience was the first time I could apply biochemistry to environmental science.
In what ways has this Connecting Experience shaped your plans for the future?
During this experience, I worked closely with a graduate student. Getting to know both the student and the lab inadvertently became an important window into life as a graduate student and applying to graduate school. This opportunity showed me some of the useful quantitative aspects and projects available to a geographer, which will influence my job search in the future. I also found that I could combine known biochemical concepts with new aqueous geochemical ideas, and I hope to continue adding an additional biological component to examining water resources and dynamics.
Discuss the relationship you had with your faculty mentor and how they helped you during this Connecting Experience.
My faculty mentor has been excited and supportive of my project from the very beginning when I first emailed professors looking for an appropriate mentor. Dr. Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach offered up her lab to test samples that came from this independent project and met with me regularly to give me resources to better analyze the data I collected. My connection to the Beach Labs has given me field and laboratory experience that has been invaluable during my time at UT Austin.