This article was featured in the 2023 Autumn Newsletter by Emily Fell, Eastern Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator NYS DEC/Cornell University.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced the successful completion of the ‘Day in the Life’ of the Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Watershed project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The project has been undertaken in partnership with New York Sea Grant (NYSG), the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Eastern Lake Ontario region, Rice Creek Field Station at State University of New York at Oswego, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Niagara River Greenway Commission, the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario (SLELO) Partnership for Invasive Species Management (PRISM), and other partners within the Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange network, in support of engaging middle school students in environmental monitoring during the 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 academic years.

More than 600 middle school students in districts from Jefferson, Oswego, Monroe, and Niagara counties participated in both classroom and hands-on educational experiences focused on monitoring water quality and habitats in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River watersheds. Participating schools included Wilson Central School, Lewiston-Porter Central School, Anna Murray Douglas Academy, The Harley School, Mexico Middle School, Pulaski Middle School, Belleville Henderson Central School, and South Jefferson Central School.

In advance of student summit events, teachers and partners were trained to conduct the Day in the Life sampling activities with students during workshops at Webster Park and Wescott Beach State Park. DEC and NYSG provided teachers with classroom resources and equipment kits and offered assistance with planning for the student summit events, and OPRHP provided planning assistance, host sites, and staff to lead the lessons. SLELO PRISM led a land assessment lesson that included invasive species information at the Day in the Life event held at Westcott Beach (pictured above). 

As a direct result of this project experience, these teachers and partners now possess the resources and information to independently continue the annual field trip events with future classes, and share their environmental monitoring data with DEC. Information from the Day in the Life project, including planning resources, curriculum, student activities, and data collected, is available on DEC’s Great Lakes Program webpage. The data collected by students through ‘Day in the Life’ can be compared with data collected via DEC’s 2020 Lake Ontario Rotating Integrated Basin Studies program, DEC’s primary monitoring program to assess water quality throughout the state on a routine basis and may be used as screening data to help target future monitoring. This project was made possible with support from a $150,000 grant from the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office to support environmental literacy and stewardship in the Great Lakes.

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