Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Washington State University
Stephen Bollens, Washington State University
Tamara Holmlund Nelson, Washington State University
The Columbia River’s 146-mile estuary is one of the largest in the nation; only the Missouri–Mississippi system carries more water. Rapid population growth has changed land use in the Columbia estuary’s watershed in ways that may affect coastal ecosystems. It is critical to understand whether and how nutrients and organisms from upstream contribute to habitat degradation, eutrophication and the spread of invasive species. It is also important to determine how participating in authentic scientific research affects students’ ecological knowledge and outlook. CRESCENDO represents a rare marriage of scientific and educational research. For two years, students at five high schools along the estuary will gather water samples and plankton tows and collect hydrographic data. They’ll help measure nutrient, phytoplankton and zooplankton levels (including harmful algae and invasive copepods) and determine whether these increase steadily as the river descends or reflect local conditions such as land use, wastewater discharge and coastal upwelling. Researchers will then gauge what the students have learned about science and stewardship.