(end of) Summer 2020

2020 Sampling Season Update

Tony preparing 2020 sampling supplies at home

As the 2020 sampling season winds down, we would like to extend a big thank you to all of our volunteers who have continued monitoring during the 2020 season. This has been a challenging year for everyone and we appreciate the continued support of our amazing volunteers.

This year, due to the pandemic, we trained our new volunteers via pre-recorded videos. You can see the training videos in our YouTube channel here: www.youtube.com/lakesofmissouri. Feel free to check out the videos if you need a refresher. This approach meant that sampling kits were mailed to new volunteers.

Also due to the pandemic, we conducted our mid-season sample pickup via FedEx this season. Thanks to all who participated! The method for conducting the end of season pickups is still up in the air. We’ll keep you informed.

A few of the cooler boxes in Tony's basement, awaiting shipment via FedEx

In 2020, volunteers signed up to monitor 2 new sites on Table Rock, 2 new sites at Lake of the Ozarks, Spanish Lake in St. Louis County, Finger Lake in Boone County, Raintree Lake and Lake Jacomo in Jackson County, Callaway Fork in St. Charles County, Rock Lake Village in Lafayette County, and Cole Lake in Jefferson County.

Many of these lakes are new to the program. Having data from more lakes across the state helps the University and the State of Missouri understand how water quality is altered by what is happening in the lake, what is happening on the land around the lake, and the climate. We extend a big thank you and a hearty welcome to the new volunteers!

Volunteers at Innsbrook (Warren County) have traditionally shared a single monitoring kit to sample 8 to 10 of the many lakes in their community. This season we sent equipment to all Innsbrook volunteers to avoid crowding volunteers into a small workspace. We at LMVP thank Jim Zara for managing the equipment distribution and sample shipping at Innsbrook.

Changes to LMVP Sampling Procedure

No more bucket!

Our volunteers were notified this spring to changes in the sampling procedure. We are no longer compositing 3 samples in a bucket before filling our sampling container. This is good news for those of you sampling out of a small kayak as it means less stuff to find room for.

As of this spring, we are now filling our sampling container using a smaller, 500 ml container. This is the same container used for the cyanotoxin (bluegreen algae toxin) test. The change was inspired as a way to remove the risk of sample contamination via the bucket. Feel free to use the bucket to haul your gear around if you like, but you don’t need it for sampling.

The SmartRock automated water sensor


Environmental sensors are expensive. In our lab, we use devices that cost more than many new cars. Adding parts to these devices so we can monitor additional parameters increases the cost further. The high cost places these devices out of reach for many professional scientists, and completely off the radar for weekend scientists like our LMVP volunteers.

In August, I (Tony) attended an online workshop to learn how to construct a “SmartRock”. This innovative and inexpensive tool is designed to be placed in the water where it will take continuous measurements of temperature, turbidity (measure of murkiness), pressure (depth), and conductivity (amount of salt in the water). All data are stored on an SD memory card and the unit is powered by a small lithium polymer battery. When set to take measurements every 20 minutes or so, this device can operate unattended for up to 3 months on a single charge!

To keep the cost of the SmartRock low, it employs some unusual sensors that are readily available from electronics suppliers. For example, the pressure/temperature sensor is manufactured for diving watches and the turbidity sensor is manufactured for dishwashers. By integrating these sensors with a tiny computer via a series of stackable electronics boards, the SmartRock is small enough to be housed inside a short piece of PVC pipe. In the future, the developers hope to manufacture an artificial rock to house the device so it will blend in with the environment and to discourage tampering. The total parts cost for the SmartRock is approximately $250 and construction time is around 10 hours.

As part of a broader DIY movement within the citizen science community, devices like the SmartRock are putting real power in the hands of “normal” people.

SmartRock information: http://www.open-sensing.org/smart-rock

A closeup of the SmartRock sensors, epoxied onto an acrylic plate

The completed SmartRock!

In the Limno Lab

One of the many other projects in our lab is assisting with a study measuring coronavirus in wastewater in Missouri. Our lab is collecting the samples at the University of Missouri. The samples are sent to other labs for processing and analysis. An undergraduate researcher is collecting weekly samples at four sewer lines serving more than 50% of the student population in dorms.

This type of bulk testing is useful because it can detect outbreaks before people feel sick, or even if they don’t ever feel sick. This effort is part of a statewide program that collects samples from WWTP.

Press Release from Missouri DHSS


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Brought to you by the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program