There are several options for how to use the data you have collected. Data comparisons can be simple or complex depending on your goals, number of “data points” (sets of data you have collected) and the educational outcomes you have set for your program. Using data in the classroom presents excellent opportunities for educators.
Comparing local data over time
A school that collects water quality data monthly for several years from a nearby stream will be able to compare the health of the stream over time, and determine trends. Monthly data will also allow the students to see seasonal changes in the stream’s temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen. How do the seasons affect changes in the stream? What are the factors leading to changes in the stream?
Comparing local data with data from the Chesapeake Bay
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has deployed “Smart Buoys” around the Chesapeake Bay that provide real-time weather and water observations along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
Compare data from streams in different parts of the world
Using data from the World Water Monitoring Day web site, students can compare their data with data collected by schools hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Next Steps: Higher quality data
Throughout Virginia, there are citizen scientists, universities, and environmental education groups that collect high quality water quality monitoring data that are used by State Agencies and others. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Longwood University, Goose Creek Association, James River Association, and nearly a hundred others follow protocols allowing approved, citizen-generated water quality data to be used by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). DEQ will use volunteer data to support their water quality programs if there is an approved quality assurance program plan. Several volunteer groups have worked with the agency to develop these plans so their data can be used to its maximum extent. Learn more about citizen water monitoring in Virginia here.