Project Highlight: Conductivity

As part of the Eastern Monitoring Coalition, this year CSCR is collaborating with several watershed organizations in Massachusetts to monitor road salt pollution in freshwater ecosystems. Road salt contains chloride, which can enter waterways through runoff and degrade freshwater habitats. Though a collective Mass DEP grant, CSCR has received four new Onset HOBO data loggers for use in this mutiseason research project. Once deployed, the loggers have the capability to record temperature and conductivity (chloride indicator) information from freshwater sites near roads and urban environments.

This summer, intern, Claire Gabel and CSCR alum, Ada Cogill have worked alongside Jack Buckley to get the project up and running. For the past two months they have deployed loggers at Bound Brook, the North Scituate Train Station, the Weir River, and the Weymouth Back River and have collected baseline conductivity data at these sites. Once winter hits, those working on the project will compare conductivity levels during the summer when roads are unsalted to the winter when they are salted.

So far, conductivity levels at the sites have ranged from about 200 uS/cm to 650 uS/cm. These values are typical for freshwater sites, as saltwater can have conductivity values upwards of 50,000 uS/cm. Most of the variation in conductivity seen this summer can be attributed to temperature. When the weather is warmer there tends to be more evaporation, leaving a higher concentration of salts in the water. For this reason, Claire and Ada have observed higher conductivity levels at night, on average.

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