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“Citizen Scientists” Welcome In State Stream Water Evaluation Program

Local News

The DEC is recruiting volunteers for the 2018 summer sampling season to conduct water quality assessments in streams and rivers as part of the State’s Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE) project.

“There’s been a lot of activity in Cortland County for several years now, but there’s always room for growth,” said Alena Onion, WAVE program coordinator. “The way that this program works is that we have thousands of streams across New York State that have never been assessed, and so we’re relying on citizen scientists to get out there.”

Onion says the commitment is one trip to a stream. “We take nets and we kick the substrate, which is the bottom of the stream, and when you dislodge the organisms they get swept into your net by the water. Then, the volunteers dump that material into a white dish pan, and sort through it to find as many different bugs as they’re able to find.”

Data collected by volunteer citizen scientists helps direct restoration or conservation efforts to where they are most needed. “The presence or absence of certain individual critters tells us whether the stream is healthy or not healthy, and so, it’s a screening tool that we use to guide our professional monitoring, and it’s been really valuable over the years.”

According to Onion, training for volunteers is much easier this year. “You no longer have to attend an in-person training,” she said. “You can be trained on a computer at the library. The videos themselves are about 10-to-15 minutes. Once you’ve gone through that training, then you start the communication with me about where to sample.”

All New Yorkers are eligible to participate in WAVE by following these simple steps:

  1. Get trained in the WAVE method by visiting the WAVE Training Sessions Page:
  2. Find a WAVE team. Contact to learn about nearby WAVE teams.
  3. Sign the WAVE waiver. WAVE participants must sign and mail in the WAVE waiver
          ( to participate.
  4. Get Equipment – A limited number of kick nets and sample vials are available through the Equipment Loan Program. Email for an application.
  5. Stay in the Loop. WAVE announcements are distributed through DEC’s email list serve. To sign up, enter your email address in the blue “DEC Delivers” box on

For more information, contact WAVE Coordinator Alene Onion by email:


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