First Week

by corbilm11

Today is the conclusion of the first week of my internship on the Ohio River in Kentucky. I arrived here in California, KY last Saturday after an eight-hour drive from Pennsylvania. California, KY is approximately a half hour from Cincinnati, Ohio. The housing arrangement here is similar to the Raystown Field Station at Juniata College. There are three student houses, a lodge, and the Lock House that are all overlooking the mighty Ohio River. However, the Lock House (picture below) is the most interesting building. It was constructed in the early 1920s to serve as 1 of 51 lock and dams on the Ohio River. Eventually, the wooden wicket dams were replaced with 20 dams that are more technologically advanced. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages these dams to control the flow of the Ohio River. Thomas More College acquired the Lock House in 1967 and has since renovated it. Currently, the Lock House consists of a classroom, aquatic lab, mussel lab, and aquaculture lab. The Lock House is also known as the Center for Ohio River Research and Education. Numerous interns are working here this summer. The intern research groups are the aquaculture crew, stream assessment crew, environmental educators, work-study crew, and the Ohio River bioassessment crew. The Ohio River bioassessment crew is the research team that I am working with this summer.

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This internship is part of a long-term study that began in the early 1970s to determine the potential impacts of the coal-fired Zimmer Power Plant and to document trends in the Ohio River. The objectives of this study are to collect biological, chemical and physical characteristics of the Ohio River ecosystem near the power plant, conduct a bioassessment of the fishes near the plant, and to collect fish tissue samples for DNA sequencing. To sequence our DNA samples we will be using the DNA sequencer at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Our study area consists of two sites upstream of the power plant and two sites downstream of the power plant. The upstream sites represent our control sites and the downstream sites represent our experimental sites. We will also be sampling near the Beckjord plant as well, which is a dinosaur of a coal-fired power plant and will be soon reaching retirement.

We will be using various sampling techniques in order to complete our bioassessment. Our data collection of physiochemical parameters consist of dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, temperature, turbidity, habitat, and river levels. Our biological data collection will consist of fish, zebra mussels, and toxicity studies. Fish data will be collected using gill nets, hoop nets, and boat electrofishing.

This week has consisted of training and orienting the research group to the equipment that we will be using for duration of the summer. We also prepared the equipment to make sure all the gear is fully functional for next week when we begin sampling. Our research group toured the Cincinnati Museum Center’s DNA sequencing lab to become familiar with the equipment. In addition, each member of our group practiced driving the research vessels that we will be using this summer. In my free time this week, I have enjoyed fishing and exploring the banks of the Ohio River.

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I will post again next week.
Thanks for reading,
-Luke

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