Cape Cod Academy students join Woods Hole Research Center scientists to assess health of local rivers

Osterville, MA – May 7, 2018. Sixty high school students from Cape Cod Academy (CCA) joined scientists from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) last week for a day of research to assess the health of local rivers and their watersheds.

This was the fourth year in a row that Cape Cod Academy has marked Water Day, a day of hands-on learning about local waterways. Implemented by Keith Lewison, CCA’s humanities teacher and Environmental Club advisor, Water Day educates CCA students about relevant and important issues and gives them authentic hands-on experiences by partnering with local nonprofit and scientific organizations. This year, the students focused on rivers and learned about the impact of climate change on watersheds and heard from WHRC river scientists who monitor those impacts globally.

“I commend Cape Cod Academy for getting their students out of the classroom and into our local rivers,” said WHRC Senior Scientist Dr. Max Holmes, who led a group of these students to one of his field sites on the Coonamessett River. “There is so much to learn in the Cape’s natural classrooms, and the lessons we learn in our own backyards not only help solve our local environmental problems but can also be applied to tackle regional, national, and global challenges.”

Holmes works on dozens of the world’s largest rivers, including the Kolyma, Lena, and Yukon rivers of the Arctic, the Amazon, Congo, Mekong rivers in the tropics, and nine rivers on Cape Cod. WHRC launched the Cape Cod Rivers Observatory two years ago, and Holmes’ work provides a baseline health index for measuring the impact of environmental pollutants and climate change.

The participating Cape Cod Academy students journeyed in three different groups to the Quashnet, Mashpee, and Coonamessett Rivers. They learned how to conduct water sampling techniques to detect how changes in the landscape drive changes in important physical and chemical indicators like pH and temperature, and how aquatic and coastal wildlife responds.

The students also had the opportunity to learn about the the Coonamessett River Restoration Project with Betsy Gladfelter, lead coordinator for the Coonamessett Heritage Trail Grant and River Restoration. The goal of this project is to restore the lower Coonamessett River by improving the health of the local watershed and river ecosystem, enhancing public access, and highlighting the rich diverse history of the area.

After a morning on the rivers, the students held a follow-up discussion with an esteemed group of panelists that included:
1. Brad Chase, Biologist, Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries
2. Andrew Gottlieb, Executive Director Association to Preserve Cape Cod and Chair, Mashpee Board of Selectmen
3. Anya Suslova, Research Assistant, Woods Hole Research Center

“Water Day is a time where we put normal classes on hold to learn all about water issues first-hand,” said Keith Lewison. “This extension to classroom work brings a reality to water-related issues, which we hope inspires students to want to go back out, learn more, and even pursue a career in the environmental field.”

“Providing students with hands-on learning experiences and the opportunity to work side-by-side with scientists and environmental experts is an essential part of a CCA education,” said Tom Trigg, Head of School at CCA. “We are pleased that Water Day is becoming a meaningful tradition that students look forward to each year.”

Cape Cod Academy is a K through 12 independent day school in Osterville, MA.

Author: Mashpee Chamber of Commerce

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