September Community Game Changer

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MSU Denver biology student David Watson tests water samples from Lower Bear Creek. Photo by Jessica Taves

Biology student helps restore and protect Lower Bear Creek
By Marissa Ferrari

For the past year, Metropolitan State University of Denver senior biology major David Watson has collaborated with his professor, a local nonprofit and the Environmental Protection Agency to study water quality in Lower Bear Creek. Watson’s work is critical to the development of a watershed management plan that will restore and protect the creek as a vital recreational area, habitat for fish and wildlife, and source of drinking water.

The 8.2-mile stretch of Lower Bear Creek that is included in the study is designated as a recreation area. In 2010, a portion of the creek was identified as “impaired” due to high levels of E. coli, which can lead to various water-borne diseases. Since then, the EPA has regularly collected water samples in the summer months when recreational use is highest. EPA testing typically ends in September.

MSU Denver biology Professor Rebecca Ferrell is Watson’s advisor, and, as principal investigator in the water-quality study, she saw an opportunity for a student to step in. She arranged for Watson to continue the EPA’s water-sampling protocol during the winter months, when it is assumed that there is not enough E. coli present to warrant testing. “David was amazing,” Ferrell says. “There were days in December and January when he was breaking ice on Bear Creek in order to get samples … and it turned out that there were several days that the water was above acceptable standards.”

Those findings have supported the work of Groundwork Denver, a local nonprofit that has led several cities, counties, businesses and residential groups in a community process to develop a watershed-management plan aimed at reducing pollution in Lower Bear Creek. “We’re seeing a problem here, and I want to be involved in solving it. Water is very important to all of us in this arid place we live,” Watson says.

Watson credits Ferrell and MSU Denver for guiding him toward this experiential learning. He notes that professors throughout the University “provide the contacts so you can meet people in the real world and do real-world science. MSU Denve’s in this interesting position that it provides for undergraduate students opportunities that would normally be the sole purview of graduate or post-doc students … all it takes is a little self-motivation.”

Content Provided By Metropolitan State University of Denver

Community Game Changer Archive
September ’13: Ricardo Rocha
October ’13: Professor AnnJanette Alejano-Steele
Watch October Community Game Changer Promo
November ’13: Faculty Member April Hill
Watch November Community Game Changer Promo
December ’13: Alumn Jeff Martinez
January ’14: Professor Aaron Brown
February ’14: MSU Denver alumna inspires girls to pursue science careers
Watch February Community Game Changer Promo
March ’14: Center for Visual Art transforms youth arts education
Watch March Community Game Changer Promo
April Community Game Changer ’14: Jonathon Stalls is starting a revolution at 3 mph
May Community Game Changer ’14: Lisa Calderon is building a safer community by helping former inmates successfully transition from jail
June Community Game Changer ’14: Social worker Tiya Shafo pays it forward by helping other immigrants
July Community Game Changer ’14: Miss Native American USA inspires the next generation
August Community Game Changer ’14: Assistant Director and MSU Denver alumna Pamela Osborne helps students prepare for college through MSU Denver’s High School Upward Bound program


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