Citizen Scientist Sarah

Citizen science projects let anyone become a scientist for a day! In 2017, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen volunteered at the Maurice River (NJ), which is a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Sarah helped National Park Service staff and local scientists collected dragonfly larvae for an ongoing national project that investigates mercury levels in dragonflies. Read more about Sarah’s contributions below:

One of my favorite things about being a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador is volunteering to help in different parks.  One of the great places that I have gotten to volunteer at is the Maurice Wild and Scenic River here in New Jersey. A project that I got to help with was a citizen science project collecting dragonfly larvae for a National Park Service nationwide study. The group that I volunteered with is called the Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. They work with the National Park Service to help protect the Maurice River and the places around it.

My favorite part of volunteering with the dragonfly sampling project was getting to paddle a canoe out on the river and using nets to collect dragonfly larvae. Sometimes the larvae were hard to find since they are really well camouflaged! I also helped collect dragonfly larvae from around the water plants near the edge of the water. After we collected the larvae, we brought them back to the shore and put them into tubs of water. While the larvae were in the tubs, we had to identify what type of dragonfly larvae they were. This was a little difficult, but we had pictures to help out. The larvae also need to be a certain size to be sent for mercury testing, so we had to use rulers to measure them. We then had to label a bag for each dragonfly larvae so that it could be sent to a lab. The dragonfly that I helped collect were sent to a lab to be tested for mercury. The mercury builds up in different animals and is then passed along the food chain. I learned that mercury can be harmful to all different types of wildlife, which is why the National Park Service is doing this research project. There are different parks all across the United States that collect dragonfly larvae for this project.  

The Maurice River is a beautiful place to visit, and It was really interesting learning about different types of dragonflies. I also saw lots of other wildlife, like turtles, monarch butterflies, fish, and birds.  I had a great time, and I’m really looking forward to volunteering again next year!

Follow Sarah’s adventures on social media @jrrangersarah.

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