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Research Experience for Undergraduates at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets in Ocean, Marine, and Polar Science

Team members: Raveen McKenzie (MVSU), Jamal Stevenson (MVSU)
Mentor:Jeffrey Wood

A comparative study to the 2011/2013 water quality assessments in the Pasquotank Watershed in Northeastern North Carolina

Keywords: water quality, Pasquotank, watershed, dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, conductivity, clarity, turbidity

The Pasquotank River Watershed is found in Northeast North Carolina beginning in the Great Dismal Swamp at the Virginia/North Carolina border and flows into the Albemarle Sound. The watershed provides a transition between spawning grounds and the waters of the Albemarle Sound. The sound serves as a nursery area for many fish species and is home to numerous sport and commercial species. Due to indications of rising global temperature and the monitoring of melting ice sheets, these coastal watersheds could be a leading indicator of rising sea levels as their chemical compositions changes. The effects of sea-level rise were also taken into consideration for future monitoring.

The 2014 Research Experience for Undergraduates Pasquotank River Watershed Team completed two sets of tests of five tributaries and the river itself. These test points were derived from the 2011 and 2013 Watershed Team research projects with the addition of four points created to sample further downstream in the Pasquotank River itself. Results were compared with previous readings utilizing a Water Quality Index (WQI). The streams tested were the Pasquotank River, Newbegun Creek, Knobbs Creek, Areneuse Creek, Mill Dam Creek, and Sawyers Creek. These streams, along with the river, cover a large portion of the watershed and provide a wide area of study for the watershed.

Tests performed in the laboratory on this year’s samples included pH, salinity, total dissolved solids, and conductivity. Air/water temperature, dissolved oxygen, wind speed/direction, and turbidity/clarity measurements were taken in the field. The results collected were placed online and displayed in correlation to their position utilizing Google Maps. The data were then compared to the 2011 and 2013 project results and examined for any variations or similarities.

It was found that the water quality for some water sources remained in their respective ranges from the past years. The others, such as Knobbs Creek, varied from the previous years. Newbegun Creek, with a water quality index of 59, stayed within the two previous teams’ WQI of 50 (2011) and 66 (2013). Mill Dam Creek had a very slight increase in water quality from the previous teams’ readings 47 (2013) and 48 (2011) but still managed to acquire a bad reading of 49. Areneuse Creek increased from 49 (2011) and 47 (2013) to reach a medium water quality of 57. The Pasquotank River, ranking as the lowest, has dropped significantly from 64 (2011) to 44 (2013) and continued to be lower in 2014 standing at 41 for its WQI. Sawyers Creek remained consistent between 54 (2011) and 50 (2013) at a low medium range with this year’s water quality being 51. Knobbs Creek WQI, having the highest water quality reading, increased from the two past readings of 52 (2011) and 50 (2013) with a WQI of 63.