Writing with Scientists

Shannon, Utah
Grade 11, Age 16

Shannon’s report about Utah’s river water quality won a 2005 Young Naturalist Award.

Shannon demonstrates that personal voice can come through even when clearly explaining methodology – or how she tested her hypothesis.

Troubled Waters: A Six-Month Longitudinal Study of the Spanish Fork River System

The car pulls onto a gravel turnoff at the side of the road, and the race begins. I must test all seven sites for dissolved oxygen before the sun comes up because as soon as the sun hits the water, algae start to photosynthesize and will throw off my results.

I feel the chill of the air as I jump out of the car with my test kit. Quickly, I run down the sloping bank to the stream and dip in a small plastic container. Grabbing one of the glass pencil-shaped tubes of chemicals from my portable water-quality laboratory, I place the tube in the small plastic container filled with river water and break the tip of the tube. The vacuum inside the glass tube sucks up the river water and mixes with the color-changing chemicals. I match it against a color-coded guide. It turns a dark blue, which means the dissolved oxygen is 6 ppm (parts per million). This indicates the water is well oxygenated and can support life. I jump back in the car and rush to Site 2, hoping to complete the dissolved oxygen testing at the remaining six sites before the sun comes up.

Learn more about Shannon and her report.