Citizen Scientists to Document Riverside’s Water & Air

Pictured Above: Wildwood Lake is just one of the water bodies that is being sampled under the new program.

The Long Island Science Center and the Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association are teaming up for a citizen science program sampling the water and air around their community. 

There are several lakes and ponds in this community, which has historically been known for the economically depressed commercial district around the Riverside traffic circle and not for its natural habitats.

Using a $100,000 Environmental Justice Grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, environmental educators from the Science Center in downtown Riverhead will be working with volunteers to document the quality of the air and water around them. 

“You do not need any special skills to get involved,” said the Science Center’s Executive Director, Cailin Kaller, in a recent interview. “We are looking for volunteers to help with the field work, as well as with creating educational campaigns to help people learn about what the data we have collected means. We will also hold some field educational events, where people will be able to come and help, as well as learn how to use the equipment.”

The volunteers are collecting water samples to be tested for toxic blue-green algae at water bodies including Wildwood Lake and Cranberry Bog on Lake Avenue, Riverwoods Community, Merritts Pond and Grangebel Park. Those samples will be sent to the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus for analysis and reporting to state and county health agencies. 

Volunteers and students will also be testing the water for pH, nitrates, dissolved oxygen and turbidity, something the Science Center’s water ecology program has been doing for about 15 years. Their sampling equipment was chosen for its ease of use by citizen scientists.

They will also be testing air quality in public places for ozone and particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less — these particles in the air are small enough to travel deep into human respiratory tracts and cause long-term health problems.

The Science Center is planning to make the data public on a community website this spring, in keeping with the mission of the state grant program.

“Community Impact Grants support nonprofit, community-based organizations implementing a wide range of projects addressing multiple environmental concerns that adversely impact the quality of life in minority and low-income communities across the state,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in announcing the grants in late September. “All of us at DEC remain committed to prioritizing Environmental Justice and working collaboratively with these grantees to advance sustainable solutions.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can email

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at

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