Pamela Baker's science students at Alma Bryant High School have begun a new round of water quality testing this quarter. This initiative is the second year of a partnership with The Nature Conservancy, which gave the school a sub-award of an Environmental Protection Agency grant for mapping the Bayou la Batre watershed.
Bryant High's grant portion, $15,000, covers the cost for students to take field trips and the costs of supplies for the testing. Beginning in fall 2022, Ms. Baker's students have been taking one field trip per quarter to collect water samples from six sites in the watershed, using the Alabama Water Watch Bacteriological Monitoring and Chemistry testing methods for water quality.
The water testing project is giving her students an inside view into environmental science careers through real-world, hands-on experiments, Baker noted. The students work with scientists from The Nature Conservancy, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Mobile Baykeeper, "and see what these people really do every day," she said. Throughout the school year, her students will write papers and conduct projects as they compile the data for The Nature Conservancy, Baker said, adding that the results are also reported to the city of Bayou La Batre.
The data collected by the Bryant students is entered into a database to be used by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) as a way to evaluate water quality issues and propose solutions, so this project is more than just a learning opportunity for Bryant High's students: It's also a chance for them to make an impact on their local environment.
"... This is my community -- these are the people that I've grown up with, and I'm helping them to preserve their environment," said Kaitlyn Fleming, a 2023 Bryant High graduate who studied with Baker during her senior year. "I grew up on the water, and I love that I can just help the people around me."