Accomplishments


2015-16 Highlights

See 2015-16 Accomplishments for a printable version

  • 500 students participated in 34 projects with 21 faculty. Participants included students in 21 courses, 12 departments, and 4 schools.  Students engaged in service-learning, independent research, senior capstone projects and student assistantships.  
  • WATERS engaged more than 600 additional students, faculty, staff and community members at three events: 2016 SSU Symposium on Research and Creativity (May 4, 2016), the Nature!Tech Conference (May 7, 2016), and the Sustainable Enterprise Conference (April 7, 2016).
  • Staff from 15 organizations worked with faculty and students on WATERS projects: Sonoma County Water Agency, SSU Center for Environmental Inquiry, SSU Facilities, Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps, , Vintners Square D’Argenzio Winery, Pacific Gas and Elecric Company, City of Rohnert Park, Dew Mobility, City of Santa Rosa, Sustainable North Bay, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Pepperwood Preserve, US Forest Service, Sustainable SSU, Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preserve.
  • WATERS collaborated with the Sustainability Executive Committee to launch the second annual "Sustainability in the Classroom" program which provided $6,000 (50% from GMC Academic Integration Funding and 50% from WATERS) to support faculty interested in incorporating sustainability and water-related service-learning projects into course curricula. Three water-related course development projects were awarded in May.

For further detail on each project, click on the category headers.

Sediment and Erosion Projects

  • Trail erosion and remediation at the Osborn Preserve - Students quantified erosion at previous trail work sites and undertook remedial treatments to further reduce soil loss. 
  • Freshmen studies in erosion and sedimentation - Twelve sites on the Sonoma State campus had a desirable levels of soil porosity. A comparison of Copeland Creek stream channel in the headwaters and alluvial fan showed a greater proportion of fine sediments at the lower elevation site. On Sonoma Creek, sediment in the water column increased from upstream to downstream areas. 

Habitat Management Projects                

  • Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration - Students drafted scope of work in grant application format for funds to restore the section of Copeland Creek that crosses campus. Disadvantaged youth undertook black berry removal and other projects on Copeland Creek as part of Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps
  • Do constructed vernal pools provide habitat for endangered California tiger salamanders? Constructed vernal pools were found to be as effective as natural pools in supporting tiger salamander populations.
  • Land use changes and their effects on riparian areas - Interviews with neighbors of SSU preserves documented land use and riparian changes in the last 50 years.
  • Determinants of red-legged frog abundance in critical habitat - Red-legged frog adult and egg mass abundance were not related to water quality or invertebrate diversity at 3 ponds in Sonoma Mountain critical habitat. A larger sample size is needed.
  • Management implications of climate change impacts on amphibians and reptiles - Amphibian and reptile abundance varied with soil moisture, with plethodontid (lungless) salamander activity showing the tightest correlation. The data provide a tool for land managers to predict the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. Accuracy of data collected by citizen scientists was also evaluated.  
  • Land Management Training - CEI’s Land Management Program trained 20 students in restoration techniques and they worked on five ecological restoration projects with partners in west Sonoma County.
  • Freshmen studies in habitat management - Sites at Osborn Preserve (public access restricted) and Sugarloaf State Park (public access) had similar levels of alkalinity, pH, canopy coverage, and pacific giant salamander abundance.

Water Quality Projects

  • Quantification of nitrogen and phosphorus in sediments of Copeland Creek and the Laguna de Santa Rosa - Levels nitrogen and phosphorus in fine sediments increased with distance from the headwaters of Copeland Creek to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Results suggest that sediment basins installed in the upper watershed could reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Laguna.
  • Waste water treatment effects on antibiotics - A growing concern is the fate of antibiotics that end up in our waterways after they are treated at waste water treatment plants. By-products of the antibiotic Azithromycin were identified under conditions that simulated waste water treatment.
  • Copeland Creek water quality monitoring project - Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) showed a dramatic rise along the SSU campus portion of Copeland Creek.
  • Nutrient and E. coli levels upstream and downstream of the proposed detention and recharge basin - Constructed lakes on the SSU campus overflow into Copeland Creek during storms. In March, bacteria levels at 2 of 6 sample sites on the East Lake exceeded EPA regulatory limits for E. coli.
  • Freshmen studies in water quality - Copeland Creek and a Sonoma County landfill pond showed similarly low levels of nitrate and phosphorus. Compost produced a higher growth rate in radish seedlings when compared to commercial fertilizer but only half the amount of nitrogen in water runoff. A freshwater marsh supported macroinvertebrates with both high and moderate water quality tolerance levels, indicating an intermediate water quality between a nearby pond and section of Copeland Creek. 

Water Availability and Use Projects

  • Rohnert Park flood warning system: Students presented the design for an early flood warning system for the City of Rohnert Park at the Global Cities Team Challenge in Washington D.C. to compete for further funding for the project.
  • Development of a modular biotreatment system for winery and brewery wastewater - A team of biology and engineering students tested a small-scale microbial fuel cell system for the D’Argenzio winery. The system, which treats waste water and generates electricity, showed treatment efficiencies close to that of full-scale high-efficiency anaerobic digesters but used less energy.
  • Sustainable water solutions - Six of 9 schools in the North Bay had at least one sustainable water use practice in place on campus, but 4 of the respondents knew very little about sustainable water usage at their school.
  • Graphical user interfaces for non-technical users to explore rainfall, C02, and wildfire data - Graphical user interfaces (using Matlab) created intuitive interfaces for non-technical users to explore rainfall, C02, and fire data in California and the U.S.
  • Comparing and analyzing climates in the upper watershed and alluvial fan of Copeland Creek -  Students identified an optimal location for a weather station on the SSU campus that could be used to contrast weather on the creek’s alluvial fan and headwaters.
  • Automated sensor network for Copeland Creek headwaters - Development of the automated watershed sensor network included solar power design and installation to run sensor platforms, real-time data display, and new methods for data collection, such as backpacks and autonomous vehicles.
  • Philosophy and ethics of water choice - Students studied the philosophical, political, and social values that influence the decisions we make about water.
  • Predicting extreme rainfall in the Copeland Creek watershed - Rainfall data from Bodega Bay can be used to predict extreme rainfall in the Copeland Creek headwaters, providing an opportunity for development of an early flood warning system for Rohnert Park.
  • Development of an ultrasonic sensor to monitor water use - Students developed a low-cost ultrasonic depth sensor that accurately measured water levels in a tank. The sensor does not need to be submerged and can transmit data wirelessly.    

Arts Projects

  • Raw clay installation at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve - Students created and installed a raw clay sculpture along trails at the preserve and observed changes with the winter storms. As student artist Briona Hendren commented, "the purpose of these works is that they are to only exist, but for a moment in time, to speak to the ephemeral way life is and how one day everything returns back into the Earth.”

2014-15 Highlights

See 2014-15 Accomplishments for a printable version

  • 326 students participated in 25 WATERS projects with 12 faculty. Participants included students in 16 courses, 12 departments, and 3 schools.  Students engaged in service-learning, independent research, senior capstone projects and student assistantships. WATERS 2014-15 Projects Summary
  • WATERS supported two events that engaged 335 students, faculty, staff and community members: 2015 SSU Science Symposium and lecture from Roger Leventhal (Marin County Flood Control Division) on natural stream channel restoration.
  • Staff from 16 organizations worked with faculty and students on WATERS projects: Sonoma County Water Agency, SSU Center for Environmental Inquiry, SSU Facilities, Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps, Friends of Copeland Creek, CSU Campus as a Living Lab Program, WRPI Faculty Incentive Fund, PG&E, City of Santa Rosa, City of Rohnert Park, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, UC Davis Bodega Marine Reserve, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Pepperwood Preserve, The Digital/Critical Cohort, and D’Argenzio Winery
  • WATERS collaborated with the Sustainability Executive Committee to launch the second annual "Sustainability in the Classroom" program which provided $6,000 (50% from GMC Academic Integration Funding and 50% from WATERS) to support faculty interested in incorporating sustainability and water-related service-learning projects into course curricula. Three water-related course development projects were awarded in May.
  • Faculty and staff working on WATERS projects contributed an additional $61,300 in matching funds for WATERS projects

Sediment and Erosion

Riparian Restoration                 

  • Pre- and post-restoration sampling of insects at Colgan Creek revealed that while the diversity of insect orders decreased, parasitoids and pollinators increased, creating a more even representation of ecological types (e.g., pollinators, herbivores, scavengers, etc.)  Project: Insect Biodiversity Monitoring at Riparian Restoration Sites in the City of Santa Rosa
  • Restoration activities (e.g., shoveling, raking, carrying dirt in a wheelbarrow) showed similar increases in heart rate and blood glucose depletion when compared to walking. However restoration activities showed higher levels of energy expenditure. While both walking and gardening generally showed increases in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotions, restoration/gardening was dramatically better at decreasing feelings of fatigue, being worn out, and exhaustion. Project: Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration Exercise Project  
  • SSU Preserves and SSU Facilities works each summer with the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps program to employ 5 youth at risk to remove blackberry on Copeland Creek. Project: SSU Copeland Creek Restoration Project      Twenty undergraduates were trained as land managers as part of the CEI’s Land Management Training program. Project: Center for Environmental Inquiry's Land Management Training Program

Water Quality

  • E. coli concentrations greater than the US EPA regulatory limit were found in the SSU lakes (both east and west lake) in October. Levels did not reach EPA regulatory limits in nearby Copeland Creek in either October or March despite an overflow connection between the lakes and the creek. Project: Nutrient and E. coli Levels Upstream and Downstream of the Proposed Detention and Recharge Basin
  • Species richness of macro-invertebrates in the two SSU Lakes (which overflow into Copeland Creek) are lower than Turtle Pond (also man-made) at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Species richness was startlingly low in the East Lake (only one species). Project: Assessing Invertebrate Diversity in Highly-Altered Aquatic Ecosystems This project won “Best Water Poster” at the 2015 Science Symposium.
  • Phosphorus and nitrogen exceeded the maximum allowable levels at two sites on Copeland Creek and two sites on the Laguna de Santa Rosa during 7 sampling days between August and February. Dissolved oxygen was often below accepted levels. All samples were analyzed by a certified laboratory. Project: Rohnert Park Nutrient Loading
  • As part of long-term water quality monitoring, an unexpected rise in Total Dissolved Solids on the campus section of Copeland Creek was detected. The rise was attributed to runoff from the Beaujolais Pond on the SSU campus. Project:  Copeland Creek Water Quality Monitoring Project
  • Dense mats of the water fern, Azolla sp., were observed this year in many ponds throughout the county. The overgrowth blocks sunlight and depletes oxygen. Initial measurements by a freshman student found that oxygen levels were sufficiently low to exclude fish and other forms of life. Project:  Oxygen Depletion by the Water Fern, Azolla sp.

Water Availability and Use

  • Students found a high correlation (r2 = 0.84) between rainfall at the Bodega Marine Laboratory and the Fairfield Osborn Preserve suggesting that rainfall totals at Bodega Bay can be used to warn Rohnert Park about flood conditions. Project: Predicting Extreme Rainfall at Fairfield Osborn Preserve
  • Advances in the Osborn Sensor Network in the Upper Watershed included establishment of real-time data communication and power support for the weather station (calibration, wireless connection, 1,000 W solar power). Installations provided ½ mile of wifi coverage on the preserve. Project: Automated Sensor Network for Copeland Creek Headwaters
  • An evaluation of 116 urinals and 2,304 toilets on the SSU campus found that the cost of switching from low-flow to no-flow urinals would pay for itself within two years. However, a second study which estimated that actual electrical costs to SSU (SSU pumps its own well water, rather than purchasing it) found that savings in electrical costs are half that assumed for the other analysis, doubling the time it would take for urinal replacement to pay for itself. Projects: Water Efficiency Projects on the SSU Campus
  • Philosophy students evaluated the ethics of water use. Projects: Philosophical and Ethical Values of Water Choice

2013-14 Highlights

See 2013-14 Accomplishments for more details

  • 286 students participated in 21 WATERS projects with 12 faculty. Participants included students in 14 courses, 9 departments, and 3 schools.  Students engaged in service-learning, independent research, senior capstone projects and student assistantships.  
  • WATERS supported two events that engaged approximately 250 students, faculty, staff and community members: 2014 SSU Science Symposium and lecture from the Marin Carbon Project
  • Staff from 12 organizations worked with faculty and students on WATERS projects: City of Santa Rosa, City of Rohnert Park, Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, Center for Environmental Inquiry, SSU Garden Classroom, SSU Facilities, SSU Sustainability Executive Committee, Pepperwood Preserve, Marin Carbon Project, Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps
  • WATERS collaborated with the Sustainability Executive Committee to launch the "Sustainability in the Classroom" program which provided $6,000 (50% from GMC Academic Integration Funding – PI Paul Draper) and 50% from WATERS) to support faculty interested in incorporating sustainability and water-related service-learning projects into course curricula. Three course development projects were awarded during 2013-14.
  • $63,834 in matching funds supported WATERS projects
  • PG&E donated high-density lidar covering 400 acres in the headwaters of Copeland Creek. The data are unparalleled in detail, providing lidar at 40 pts per square meter (recent county lidar coverage is at 8 pts per square meter), and creating an important resource for research on erosional processes and vegetation analysis. Data covers 411 acres of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve and was flown on April 2013.
  • WATERS supported 2 grant applications: $160,000 from EPA Pollution Prevention Grant Program for student project support; climate monitoring equipment for the upper watershed from an NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program.

Riparian Restoration    

  • A watershed management training unit was introduced into the Center for Environmental Inquiry's Land Management Internship program and included training in riparian restoration strategies and watershed management principles and skills. CEI Land Management Training Program       
  • Insect surveys at 3 City of Santa Rosa restoration sites established pre-project biodiversity baseline. Insect Biodiversity Monitoring at Riparian Restoration Sites in the City of Santa Rosa
  • People engaging in self-paced restoration activities (e.g., shoveling, raking, carrying dirt in a wheelbarrow, and placing leaves into a container) showed similar reductions in blood pressure to people walking, but they burned more calories and sustained higher heart rates. Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration Exercise Project
  • Center for Environmental Inquiry and SSU Facilities hosted the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps to remove Himalayan blackberry on campus and the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Blackberry Control on Copeland Creek     
  • Freshmen gathered data on 4 watershed issues in the headwaters of Copeland Creek: water quality, blackberry removal techniques, drought documentation, and terrestrial invertebrate responses to moisture gradients.        

Water Quality

Water Availability and Use