Intern spotlight: Nathalie Uriarte-Ayala takes STEM campers sampling

Sound Rivers’ Lower Neuse water-quality intern Nathalie Uriarte-Ayala paid a special visit to A Time For Science this week to teach young STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) campers all about Swim Guide. 

At the outdoor pavilion next to a pond, an enthusiastic audience of “Green Engineering” campers learned about how e. Coli gets in the water, how volunteers collect water samples from 49 recreational sites throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins and how Nathalie and her fellow water-quality interns, Will Shingleton (Tar-Pamlico) and Leah Tilson (Upper Neuse), run tests to find out how much fecal bacteria is in the water. The campers then took turns “sampling” the pond water. 

The day before, Nathalie had visited the Grifton site to take samples from the three ponds on the property, as well as from Contentnea Creek. Samples require 24 hours of incubation, so she was ready to show the children the results from the pond and creek testing, using a black light indoors at the planetarium. Campers were thrilled to see cells on the tray light up, and were also excited to learn that all three A Time For Science ponds came back under state and federal requirements for recreational water-quality. (They were also super-excited to see Nathalie’s T-shirt and shoelaces light up under the black light!). 

The sample from Contentnea Creek, however, failed the water-quality test, as most cells on the IDEXX tray lit up with proof they contained e. Coli. That particular sample was taken from a location downstream of an industrial turkey farm.

Nathalie said it was a great experience, and the campers got a fun lesson in water quality and why it’s important to keep your waterways fishable, swimmable and drinkable for future generations.

To view larger photos, click on the thumbnails below.