The CWQL is based at Coe College, an undergraduate liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Professor Marty St.Clair directs the lab, and it is staffed by undergraduates at Coe. If you are a high school senior who is interested in environmental science, come and visit - there are opportunities here for you. We also welcome potential collaborations.
Current research projects
For an overview of what we do, take a look at this video about the lab made by Coe Public Relations interns Logan Keehner and Susannah McInally during the summer of 2013. You may also want to take a look at a presentation titled "Joining Forces: Mutually Beneficial Collaborations Between Watershed Improvement Project's and Iowa's Small Colleges". It was presented at the 2013 Iowa Water Conference at Iowa State University. For more information on specific projects, take a look at the information below.
- For the past eighteen years, we have been monitoring streams that flow into the Cedar River, which is the source of drinking water for the city of Cedar Rapids. You can find much of our data from 2002 to 2011 in the state's Iowa STORET database. Search by Organization/Project and choose Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources - 21IOWA. Under "Projects", select COECOLL.
- We have provided monitoring to support efforts of the Lime Creek Watershed Improvement Association to improve water quality in their watershed north of Cedar Rapids. In 2013, they received an Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship State Soil Conservation Committee Research and Demonstration grant to to measure tile-line delivery of nitrogen and phosphorus from 10 tiled, drained fields in the watershed. Our lab is collecting and analyzing these samples, which provides the farmers with direct feedback on management practices they use in these fields.
- We are also working with Iowa Geological Survey scientists Keith Schiling and Matthew Streeter (and UNI biologist Laura Jackson) studying roadside ditches in the Lime Creek watershed as a possible way to treat agricultural tile drainage. This work is funded by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Center.
- We installed a rain garden on Coe's campus (near Hickok Hall) in fall of 2011. The rain garden is instrumented with two piezometers (with pressure transducers to measure water depth), soil moisture sensors, flow meters on the downspouts, and a data logging rain gauge. We hope to also carry out some analyses of water quality going into and out of the rain garden.
- We are providing laboratory support for the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed Management Authority.
- We are providing laboratory support to the Northeast Iowa RC&D as they continue their long term water quality monitoring of the Turkey River and Upper Iowa River.
- Professor St. Clair's sabbatical at the Iowa Geological Survey Bureau in spring 2016 has led to a number of interesting collaborations, including oxbow restoration in Morgan Creek Park and exploring the impact of roadside ditches on reduction of nitrate from agricultural fields.
- Our latest collaboration is with Rebecca Kauten, a Ph.D. student in Geographical and Sustainability Science at the University of Iowa working in Eric Tate's research group. She is examining the impact of road salts on the chemistry of roadside soils (and possibly on groundwater).
- We'll be expanding our work with the Linn County Soil and Water Conservation District thanks to funding of “Indian Creek Soil Health Partnership” by Iowa Partners for Conservation – Natural Resources Conservation Service. This five year grant will enable us to provide addtional analytical support to efforts to improve water quality in the Indian Creek watershed.
Past research projects
Urban Water Quality Infrastructure
- Coe received a grant to install a permeable parking lot from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship with additional support from the Linn County Soil and Water Conservation District. Find out more at permeablecoe.weebly.com.
- While we have worked in the Indian Creek watershed for many years, we completed a physical and chemical assessment of the watershed for the Indian Creek Watershed Management Authority. This organization includes representatives from Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Linn County, and the NRCS. You can read the "plan" by clicking on the button on the home page.
- A summary presentation on the water quality part of the project, presented on August 13, 2014, is available at the Indian Creek Watershed Management Authority website (under Indian Creek Watershed Plan - Water Quality Goals). If you're really interested, you can watch the video of the presentations. (Try Internet Explorer if you have trouble playing the video.)
- The RAPID project was designed to measure the pulse of nitrate we believed would appear when the rains returned after the drought during the summer of 2012. It was a collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Iowa, the University of North Carolina, and Coe. It has resulted in three publications (one, two, and three).
- Our NSF-RAPID work was featured in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Be sure to watch the video with the story.
- We provided laboratory support in 2014 to the Benton Tama Nutrient Reduction Project, which is funded by the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship . The project uses conservation practices, field trials, demonstrations, and education to support landowner conservation efforts in lower Wolf Creek, Rock Creek, and Pratt Creek.
- During the summers of 2005 and 2006, we carried out the water quality portion of a study focused on comparing "natural" wetlands with "mitigation" wetlands constructed by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The study can be found here, with our work specifically in Appendix F.
- We carried out a study of the water quality of the Wapsipinicon River for a watershed group based in Frederica. The results of that study can be found here.
- While concepts of water quality sampling and measurement are incorporated into a number of classes in the Coe chemistry curriculum (particularly in Analytical Chemistry), Professor St. Clair occasionally offers a Water Quality course during Coe's May Term. This course includes field work at Coe's Wilderness Field Station. (The picture on the home page is of Low Lake, where the WFS is located.)
- Professor St. Clair also teaches courses in Coe's Environmental Studies and Environmental Science programs.