Research Project Ideas

We encourage you to discuss possible independent projects with students and choose an idea(s) that meets your needs and interests.  It’s our hope that any equipment and materials you purchase for the independent projects will be useful not only for Creek Connections activities but also in other classes and clubs.  As with the routine water quality testing, we encourage you to look for patterns and explanations of those patterns in any data you collect.   The topics listed below are intended to give you some ideas, but please do not feel constrained by this list.  Remember, we would be happy to discuss with you any ideas–listed or unlisted.  Also, attached is a list of the presentations that were made at past Student Research Symposiums. 

Water Chemistry Studies: 

  • Running vs. Standing Water – characterize differences in water quality parameters between fast-moving, slow-moving and/or standing water
  • Effect of Tributary on Water Quality in Your Stream – measure water quality parameters in French Creek upstream and downstream from a tributary, as well as in the tributary itself
  • Effect of a missing Riparian Buffer Zone on Water Quality
  • Compare Two Tributaries with Distinct Land Use Differences
  • Compare the Upstream and Downstream Sites of a Potential Pollution Source (farm, sewage plant, parking lot, etc.)
  • Water quality Characteristics of Surface Water versus Groundwater or versus Precipitation.
  • Analysis of Bacterial Coliform at Selected Sites (seasonal or between sites)
  • Effect of Storms on Water Quality Characteristics – analyze water samples taken at 3 to 6 hour intervals before during and after a major precipitation event
  • Collect groundwater (well water) samples from the homes of students in the class that have wells, then determine water quality characteristics and plot trends on a map locating the sample sites
  • Research the Effect that Drought has on the Water Chemistry of Your Stream
  • Explore Water Quality Parameters besides the 8 required for project testing

Biological Studies: 

  • You can study macroinvertebrates, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mussels, algae, plankton/ phytoplankton, bacteria, streamside creatures, or waterway birds
  • Explore Biological Diversity Seasonally or Between Sites using Dip-net, Kick-net, Hester-Dendy Samplers, Surber Samplers, Plankton Nets or Sediment Grab Sample
  • Compare the Macroinvertebrate Diversity Results obtained from Various Sampling Techniques
  • Correlate Macroinvertebrates with Water Quality Parameters and stream health
  • Compare Aquatic Life Between Two Streams or Two Regions
  • Correlate Plankton Samples with Season and/or Water Quality Parameters
  • Ecological Study of Selected Taxonomic Group such as Mussels, Mayflies, Stoneflies, etc. (characterize their distribution and abundance at your field site)
  • Develop Laboratory Aquaria or Stream Tanks for the Culture and Study of  Macroinvertebrates or Fish
  • Study Streamside Creatures and their Interaction with the Stream
  • Create Identification Guides, Field Guides, or a video documentary for your stream organisms
  • Sponsor a Freshwater Clam Bake (ha, ha… just kidding)

Geological / Geographical / Land Use Studies:

  •  Construct a 3-D Topographical Model of Your portion of the Watershed and Determine its Boundaries on Topographical Maps
  • Use a Groundwater Simulator and Conduct/ Prepare Activities to Illustrate Groundwater Principles that Relate to the Watershed
  • Characterize the Geological Substrates in Your Stream at Your Field Site or other sites, identify the rocks, determine the average size of substrate, conduct the pebble count method.
  • Research the Geological History of the Watershed and Explain how Different Geological Regions Affect Water Quality
  • Effect of Channel Geomorphology on Flow Characteristics – map portions of different stream channels (for channel shape and pattern) and correlate with flow characteristics that are measured in the field.
  • Effect of Flow Rate on Bed Material – map a reach of a stream for its channel bed materials (ex. particle size, sorting, etc.) to determine the relationship between flow rates and bed material size
  • Map your stream, include stream dynamics (riffle, run, pool, debris dams), land uses, elevations, vegetation cover,  soil type, animal life, etc.
  • Study the Riparian Zones along Your Waterway, the roles they play, the habitats they provide.
  • Compare Sites by using the Riparian, Channel, Environmental Inventory


Educational / Informational / Other:

  • Prepare Photographed and Drawn Field Guides of Your Field Site and or Portion of the Watershed (including taxonomic keys)
  • Prepare a Videotape that Describes the Unique History, Geology and Biology of your Portion of the Watershed
  • Construct a Calendar with Informative Images of your Portion of the Watershed
  • Prepare Brochures to Inform your Community about the Waterway Resources Near You
  • Drama Performance – prepare an educational program about your waterway that your class presents to other classes or grades not participating in Creek Connections
  • Study the History of Your Waterway, interview elders in the community about your creek’s past
  • Create a Presentation about the Variety of Bridges that Cross Your Waterways
  • Create educational posters, write a story or song about your waterway, or design a mural to display in your community