The Monongahela Explored

By October 30, 2019 Blog
The Explorer riverboat at dock with students entering the boat.

Earlier this month, the Explorer riverboat journeyed up the Monongahela River to the town of New Eagle, docking at Tubby Hall Park for a month-long residency in the Mon River Valley.

The objective? To provide an opportunity for students in the region to participate in Rivers of Steel’s STEM education programs. More than 900 students from Washington, Fayette, Greene, and southern Westmoreland and Allegheny counties will have an opportunity will step onboard the Explorer for the Environmental Science on the Mon program before the vessel returns to its home dock at the headwaters of the Ohio River.

Students examine macroinvertebrates.

Support for this program was provided by the Eden Hall Foundation and the EQT Foundation, which covered the costs of student participation in the workshops. Additionally, the New Eagle Community Action Group helped to make the residency possible by providing a docking location to the Explorer free of charge.

Community participation in the residency has not been limited to school groups. Last Saturday, October 26, members of the public were invited on a scenic tour of the river that also included the STEM displays and activities so they could be introduced to the same scientific processes the students have engaged in. Among the highlights of the tour was a spotting of a bald eagle!

The bald eagle sighting is just one of several unique creature displays. A number of interesting critters were discovered during sampling taken from the river water and sediment as part of the student workshops.

“We’ve seen a variety of macroinvertebrates that we usually do not collect within our regular samplings in the waters of the Mon downriver,” said Suzi Bloom, director of education for Rivers of Steel. “From a diversity of dragonfly species to the largest heelsplitter mussel I’ve ever seen—it’s exciting because it’s indicative of improving river health!”