Within most States the number of sites/habitats listed as environmentally sensitive can be large. However, while there are regulations to manage the status of such areas, due to limited resources long-term monitoring of all of the listed sensitive ecosystems can be challenging. The Millbrook watershed in Northern New Jersey is an example of such a site. The area has been determined to be a critical environmental site by the state of New Jersey and the Millbrook stream is classified as a category one stream. Category one waters, as defined by the NJDEP, are surface waters protected by any measurable changes due to their exceptional ecological significant, recreational significance, water supply significance, or fisheries resources. However, state/local monitoring of the site is limited. Monitoring the water quality of such environmentally sensitive locations can be of significant value and helpful in the early identification of potential problems. Integrating college laboratory exercises based on standardized procedures with local environmental management can be a win-win solution to both state/local authorities and the colleges by strengthening the relationship with local environmental institutions and encouraging students to be cognizant of environmental conditions in their backyard while meeting the learning objectives of a college level course.
While engaging in the college’s primary role of educating students in environmental science, County College of Morris (CCM) has trained over 800 students in water quality monitoring as part of the Biology of Environmental Concerns and Ecology course curricula and we have continued using trained students to monitor the Millbrook Watershed since 1990. Under the supervision of faculty, students in these courses are given the opportunity to assess the impacts of human activity on water quality by using a watershed-based approach. The source of human activity is the CCM campus. Physical (temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, velocity, and flow), chemical (pH, nitrate, phosphate, ammonia, and alkalinity), and biological (EPT and SCI testing) parameters were utilized to monitor the stream quality at two sites (Dike and Center Grove Road (CGR) – Millbrook stream) within the Millbrook watershed. We describe the findings from 25 years of student led monitoring and evaluate the potential value toward monitoring critical local environments. Based on the analysis, we suggest possible mechanisms to enhance cooperation among academic institutions and authorities responsible for monitoring such environments to enable an enhanced level of environmental monitoring that could be a cost effective method to be replicated across institutions.