About RAL

Goals of River Action League

There are two main goals of the River Action League.

First, the RAL aims to increase the scientific literacy of the region’s citizens through non-formal water quality monitoring experiences. By increasing their knowledge and understanding of the scientific process and water quality issues this project can create a voting public that is more educated on the current health of the Illinois River watershed and what is impacting its health.

Second, the RAL provides much needed water quality data to the resource managers, politicians and government institutions that are making policies, granting permits and ensuring the health of this major natural resource.  

Background

River Action League officially began in October 2010 as a classroom outreach project focused on introducing 4th grade students to the Illinois River.  The group responsible for developing the outreach project saw great opportunity to expand the River Action League to a data collection effort focused on documenting the status of river water quality for inclusion in classroom activities.  The founding group of students and professionals recognized that restoration projects are increasing being funded by the state but there is no cohesive monitoring strategy in place to determine if those projects are achieving long term goals.  River quality has been long declining and policy decisions that impact River quality are being made but without adequate data decisions cannot be made in a scientifically responsible way. Managers need river quality data to make informed decisions, create policy, change policy or support continued policy.  It appeared that linking informal education for community partners with data collection on water quality seemed the best approach to meet our local data needs and increase awareness of river issues within our local citizenry. 

River Action League today has evolved to meet broader needs as a formal citizen science network.  As the Center for STEM Education became involved it seemed that the network could be used to improve science literacy throughout our local community. Citizen science networks have shown great potential to impact science literacy within a community because they create informal science opportunities that transcend normal age, class and social restrictions on learning. Improved science literacy will allow for more informed citizens to participate in policy decision through voting and elections. River Action League was designed to include citizens of varying levels of scientific experience and knowledge and at a wide range of ages.  

Overview

The River Action League implementation begins with the recruitment and training of local teachers and organizational leaders that can lead a group of citizens through the water quality monitoring experience. Recruitment for RAL happens through many avenues, such as our Facebook page and public events such as the Clean Water Celebration.

Once a teacher or other citizen has shown interest in the program, they are signed up for our mailing list to receive notification of the next RAL Citizen Leader Training Day, which happen several times a year. These trainings happen at the main RAL office at Bradley University. The RAL Citizen Leader Training Day is a full day of water quality testing training that takes place both in the lab and in the field. The participants are trained on all the RAL protocols, how to use the equipment, quality assurance of the data and how to fully complete the data collection form. Once trained the participant has six months to “check out” a kit from the RAL office where they received the training. The kit includes all the equipment they need to lead a group into the field to collect water quality data.

After the field experience has been completed by the group they simply bring the kit, completed survey sheets and water samples back to the same office where they checked out the kit so the data can be entered, the water samples tested as necessary for quality assurance purposes and the kit replenished for the next group.  The data can then be analyzed, formatted and uploaded to the River Action League website in a way that is useful for all data users.

Program Personnel

Name

Project Title/Responsibility

Dr. Sherri Morris

Founding Member; Supervisor/Advisory Panel

Melissa Eaton

Founding Member; Supervisor/Advisory Panel

Dr. Kelly McConnaughay

Founding Member; Supervisor/Advisory Panel

Abbie Enlund

Project Manager

Alex Faulkner

Data Specialist

Alex Faulkner

Field/Laboratory Specialist/QA Officer

Melissa Eaton

GIS Specialist

Different at each Branch office

Branch Manager

Contact Us

Email – riveractionleague@bradley.edu

Phone – 309-677-3016

Bradley University Center for STEM Education
1501 West Bradley Avenue
Peoria, IL 61625