OTTERBEIN LAKE: THE EVOLUTION OF AN OUTDOOR RESEARCH LABORATORY
When the outdoor laboratory was created the intent was to have facilities for students to develop hands-on skills for groundwater and surface water sampling and assessment. However, because of the lab setting, several students have benefitted with research projects that are examples of how science and resource management are interconnected. They also show the value of multi-generational research. The student research projects have included: 1) baseline water quality studies of Alum Creek and the adjoining aquifer; 2) hydraulic evaluation of the connection of Alum Creek and the aquifer using water temperature and level fluctuations; 3) impacts to surface water quality from deicing salts; 4) effects of deicing salts on groundwater quality in the area; and 5) the effects of groundwater recharge on the temperature of Otterbein Lake. Each of the studies utilize the results of prior research as part of understanding the area’s hydraulic system.
The students also see how their research connects to "real world" issues. The city obtains drinking water from the creek and the buried river valley aquifer that flanks the creek provides supplemental water. The body of research referenced above has been beneficial to the city's water department and its ongoing development of water quality and quantity management policies. Understanding the interconnections of the aquifer and the effect of deicing salt incursions have helped the city better understand their water supply system and how to utilize a blend of groundwater and surface waters with minimal impacts to the quality and quantity of the drinking water resources.