Northeastern Section - 49th Annual Meeting (23–25 March)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-4:15 PM


GUTCHESS, Kristina M., FISHER, Eric A., HALL, Jared C. and JIN, Li, Geology, SUNY Cortland, Cortland, NY 13045,

Research is an integral component of understanding natural processes. Student involvement in the field serves to stimulate interest as well as provide a thorough learning environment in which students are able to gain priceless research experience while collecting actual data. From August 26th through November 4th, 2013, fifteen undergraduate students in SUNY Cortland’s Hydrogeology course participated in an 11 week research project focusing on investigating the water chemistry in the East and West Branches of the Tioughnioga River in Cortland, New York. The Tioughnioga River is the headwater of the Susquehanna River, which supplies two-thirds of the annual nitrogen load to the Chesapeake Bay, where excess nitrogen drives eutrophication and algal growth. Students were instructed on proper sampling techniques, and at the end of the 11 weeks, were fluent in sampling procedures including flow measurement, in-situ water quality measurements as well as proper collection of samples for laboratory chemical analysis.

The 11 weeks’ flow data shows the East Branch contributes more than half of the water to the Tioughnioga River and also responds to precipitation events quicker, whereas discharge of the West Branch remained fairly constant. Waters in two branches are slightly alkaline. Ca2+, Mg2+ and Na+ are the dominant cations. HCO3- and Cl- are the dominant anions. The richness of Ca2+, Mg2+ and HCO3- as well as their approximately 1:2 stoichiometric ratio of Ca2+ plus Mg2+ versus HCO3- suggests that waters in the area are mostly controlled by carbonate weathering. Elevated concentrations of Na+ and Cl- are a result of road salt applied to large roadways such as Interstate-81 in the West Branch watershed and Route 13 in the East Branch watershed, which the rivers are adjacent to. Higher concentrations of NO3- in the West Branch can be accredited to the nearly 10% greater agricultural area in that watershed. Dilution effects are evident across both branches during high flow conditions. The students involved report the experience as both a valuable and effective method of teaching. This project has provided students with the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct further research in the field of hydrogeology, in addition to producing integral water quality and flow data on this important watershed.