EvCC teacher awarded grant to buy water-sampling equipment

EVERETT — Students in Kerry Lyste’s geography class at Everett Community College soon will have new equipment to help them research environmental issues around Puget Sound.

Lyste received a $22,656 grant to purchase instruments that should allow students to do higher quality water sampling during trips to places such as Orcas Island and Deception Pass. The equipment is for his Physical Geography 205 course.

On weekend-long field trips each term, Lyste’s students gather saltwater and freshwater data from about nine locations. They look at acidity, salinity, oxygen content and other factors. It’s been part of the class for about 10 years.

“The students learn how to gather field data and how to utilize the equipment, how to put the information they collect into GPS, and how to take that geospatial information, map it and publish it,” he said.

Their research is made available online.

Lyste’s challenge, though, has been the equipment. What he’s been using for the last 10 years isn’t the highest quality, he said, which means students can’t have high confidence in their results. With the grant, he’s upgrading the equipment so they can gather data that is reliable enough to be added to the mix of professional research about Puget Sound.

“The end result is they are conducting undergraduate research that’s meaningful,” he said. “They’ve learned that they can make a change, they can make an impact.”

The biggest grant purchase is for a new meter that produces the sample readings. The grant came from the Rose Foundation, a California-based organization that has a stewardship fund specifically for Puget Sound.

Also with the funding, students at the college plan to make tags for Lyste’s class to use on large, woody debris on the beaches, which they’ll track. Before the field trip, his class also will go out on a boat near Everett to check water quality here. Once the projects are done, a couple of students will present their findings at a conference, Lyste said.

“This is all just one piece of the entire class, which is looking at the physical world around us,” he said. “One of the things students are taking out of it is how the coastal environment really impacts us all. Everything’s interconnected.”

He’s been teaching at Everett Community College for 17 years, and the trips and hands-on research always are highlights for him and the students. Geography is about the outside world, and the best learning happens outside, he said.

Lyste makes geography interesting and enjoyable for students, even if it wasn’t their first choice of classes to take, said Dan Murphy, grant and contract specialist with the college. He suspects some of the students in Lyste’s class will end up pursuing the subject later in their studies.

“To me, the most exciting thing is there’s going to be a generation of educated, engaged people who are able to impact our legislators and our policies,” Murphy said. “That’s pretty powerful stuff.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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