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Blue Thumb program lets volunteers help with Oklahoma's water quality efforts

A training session is planned Jan. 25-26 at Oklahoma City University for people interested in monitoring streams and rivers through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Blue Thumb program.
BY MATT PATTERSON Modified: January 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm •  Published: January 8, 2013

— Shawnee High School environmental science teacher Greg Mayberry is always looking for fun ways to engage his students.

Four years ago, Mayberry found a way to get kids outside and in the field. He regularly leads a group of students to monitor Delaware Creek water quality.

The creek is four miles downstream from a poultry farm in Johnston County, and when Mayberry started monitoring it as part of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Blue Thumb program, he expected the worst.

“We were expecting the water quality to be less than it is given the location near a poultry farm, but we've not found the elevated numbers of E. coli and other things you would expect,” he said.

Blue Thumb teaches volunteers how to monitor streams by collecting data and submitting it to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The goal is simple: to get as many people out monitoring water quality as possible.

“We only have so many sets of eyes,” Blue Thumb Coordinator Cheryl Cheadle said. “In many cases, the volunteer is the only source of monitoring for a stream.”

A training session is planned at Oklahoma City University on Jan. 25-26 for those interested in becoming Blue Thumb volunteers. The training is free and open to the public.

Cheadle said volunteers come from all walks of life.

“We have a very broad appeal,” Cheadle said. “We have retired folks, landowners who have a stream that runs through their property, municipal employees and college students.”

Cheadle said part of the appeal of Blue Thumb is that it is very hands-on for volunteers who collect data and write reports that are submitted to the state's biologists and water quality experts.

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