Interested in becoming a citizen scientist? The Rahway River Watershed Association is hosting "Stream School," a chance for Union County residents who are interested in protecting rivers and streams to become certified in monitoring local waterways.

Training will be provided by the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors, a program of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Any Union County resident can take the courses for the Stream School and they learn how to test the water in the rivers and streams near them. The data gets collected and analyzed by scientists who will use it to monitor the health of all the waterways.

No prior experience is necessary. Any person over age of 16 may enroll. Minors under age 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The full series consists of three virtual workshops on April 7, 8 and 9, followed by an in-person field workshop on April 11.

"People can become citizen scientists and monitor their local waterways and really help with making a healthier environment for us all," Union County Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski said.

Since The Clean Air and Water Act was passed years ago, there has been great improvement in the water quality around Union County and New Jersey, said Kowalski. But it needs to be watched. It's important for local residents to help with this, to take responsibility and keep an eye on what's going on in their neighborhood, she said.

She said while the government can certainly collect the data, a local resident can be eyes and ears on the ground. If they sign up for the workshops, they learn to take water samples, what to look for and how to properly report it to scientists. If there's a problem that needs to be addressed, then it can happen much more quickly than if they wait for it to become a much bigger issue.

To be certified for official data collection, participants must attend all four workshops, undergo a field audit and pass a test.

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