MDI Biological Laboratory

MDI Biological Laboratory Gets Children Involved Through Citizen Science

  • May 18, 2020

MDI Biological Laboratory’s Dr. Jane Disney recently caught up with 7th and 8th graders from Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES), to talk with them about their research findings in their on-going “All About Arsenic” project. This project, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, involves teachers and students from schools in Maine and New Hampshire collecting well water from their homes for arsenic analysis.

This particular citizen science work –is important in New England because many homeowners are reliant on wells for their drinking water. Maine (especially along the coast) sits on an ‘arsenic belt’ that affects the water table, and therefore the water people are using and consuming in their homes. Long-term arsenic exposure, even at low levels, can lead to numerous severe health problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and reproductive, developmental and cognitive problems. 



So far, schools in the program have collected 1,200 samples and 15% of them have had higher than recommended levels of arsenic (the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety level is 10 parts per billion). 

“All About Arsenic” aims to build scientific literacy and interest, and to show school-aged children that as citizen scientists they can make a positive difference in their community. It is a five-year project that is led by MDI Biological Laboratory, hosted on their citizen science online platform, and funded by a Science Educated Partnership Award (SEPA).

Congratulations to the MDES students, who gave outstanding and interesting presentations over Zoom, and have adapted incredibly well to the online learning environment.