Bronxville Union Free School District

Students Dive Deeper into Bronx River Water Quality Research

Bronxville High School students who are studying the water quality of the Bronx River presented the scientific data they’ve collected over the last two years and discussed their research experience in front of a panel of college professors, science teachers, specialists and community members.

The group of students collaborated with Dr. Elvira Longordo, a professor at the College of New Rochelle, over the summer to test the water’s conductivity, pH, and nitrate and phosphate levels. They have also previously collaborated with Dr. Michelle Hersh, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and have gathered data on macroinvertebrates, dissolved oxygen and enterococcus bacteria levels since the summer of 2015, when the program kicked off as an independent study with just two students. There are now 11 students who are conducting extensive research on the health of the river.

“We all know that the river is not very healthy, so finally, we have some numbers [to prove that],” said junior Isabela Lamadrid, who launched the program along with junior Allison Barker when they were freshmen.

Lamadrid said they’ve discovered that bacteria levels are well above what’s considered safe for swimming and she and her classmates are researching what caused those levels to peak at times. They said they’re worried about sewage leakage from old drain pipes or storm drain runoff. Justine McClellan, a biology and earth science teacher who oversees the program, said they’ve been able to obtain a map of the sewage pipes in the village, but the map stops short of Scout Field because the area is under a separate jurisdiction.

Mayor Mary Marvin, who participated in the panel discussion, promised to help the students secure the map that will aid them in finding out where the large storm drain that goes into Scout Field originates from.

“I was beyond impressed at the level of sophistication and reasoning and how they’re able to extrapolate conclusions from the data,” Marvin said about the students. “It’s a terrific partnership between so many different elements in the community.”

McClellan said she was grateful for the feedback from the panel of scientists and community members and added that her students hope to secure additional funding for equipment from the Bronxville School Foundation, which has supported the program since its inception.

“With such a large group of students doing research studies on the Bronx River, it is my hope that they can branch off and specialize,” said McClellan, adding that she would like her students to publish their work online and collaborate with other institutions in sharing their data to get a broader picture of the river. “I hope that the students continue to take ownership of the project, take on the roles of principal investigators and oversee the process of collecting data.”

The project has also led students to the point of advocacy, leadership and innovation as they raise more awareness about the river.

“What interests me is not only the science element, but also the community that we live in and being able to make a change in our environment to improve the health of the river,” said Libby Bishop, a sophomore who has been involved with the project since this summer.

Additionally, the Bronxville School is studying how students understand the nature of science, and administrators have been working on creating a K-12 curriculum to incorporate the Bronx River into a variety of classes and disciplines. Elementary and middle school science teachers are in the process of implementing aspects of the Bronx River research into their curriculum.

For more information on the students’ Bronx River research, please visit their website at

  • Bronxville Union Free School District - Image
  • Bronxville Union Free School District - Image
  • Bronxville Union Free School District - Image