Modern Technology Enables Next-Generation Scientists

The best part of my job is meeting the people who use our equipment, and learning all the different ways they use it to achieve their specific goals. So, I was happy to meet Dr. Victoria Chraibi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Tarleton State University. I met Dr. Chraibi at the North American Lake Management Society’s (NALMS) International Symposium in Denver, Colorado last month. She had the winning bid on a smarTROLL Multiparameter Handheld we donated to the Silent Auction to benefit the NALMS’ student programs. Victoria was kind enough to let me interview her over the phone recently to discuss how her students will use the smarTROLL in their specific degree programs.

What brought you to NALMS?
I’m new to the Tarleton faculty. I’m in the middle of my second year. I trained mostly in the north so, I’m new to Texas as well. I went to NALMS to see old colleagues, but more to make new connections with people in the area. I’m interested in doing work with reservoirs and I was hoping there would be Texans there doing similar work.

Did you meet any Texans?
(Laughs) No Texans, but I made a lot of other great connections.

There were several multiprobes donated at the NALMS Silent Auction. Why did you bid on the smarTROLL?
I like how small it is compared to some of the other probes. It’s more portable. And the fact that it sends the data to the smart device was really appealing. I work with a lot of students who are more comfortable with their phones. It’s more intuitive to them.

smarTROLL Multiparameter Handheld

How will the smarTROLL be used in your programs? 

We’ll use the smarTROLL in multiple ways. 

We’re finalizing the construction of an artificial stream lab that will be used to develop a water quality index for diatoms.  I have an undergrad helping with that.  We’ll have 6-8 artificial streams that circulate water taken from local rivers.  We can then introduce different types of benthic habitat to grow diatoms and algae, and manipulate the water quality (i.e. add phosphorous etc.) to establish the environmental tolerances of each diatom.  Our objective is to identify the species and put them into groups according to those tolerances.  The index allows students to go out and take a quick (benthic) sample for assessment.  Then they can say, “These types are here, so water quality must be good.”  There’s a lot of water quality applications to it.  Every week we have an undergrad student who comes in and measures the chemical parameters of the water, fluorescence of the algae (primary productivity), and subsamples the micro-habitats.  The smarTROLL will be used to measure water quality and help them keep tabs on things like ions (electrical conductivity), and other aspects of the water, to make sure it isn’t changing.  We need to control parameters like conductivity to make sure the results are valid.  With the smarTROLL multiprobe, you can do it on the phone and send it to yourself.  It’s easy to update and maintain a spreadsheet and make sure everything is the way it should be.   

We also plan to inventory regional water bodies and reassess the water quality.  My master’s student will use the probe in the field to sample reference sites from the National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA), which is done in part by EPA and its affiliates.  Some of the reference sites were last tested in 1989, and to our knowledge, have not been visited much since.  We want to see what the water quality is like today, 30-40 years later.  With the smarTROLL, we have better equipment that allows us to reestablish what’s going on at those sites.  We’ll sample within a basic radius several times over the year to track seasonal parameter changes so we can model that data.  The student’s thesis will be published and we want to do it in a format that’s acceptable and useful to the EPA, and consultants like the USGS, as data.  If you look at the former nationwide assessments, the sites they use are very heavy on the northeast where they have lots of rivers and lots of people.  In Texas, we have the Waco and the Trinity that are monitored.  There’s not a whole lot of assessment done on smaller streams in the north-central part of the state.  The Trinity and the Waco are disgusting and get a lot of (negative) attention.  We’re trying to show more love to the rivers in our area. 
















Master’s student, Gabriel Nejad, samples stream reference sites with the new smarTROLL Multiparameter Handheld.


Finally, we plan to use the smarTROLL at our field station. We have an Undergraduate Research Experience (REU) Program that’s starting there next summer. The program is funded with a National Science Foundation grant. We’re looking at restoring cattle ranches to more sustainable land and water uses. We’ll have different terrestrial and water studies happening in tandem with each other to look at how different land uses affect water quality and in what timescale.


Tarleton’s REU Program provides students with opportunities to conduct scientific research in environmentally-related concerns.


We’re glad to hear the smarTROLL Multiparameter Handheld will be put to good use in Dr. Chraibi’s biology programs.   I look forward to collaborating on additional research projects with Dr. Chraibi next spring to expose more next-generation scientists to additional advancements in monitoring technologies. 


For more information about Dr. Chraibi’s projects contact: 

Victoria Chraibi, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Tarleton State University


Janice Hiller
Vertical Market Manager
In-Situ Inc.

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