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Students from Singapore Check WNY Water Quality

Students from Singapore Check WNY Water Quality

Posted: June 19, 2015

Examining insects and looking for E. coli bacteria might not be everybody’s idea of the way to spend a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world. However, 24 college seniors from the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore spent most of a recent two-week visit to Western New York doing such fieldwork.

The students, who are completing their bachelor of arts in education degree at NIE, an institute of Nanyang Technological University, will teach geography after they graduate. “We will be qualified to teach children who are about 7 to about 18,” said one of the students.

In Singapore, teachers educate their students about water quality in both the primary and secondary grades, according to their instructor, Kim Irvine. Irvine, a water-quality specialist, left Buffalo State after 25 years to take a position as associate professor of humanities and social studies education at NIE.

“Students at NIE must do field work abroad before they can graduate,” said Irvine. “Students travel to nearby countries—Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand—as well as to Australia and India. I thought my students could have a good experience back in Western New York.”

With Porter Hall at Buffalo State as their dorm, the visiting students explored the upper and lower reaches of the Buffalo River watershed and took samples from Lake Erie as well. They will use their fieldwork to complete required final-year projects.

Student projects included:

  • Visual stream assessment protocol to evaluate water quality, which included observations of the species of insects because presence of certain species indicates water quality
  • Beach profiling at Woodlawn Beach, checking different locations for variations in sand texture to indicate transport and deposition processes, E. coli levels, and water infiltration
  • Meteorology observations, comparing variables such as wind speed and temperature at urban and rural sites
  • Use of an AUV—autonomous underwater vehicle—to assess water quality at lower depths in Lake Erie, offshore of Woodlawn Beach


Students  conducted fieldwork in Sprague Brook Park, Rush Creek near Woodlawn Beach, Cazenovia Creek, the Buffalo River, and many other local sites as part of their visit. They also collected data from instrumentation at sites throughout Western New York. One student observed an American classroom for a project comparing American and Singaporean education.

Stephen Vermette and Tao Tang, professors of geography and planning, and Buffalo State students Rebecca Johnson and Kevin Ingraham helped Irvine and his students.

The students from NIE in Singapore visiting Western New York are: Leong Wei Jie Alvin, Sarina Binte Amin, Field-Jambu Dallas, Zahidah Binte Abdul Hamid, Chia Jiahao, Glenn (Xie Jiahao), Hajra Maideen, Lalithambigai D/O S Mohan, Eka Syafiqah Binte Ahmad Nasir, Abdul Azeez Noorunisa, Low Pei Qi, Simon Raj S/O Panirsilvam, Tan Wei Ern Pearlin, Nur Ishmah Fatin Binte Rahim, Shirlyn Loh Hui Rong, Goh Hui Shi, Lee Sixian, Michelle Tang, Tan Yan Ting (Chen Yanting), Tan Pei Wen, Lye Zhen Xi, Koo Yingjia, Ofelia Lim Shi Yun, Li Yuting, and Leong Zhiwei. 

“It was a pleasure to have them here,” said Kelly Frothingham, professor and chair of the Geography and Planning Department. “We wish them all the best in their future careers, and we welcome them back any time.” 

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