Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another Amazon Creek Clean Up

The River Spies chose a culminating action project to improve the water quality of Amazon Creek. On 3/18/14, the River Spies embarked upon our second ever Amazon Creek Clean Up

A gigantic thank you to Carrie Karl of Eugene Park Stewards for greeting us at Amazon Park, accompanying our crew, providing gear, and for hauling away our trash collection at the end. 

Carrie Karl of Eugene Park Stewards greets the River Spies.
We started at the north end of Amazon Park near 24th and moved south from there. The River Spies worked fast and furiously to collect as much trash as possible in our allotted time. The kids were so excited to pick up trash and to have a positive impact upon the health of Amazon Creek!

Working our way south along Amazon Creek.
Armed with gloves, buckets, bags, squeeze handles, and boots, the River Spies picked up an astounding array of debris: plastic bags, food wrappers, cans, glass bottles, a seat cushion, a bike tire, clothes, wooden posts, and lost dog balls.

Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration

On 3/11/14, the River Spies used Vernier technology to check the accuracy of our water quality test kits and to explore photosynthesis.

Compliments of Pacific University, I was able to borrow the following equipment:
Vernier LabQuests, a Temperature Probe, a pH Sensor, a DO Probe, an O2 Sensor, a CO2 Sensor, and a BioChamber 250.

Vernier LabQuest and sensors.
We took advantage of the spring growth in the Edison school garden and used some fresh greens to explore photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

The River Spies gather leaves from the garden.
First we created an equation for photosynthesis by asking, “What do plants need for survival?” After gathering input from all the River Spies, we pared the list down to the bare essentials: 
6CO2 + 6H2O ------> C6H12O6 + 6O2
Sunlight energy  
Where: CO2 = carbon dioxide
2O = water
6H12O6 = glucose
2 = oxygen
We then used the Vernier equipment to test the leaves' output of Oand consumption of COin both light and dark conditions. The River Spies expected the leaves to produce oxygen in the light conditions (a product of photosynthesis) but were surprised that the leaves produced carbon dioxide in dark conditions (a product of cellular respiration).

River Spies Presentation for the Southeast Neighbors

On 2/25/14, the River Spies presented their water quality data at the Southeast Neighbors general meeting. Thank you to Zhuobin (Eleanor's mom) for capturing this video.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Abundance of Aquatic Marcroinvertebrates

On 3/4/14, the Rivers Spies surveyed for aquatic macroinvertebrates in Amazon Creek at the base of Amazon Headwaters (near Frank Kinney Park and Martin Street). 

Ready for sampling with nets in hand and buckets for temporary collections.

The water was quite turbid from recent rainstorms.

Macroinvertebrates are animals that lack a backbone and can be seen with the unaided eye. "Aquatic" refers to animals that spend most of their lives associated with bodies of water. These animals are excellent bioindicators - their presence, abundance, and diversity can indicate the health of a stream, river, lake, wetland, or other aquatic environment. Macroinvertebrates are grouped according to their tolerance to pollution. 

At our survey site, we turned over rocks, scanned the water, and scoured the stream banks in search of any life. We found macroinvertebrates in abundance: hundreds of black fly larvae clinging underneath rocks, caddis flies building stony fortresses, a water strider gliding along the surface, and mayfly, stonefly, and damselfly larva scuttling along submerged substrates.
Some of what we found:

Caddisfly Larva (2)
Sensitive or Intolerant of Pollution
Stonefly Larva (5)
Sensitive or Intolerant of Pollution

Mayfly Larva (15+)
Sensitive or Intolerant of Pollution

Damselfly Larva (10+)
Somewhat Tolerant of Pollution

Water Strider (1)
Tolerant of Pollution

Blackfly Larva (100+)
Tolerant of Pollution

Overall, our Amazon Creek site rated as having fair water quality.
A link to StreamWebs™  - an online water quality data base managed by OSU. 

Water Temperature Investigations

Our field data from Amazon Headwaters last week prompted the question, "Why did Amazon Creek temperature vary by two degrees Celsius within a short distance? Possible answers include amount of shade, thermal pollution from human activities, creek bed substrate, plant growth in the creek, abundance of aquatic organisms, depth and width of the creek, and the confluence of tributaries. On 2/25/14, the River Spies tested different variables that affect water temperature. The weather worked in our favor, so we were able to set up experiments outside under sunny skies. Each pair had a unique variable to test: 

Black bottom vs. white bottom
Shade vs. no shade
Red tray vs. clear tray
Shallow vs. deep - same volume of water
Large volume vs. small volume

The River Spies shared their initial predictions and shared conclusions from their results. If their findings did not match expected results, the River Spies explained sources of experimental error.

At the end of the session, the River Spies participated in a scavenger hunt around Edison campus (adapted from "Play in the Rain Day Scavenger Hunt" developed by Mt. Pisgah Arboretum). The River Spies located Douglas Fir cones, acorns, invertebrates, and organisms that grow on trees that are not part of the tree (lichen, moss, fungus).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Water Quality Testing after Torrential Rains

On 2/18/14, after days of heavy rainfall, the River Spies conducted water quality testing at three locations in the Amazon Creek Headwaters. The water was so turbid that we could not even see the Secchi disk at the bottom of our sample jars! After collecting our water samples and recording temperature and turbidity, we headed for drier ground (Edison Elementary) to test dissolved oxygen and pH.
Stars and suns mark our sample sites thus far. Edison Elementary is circled in red.
The water temperature was 6°C at our southernmost site and 8°C at our two other locations.  The two degree difference shows how much tree cover and shade can affect stream temperatures. Turbidity readings were off the charts - at least 100 JTU. The pH was 8.0 and the dissolved oxygen was 4ppm at all sites.
Fox Hollow Trail
Later, I entered our data on to the World Water Monitoring website:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fresh Water Availability & Jelly Marbles

On 2/11/14, the River Spies grew jelly marbles, examined fresh water availability, and discussed ways to keep our waterways clean.

The River Spies hold up fresh water test strips.
Jelly marbles are made of a super absorbent polymer that expand to many times their original size when immersed in water. Super absorbents hold so much water that farmers use them to preserve crops during times of drought. Clear jelly marbles "vanish" in water; since they are 99% water, they refract light almost identically.

Jelly Marbles!
We explored fresh water availability by adapting an activity from Project WET called "A Drop in the Bucket." We used a 1000ml graduated cylinder to represent all the water on Earth. We took away 97% of that water (or 970ml) that is salt water. Of the 30ml remaining fresh water, 80% (or 24ml) is frozen at the poles. Of the remaining 6ml of fresh water, only .03ml - about a drop - is potable. The rest is either trapped underground or polluted. That one single drop hitting an empty bucket really drives home the necessity of protecting our fresh water resources! 

Near the end of our session, the River Spies split into pairs to think of ways that they could encourage people to protect our waterways. A few minutes later, we reconvened to share ideas. My favorite suggestion was posting signs warning people that they would be fined an octillion dollars for littering!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Water Quality Testing near Amazon Park

The River Spies pose creekside.

On a chilly and rainy 2/4/14, the River Spies conducted water quality testing in Amazon Creek near Amazon Park. The River Spies maintained a positive attitude despite inclement weather and they even sang an impromptu tune about cold hands and feet!

Marley holds a cold water sample!
We measured water temperature, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The water temperature was 6°C with a turbidity reading of 40 JTU. The pH was 7.5 and the dissolved oxygen was 4ppm (32% saturated). The River Spies are improving their survey techniques and are becoming adept at measuring the water quality parameters.

Our Amazon Creek survey site.
Later, I entered our data on to the World Water Monitoring website:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Water Cycle Terrariums

On 1/28/14, the River Spies constructed terrariums to model the global water cycle. We used plastic bottles to represent the atmosphere and gravel for Earth's rocky crust. 

The River Spies construct their terrariums.

The River Spies layered soil, twigs, leaves, bark, and plants on top of the gravel and then poured in some water. Some hapless slugs and worms were trapped in the process but we later released them back to the school garden! We had to artificially speed up the evaporation process by applying heat from a hair dryer. Almost immediately the River Spies could detect condensation forming on the inside surface of the terrarium and then beads of water running down the bottle (precipitation). The terrariums are an excellent way to demonstrate the main components of the water cycle in a closed system: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. 
For step by step instructions on how to build your own terrarium, check out this link:

We also explored the concept of percent saturation by soaking a sponge in water. (The River Spies measure percent saturation of dissolved oxygen as one of our water quality indicators). We first saturated a sponge to 100% and measured the amount of water it held by squeezing the water into a graduated cylinder. The River Spies then took turns trying to figure out how to saturate a sponge to just 50% of its capacity.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Water Quality Testing in Amazon Headwaters

On 1/21/14, the River Spies conducted water quality testing in the Amazon Headwaters near the Martin Street trail. 

Christopher collects a water sample.
Gabi and Eleanor with pH and dissolved oxygen tubes.
Levi and Jayling mix their pH and dissolved oxygen reagents.
We measured water temperature, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The water temperature was 2°C with a turbidity reading of 40 JTU. The pH was 7.5 and the dissolved oxygen was 4ppm (29% saturated).

Rory and Christopher hold up the chart that we use to compare test results.
Andrew & Selwyn

Later, I entered our data on to the World Water Monitoring website:

For more information on preserving the Amazon Headwaters in Eugene, check out this link:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Surface Tension and Water Testing Techniques

Welcome to the Winter 2014 session of River Spies!
On 1/14/14, the River Spies witnessed the amazing power of water cohesion which results in gravity defying surface tensionWatch this video for the full demonstration:

Eleanor shows the before...
and after!
We also practiced testing water quality which we will do next week in the Amazon Creek Headwaters near Spencer Butte. The River Spies noted the temperature of water samples and converted Celsius to Fahrenheit. We explored the concept of turbidity with different substrates (soil vs. sand) and deduced that density determines how long material remains suspended in water.

Levi holds our substrate samples - freshly shaken. Soil is on the left. Sand is on the right.
We tested the school's tap water and measured dissolved oxygen and pH. We reviewed why these parameters are important to know when rating water quality.

The water quality test kit.