Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Samantha, UR- What is a watershed?

Jim Cantore, an American meteorologist traveled a small Georgian town asking people, "What is a watershed?" Easy, if you're standing on the ground right now, just look down.  You as well as everyone around you are standing in a watershed.  A watershed is an area of land which drains into a body of water be that a river, stream, ocean estuary or bay.   Wherever you live drains to some water body, therefore you live in a watershed. In the United States and Canada, all of the water from the East of the Continental divide runs through different rivers and system, eventually flowing into the Atlantic Ocean while all of the water West of the divide flows into the Pacific.  

Watersheds are important because the streamflow and the water quality of a river are affected by things, human induced or not, happening in the land area "above" the river-flow point.  In this modern industrialized age our waters are becoming more contaminated with each passing year.   New Smyrna Beach is a highly active watershed with water coming in and out of every coast of the Island.  February, 2015 Volusia County participated in a 400 million dollar plan to protect water resources in the area.  This plan included; replacing septic tanks near springs and rivers, cleaning stormwater and improving wastewater treatment.  Although I did not see any mention about educating the public I believe that with enough data we could speak to the city in doing so. Volusia county coastal area is a complex, dynamic natural system compromised of barrier islands, estuarine systems and mainland watershed.  Canal Street Canal leads into the Indian River Lagoon which has five water quality monitoring stations.  I was able to attain information Canal Street Canal is a man- made subterranean canal, the contributing watershed is approximately 170.6 acres with a 5'x8' box culvert running along the south side of Canal street from the river westward of the FEC RR tracks which was recently upgraded in 2009/10. That becomes an open ditch and continues westward to Hickory Street intersection where the cross -section more so reflects a ditch or swale and should be considered the upstream most location.  The canal has an array of interconnected open swales, ditches as well as direct piping connections that feed into the canal.  This is all referred to in the city's Stormwater Master Plan.  I soon plan to attain this plan as well as the design plans for Canal Street. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Angela, CUR - I've created a plastic bin monster...

Three weeks ago I found a plastic bin with a Japanese or Chinese symbol on it at Stonefield Beach State Wayside, Oregon. As mentioned in the post "Tsunami Debris?", my husband wouldn't let me put it in the car so I left it in the parking area thinking someone from the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department would collect it. Today we went back so I could collect plastic, while my husband looked for agates.

Plastic Bin Monster
To my surprise, the bin was still there and it was filled with plastic pieces people must have collected at the beach (and one dog feces bag). Also, I'm not sure if three weeks of rain could've cleaned the bin this well, or if someone in the neighborhood (there are houses within walking distance) rinsed it off and brought it back so people could drop off their findings (?). Either way, evidently people are willing to pick up and dispose of plastic debris, but due to Oregon's "pack it in, pack it out" motto, there are no trash receptacles of any sort. I plan on looking further into this to see what I can do to either get someone to pick up the plastic trash, or what I could put out there that I could collect and dispose of once a month.

Letters from the Russian (Cryllic) alphabet
On today's hunt I was hoping to find pieces with foreign looking writing on it, of which I found several including one with letters from the Russian alphabet. Additionally, once I got down on my knees to pick small colorful pieces out of some wrack, I found plastic pellets! During my entire research on Florida's beaches I found three (four if you count the blue one, see image below) resin pellets, so I partially assumed large quantities were an urban myth; however, once I realized they were on this strip of beach, I came across dozens. I didn't have the proper equipment to collect them per International Pellet Watch's standards, so these few will become part of my personal collection and next time my focus will be on properly collecting pellets using metal tweezers to pick them up and an aluminum pouch for storage.
Three resin pellets, two beads, and potentially a
blue resin pellet found in FL, 2013.

Small portion of resin pellets at Stonefield Beach
Wayside, Oregon, November 2015.

Samantha, UR- Garbage of Canal Street

Busy street coming off local business thruway leading to man made canal
Canal Street, a very imperative historical thruway for the locals as well as tourists for many reasons, my reason being the water quality that lies beneath.  As most of us are aware that the south end of this street cuts off into a subterranean man made canal and in recent posts, my classmates and I have discussed this canal as one of our major sample sites for our research. 
View from south of the Canal
towards the lagoon
A huge concern found about this body of water is that in September my classmates and Dr. Woodall, as well as I read that this canal oxygen concentrations measured at 1.23 mg/L.  This meant that the canal was depleted of oxygen and very or little no life was probably able to survive in that body of water during that time.  In Angela’s recent post, “Oregon Observations applied to Volusia County,” she stated her concern for the lack of knowledge of runoff and wastes (especially plastics) being distributed into the surrounding storm drainage systems, which then lead into our lagoons.  I found this information very interesting and thought I would do some research myself about one specific Canal that I have been studying and just happens to be located right next to a storm drainage system as well as a busy commercialized road. As a child growing up in New Jersey I too remember being aware that storm drains are dumping into the river constantly with signs on each drain stating so.  I never realized the lack of this in my local area especially being located in Volusia County, which due to location, is highly susceptible to flooding.
Storm drain just West
of Canal with no indication
of leading into river
“The canal has an array of interconnected open swales, ditches as well as directs piping connections that feed into the canal, which is referred to in the storm water master plan,” says Kyle Fegley, a city Engineer of New Smyrna Beach. I do not have the full information on The Storm Water master plan and the Canal street design yet but I plan on attaining them and studying further.  I believe that the water quality in this specific body of water is significant to the Indian River Lagoon and the concern of land runoff. To begin my research, this morning I walked down Canal Street, which is the street, leading right to the Canal to look for anything I could find that may help my research. 
Storm drain with no indication of dumping into river
notice all of the butts and plastics right near
I noticed a lot of garbage around the streets and businesses, things such a cigarette butts, plastic bottles, caps, receipts and even a pacifier!  The amount of garbage I found was unbelievable I even found some plastics in the water noting the tide was outgoing and it had rained in the last 24 hours. 
Seabird in Canal next to piece of floating plastic

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Angela, CUR - Oregon Observations Applied to Volusia County

Imagine something in your house springs a leak – in my case it was the toilet tank – while it is certainly pertinent to soak up the water and get rid of it, you also need to shut off the source because otherwise you will be cleaning up water forever, and ever, and ever…to infinity and beyond.

That is how I feel about plastic in the ocean. While there are potential solutions in the works to collect some of the debris floating out there, such as the Ocean Cleanup Array, we need to stop the problem at its source – or in plastic’s case: sources.

During my Individual Research Project (pertaining to plastic on Florida's beaches), I learned plastic ends up in the ocean via various means, including shoreline garbage dumps, shipping vessels, visitors to the beach, as well as rivers and storm drains. The following observations pertain to keeping plastic from entering the last two of those contributors in Volusia County.

Observation 1: My new town in Oregon uses tall bins with lids for my recycling – the same type of containers provided for your regular garbage. While living in Deltona, at the end of every weekly waste collection day I came home to a road littered with recyclable items. I blame this on the small lidless collection containers. Further, on my drives along 415 to Daytona Beach, I witnessed plastic and cardboard items being jettisoned from these bins as vehicles whizzed by and created gusts of wind. Sadly, I’m no longer at Daytona State College, but should the opportunity for a community improvement project arise: could a group of students convince the local waste management services to change the recycling bin design to help keep plastic from entering rivers and storm drains?

Observation 2: Until my research project, I was unaware that waste can end up in rivers, e.g. a cigarette thrown out of a car window or small plastic debris from fireworks can get washed into storm drains and then into a river. Walking around my new environment, both in the suburbs and in the middle of the city, I am constantly made aware that storm drains dump into rivers; I don’t remember seeing anything of the like in Deltona. If I had to do another Geographic Information Systems project at Daytona State College, I’d be interested in mapping storm drains, rivers, and other bodies of water in Volusia County. Once a map is made, if there are any storm drains dumping into any bodies of water, I’d do field research on those spots. Any findings during this research may also be applied to a community improvement project.
Cover to storm drain on sidewalk, actual opening is to the left
of this where the road meets the curb of the sidewalk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Samantha, UR- Nutrients and the Indian River Lagoon, We need to take more action !

Agricultural lands drain about 70 percent of nutrients - phosphorus and nitrogen- that end up in the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon, the state department of Environmental Protection Estimates.  The water district tests for nutrients monthly in nine locations in Martin and St. Lucie counties including the four major canals, Ten Mile Creek and the St. Lucie Rivers North and South forks.  DEP has established St. Lucie Watershed Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP).  BMAP is the "blueprint" for restoring impaired waters by reducing pollutant loading to meet the allowable loadings established in a total maximum daily load(TMDL).  It represents a comprehensive set of strategies--permit limits on wastewater facilities, urban and agricultural best management practices, conservation programs, financial assistance and revenue generating activities, etc.--designed to implement the pollutant reductions established by the TMDL. These broad-based plans are developed with local stakeholders--they rely on local input and local commitment--and they are adopted by Secretarial Order to be enforceable. The link below shows the sights that are under control by the BMAP.

Under this plan however, state agencies make no effort to identify heavy polluters including the St. Lucie's watershed, where river runoff flows through several large canals and other tributaries into the lagoon and river, a Treasures Coast Newspaper investigation found.  Critics say BMAP is a nebulous approach that doesn't tackle pollution hotspots. The plan covers too broad of an area, calls for too-infrequent progress checks and requires no site inspections to ensure landowners make needed changes, they say. This system lets pollution flow unchecked for up to five years. At the point, the state examines whether water quality has worsened, but it imposes no penalties on landowners who don’t reduce nutrients, said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.  The nine locations are tested by the water district monthly for nutrients.  However, if nutrient levels surge, no one searches upstream for polluters.  The districts environmental permits have no nutrient limits or reduction targets, including agriculture.  GPS maps show most land in the watershed is agriculture. The rest is a blend of urban and undeveloped land.  Environmental Engineer, Gary Gofroth, crafted a 25-page analysis on nutrient runoff in local basins.  The district reviewed and denied to comment.  Gorforth estimates that 1.7 million pounds of nitrogen and 385,000 pounds of phosphorus flowed from agriculture lands to St. Lucie River in 2013-2014.   

Monday, November 9, 2015

Angela, CUR - Tsunami Debris?

Something I learned during and after my Individual Research Project I conducted during the fall semester of 2013: no matter the season, I’ve always been able to find plastic on Florida’s east coast.

Imagine my disappointment, during my first visit to Oregon in August 2014, I found one single plastic item - a miniature version of a My Little Pony that a child probably left behind. The beaches we visited on the Oregon coast had a multitude of visitors, some even grilling on the beach (meaning they had trash, but they took it back home). I also noticed the water was calm and there was very little wrack; however, on Florida’s east coast I could still collect bags full of plastic sans wrack, but most of that plastic was probably left behind by visitors and had not washed up, which is what I’ve really been after.
My first golf ball, found at Siletz Bay, OR
October 2015
Barnacles on plastic, found at Roads End State Park, OR
October 2015

Plastic basket, found at Stonefield Beach State Wayside
October, 2015
After moving to Oregon end of May, the West coast still provided a dismal amount of plastic during the summer – I found one lonely food container, due to its pristine condition it was more than likely left behind by someone. In October, however, after the first two storms of the season, we drove out to Oregon’s coast to look for agates. Three different locations, including the area where I found the little plastic pony in 2014, were littered with wrack, and in that wrack I found plastic!  Additionally, the coast was pelted by turbulent waves; at Stonefield Beach State Wayside, I headed north while examining the wrack, after about 40 minutes I turned around and a big plastic basket had washed ashore.

The basket was covered in algae and bivalves, and on each side it had a Japanese looking symbol. Did I find my first Tsunami debris? Admittedly, it could’ve also fallen off a fishing vessel. Through Facebook contacts I found out the symbol indicates the number two, and is used in Japan as well as China – so my basket may not have any ties to Japan whatsoever and be of Chinese origin.

I would’ve loved to take the basket home, but due to its condition my husband didn’t want it in his car. I carried it up to the parking area and left it under a state park sign…feeling like I littered. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Samantha, UR - Hypoxia and Nutrients leading to a disturbance within the estuaries

While Hypoxia may be permanent or intermittent, it is most commonly manifested as a seasonal disturbance, appearing in mid to late summer after vertical stratification prevents replenishment of deep water dissolved oxygen (DO).  Stratification separates a body of water into layers. This layering can be based on temperature or dissolved substances, like oxygen.  In estuaries there is a signifiant division between freshwater and saltwater resources making up the stratification of the water.   On the surface or upper layer of the canal, saltwater holds less dissolved oxygen than freshwater and the stronger the river flow, the higher the oxygen concentrations.  Our water was hypoxic with a salinity of 9.9 parts per thousand, which is also pretty low.... Which brings me to the conclusion of fresh water being brought  and should be higher in oxygen, this was not the case.... Maybe this fresh water was contaminated with so many nutrients that this is what then caused oxygen depletion due to abundant amount of organisms undergoing respiration, leading to a hypoxic dissolved oxygen measurement.

Image of Hypoxia in Washington Estuaries mid - late summer
Which brings me to the fertilizer ban.  It is said that hypoxia seems to be more common in the late summers, which is around when we noticed our canal was hypoxic... contributing to the idea that these subterranean canals have a water consistency of organisms going through respiration.... this had to have been taking place so rapidly within the fresh water before it even saw the "light of day" that it makes me believe maybe this has to do with that freshwater coming in through the canal is highly contaminated with nutrients such as nitrogen of phosphorus coming from fertilizer possibly.  We know that nutrient levels were high, and oxygen was low... which gives us enough information to come to this conclusion.  There are two approaches you decide whether nitrogen and phosphorus are limiting nutrients in a water body.  Firstly involving the us of TN/TP ratio ( total nitrogen/ total phosphorus ratio).  The other involves the use of Phosphorus threshold value.  Calculating a relatively simple ratio can sometimes provide a useful clue as to the relative importance of nitrogen or phosphorus toward the abundance of algae in a water body.  For information on how to do so... refer to the link below.  Any suggestions ?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Samantha, UR--What is known about Phytoplankton in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL)

A 2 year study of the phytoplankton community was carried out in the Indian River Lagoon, USA. In terms of biovolume, the phytoplankton community was generally dominated by dinoflagellates, diatoms or cyanobacteria.  These phytoplankton seemed to highest in areas of low salinity and high total Nitrogen: total Phosphorus ratios.  Regions of intermediate water turnover rates and high external loading of phosphorus had a prevalence of diatom blooms.  In terms of individual phytoplankton taxa, the most common bloom-forming diatoms in the Indian River Lagoon system included: Skeletonema costatum,Dactyliosolen fragilissimusSkeletonema menzeliiCerataulina pelagica,Odontella regiaChaetoceros lorenzianusRhizosolenia setigera and Thalassionema nitzschioides

Cerataulina pelagica

The major bloom-forming dinoflagellate species included: Pheopolykrikos hartmannii, Akashiwo sanguinea,Prorocentrum micans, the potentially toxic species Pyrodinium bahamensevar. bahamense and Prorocentrum minimum
Pheopolykrikos hartmannii,

The spatial and temporal patterns observed in some of these dominant species were attributable to patterns in key environmental variables, including salinity, temperature and nutrient concentrations.

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Samantha, UR--Fertilizer Ban

The Volusia County Council has adopted a summertime fertilizer ban and initiated other restrictions to protect the local waterways.  Ordinance 2014-09 applies to all homes and businesses in Volusia County except those in Deltona and Debrary, which have their own fertilizer ordinances.  The new ordinance includes these provisions: The application of fertilizer containing Nitrogen and Phosphorus is prohibited from June 1 through September 30 of each year.  Fertilizer may not be applied within 15 feet of water bodies.  Fertilizer containing Nitrogen may be applied only between Oct. 1st and May 31 and must contain no less than 50% slow release Nitrogen.  With all of this said I would like to come back to one of my past blogs about a hypoxic zone.  On September 16, 2015, almost days before you the fertilizer ban was over, Canal street canal, a subterranean canal located right on the edge of businesses and active floods, was measured with a dissolved oxygen content under 2 mg/L.  In reading my latest posts especially the one about Hypoxia, I state that this could very likely have been due to an overabundance in nutrient in the biovolume leading to an algae bloom which eventually took over the oxygen in that area.  Are people disobeying these bans on fertilizer and still continuing to do this to their lawn annually without a time of practicing florida friendly landscape techniques maybe these laws should be enforced.  Non-point sources of pollution, which include fertilizer runoff, contribute significant amounts of nutrients to our water bodies. Runoff from improper use of fertilizer can contribute to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in surface waters and ground water. Attached is a list of summer safe fertilizers that comply with fertilizer laws and are formulated to help prevent water pollution

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mason: The Worm Plan

For those who don’t know me yet I am Mason Sylvester and I am doing a project on earthworms and how chemical fertilizers impact them. I am measure this by how many die in a fish tank over a three week period. Time might change but is going to be around the time frame. The types of worms that I am going to be using are night crawlers which are the most common type of earthworm we have around here or that everyone is familiar with.The picture to the right is a night crawler. Their vertical burrowing earthworms which is perfect for my project. The way I am going to be doing this is I will have 4 fish tanks that are five gallons each and then I will put soil from my backyard that is not been fertilized and then put ten worms in. From their I will spray water four times a week, that number might change but should be around four. I will then put fertilizer into three of the tanks and using the instructions on the fertilizer so I don’t have anything that is different from any of the tanks except the amount that is being applied. The type of fertilizer I used will be in the link I provide (fertilizer) . The fourth tank will not have any fertilizer. They will be place in a dark area with no sunlight so they don’t fry.  After three weeks I will count the number of dead worms for each tank and record the data into a graph for comparison.  I will also put organic matter into each fish tank for food so that they don’t die of starvation instead of the fertilizer.