Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rebecca UR - Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Click Here to try Conserving Water Virtual Lab
    In my quest to find a website that contained data middle school students could use as part of a lesson, I found another resource that would be a great substitute. Virtual labs are wed based games and programs that allow students to have a more hands on approach without spending big bucks on materials and lab equipment. As a student, virtual labs were before my time so I was never able to experience them from the view of a student. As a teacher however, I am excited about the possibility that virtual labs bring to a classroom and in helping students observe and experience things they might not otherwise be able to.

      I found a virtual lab about conserving water that allows students to change how water is used in a household. The lab gives instant data feedback at the bottom of the screen  and even has a calculator function for students to use while completing the lab. I am designing a worksheet to accompany this lab so that students can write down the water usage choices they made. Then students will have to calculate their water bill based on the water usage data given by the lab.

The 5 E's of Science
    But why should students care about the price of their water bill? How are they going to see the bigger picture of what this lesson is trying to teach them? That's where the 5 E's lesson plan for science classrooms comes in. The 5 E's lesson plan is a guideline for teachers to get and keep students interesting about what they are learning. Teachers might not enjoy making lesson plans, I know I don't, but they are helpful in preparing what you will say and do to maintain a level of intrigue for students, which is such a vital part of teaching. If students don't see how something relates to them or their life, it is all in one ear and out the other. Asking students questions is a big part of the 5 E's as well as having discussions and hearing other points of views, all things that scientist do and now science classrooms too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Heather Talley, UR- Its time to get hot and salty

 After weeks of fine tuning what I am going to do for my research project I have finally come up with an experiment that I believe will be a stepping stone for further research opportunities.

To start off let me introduce my scientific question,

Does temperature and salinity have an effect on the leeching of Cadmium and Arsenic into water?

What I am planning on doing is running two separate experiments testing the temperature’s effect as well as the salinity’s effect on the leeching of the heavy metals from cigarette butts.

Graph from the EPA website

I plan on testing two temperatures one based on the pre-industrial average water temperatures, and then another at a predicted increased temperature due to global climate change. I have read that by the year 2100 ocean temperature will have risen by 1.2-2.6 degrees Celsius and that since 1980 ocean temperatures have risen by .85 degrees Celsius, but I am having trouble finding out the exact temperatures. I may have to get today’s average and then add or subtract based on these observations.

 When testing the salinity I will also be using two different concentrations to run my experiment. I will be using a salinity concentration that is hyposaline (<30 ppt) and one that is hypersaline (>38 ppt) to test to see if the increased salinity has any effect on the amount of heavy metal leeching into the water. 

Due to my previous research on the experiment with cigarette butts toxicity to minnows, I will be using one smoked cigarette butt with 1 cm of remaining tobacco per liter of water. Because I will be using the two gallon tanks in the lab I will use 7 liters of water with 7 cigarette butts. I will take samples every day at the same time for five days during both experiments and test them for both cadmium and arsenic and record my data. What I expect to find is that the concentrations level out when the metals are fully leached out of the cigarette butts, however I am interested to see if the salinity or temperature increases or decreases this time period.


Samm UR, Let Me Zinc About It.

WHAT a week! Between every assignment known to man being thrown at me from every which way, I have been thinking about my IRP and the scientific question I will pose. Originally, I had wanted to test out the waters of several of Florida's springs to see if the sunscreen that was washing off of the spring-goers was creating hydrogen peroxide (which can be toxic to phytoplankton). But I came to realize that I started my questions too high up the ladder. How could I understand the dynamics of these chemical filters and how they react with ultraviolet light if I barely understand each filter on it's own? My scientific question need to be based on something simple that I could easily test to help me further understand how these elements react in marine ecosystems and how they can affect marine life. Luckily, we have a way to test for zinc in water, so I'm now 100% sure I want to test that. So my scientific question from all of this?

When under ultraviolet light, how will zinc oxide react in seawater?

The chemical equation for titanium dioxide creating hydrogen peroxide under UV light
For this project, I will need two sunscreens whose main UV filter is ONLY zinc oxide. With two different tanks, I am going to pour a certain amount of sunscreen into the water and let the tank sit in the UV box (to recreate the UV radiation from sunlight). Every other day (at the least), I will take a small water sample and test for the amount of zinc. Once the experiment is over, I will use the data collected and create a representative graph.

Needless to say, I'm excited for this project (which says a lot, seeing as I've never been all too excited about science before, haha!). I think this subject could be good for future research, so I hope I do science proud, and learn some things I would have never thought I'd ever do!

Fun Fact of the Day:
So, in doing some more research on zinc oxide and hydrogen peroxide, I became very confused. The original article I read that piqued my interest in the subject talked about the creation of hydrogen peroxide in the water, and somehow I clicked on a link that brought me to a different study, titled "Sunscreen Products as Emerging Pollutants to Coastal Waters", which had absolutely nothing to do with hydrogen peroxide. You can imagine my confusion as to why so many articles would comment on something that didn't exist. Well, after many, many, many google searches later, I discovered another study done by the same people titled "Sunscreens as a Source of Hydrogen Peroxide in Coastal Waters". Unfortunately, I cannot gain access to the entire study (unless I want to pay an arm and a leg!), but I was able to find a nifty picture with the chemical equation for titanium dioxide and UV light reacting together to make hydrogen peroxide. Unfortunately, going back to the original article, I am unsure of how I got to the first study. Suffice it to say, I am slightly embarrassed!

Mike Salisbury, UR - And Your Bird Can Sing

This has been a busy week for me. I developed my scientific question for my UR project:

How do anthropogenic disturbances alter bird species number and diversity on Volusia County beaches?

I started to collect data this week as well. Besides the obvious, I am recording the following:
  • Bird Types: Gulls and terns, shorebirds, wading birds, misc. birds (pelicans, ospreys, etc.)
  • Bird disturbances: Cars, bikes, adults, children, motor vehicles, fishermen, feeding
Disturbances have been a tough call; I made a guideline though. If the bird shows signs of distress, or moves approximately 3 ft. or more due to human interference, I consider it a disturbance.

I’m collecting bird disturbance data/observations from three specific locations in New Smyrna Beach over the next few weeks. 

The locations are as follows:

     A. North of 27th Ave. – Beach driving
     B. South of 27th Ave. – No beach driving, but usually a crowded beach
     C. 30th Ave. –No beach driving, fewer people (not a very popular location due to lack of street                 parking)

Here are some pictures of the locations:

Site A. north of the poles
Site B. south of the poles
Site B. continued
Site C.
Site C. continued 
I’m learning a lot about the common bird species of Volusia County. I made a Volusia County bird identification pamphlet to help me out in the field.

 So far, gulls/terns have been the most common bird type and adult disturbances the most common disruption.  I am curious what the most common bird type/disturbance will be.

Let's end with a Beatles song this week ♪

Comments from last week:

Deb 'n Paul

What role do shore birds play in the ecosystem?

Birds help balance the ecosystem on all levels.

Here is quote that elaborates on this:

“Birds occupy many levels of trophic webs, from mid-level consumers to top predators. As with other native organisms, birds help maintain sustainable population levels of their prey and predator species and, after death, provide food for scavengers and decomposers. Many birds are important in plant reproduction through their services as pollinators or seed dispersers. Birds also provide critical resources for their many host-specific parasites, including lice that eat only feathers, flies adapted for living on birds, and mites that hitchhike on birds from plant to plant and even between countries.”

See answer above.

Are the numbers of species or change in species type an indicator of changes in the health of the environment (i.e., any indicator species)?

Yes, birds are a very useful indicator for environmental health. Here in Volusia, dead birds are an indicator that West Nile virus may be in an area.

Here are a few more reasons:
  • “Birds are diverse, found in nearly all habitats and occur across the world: e.g., there are over 10,000 bird species globally with, on average, over 400 species occurring per country.
  • Bird distribution, ecology and life history are well understood: e.g., over 16,000 scientific papers on bird biology are published per year. 
  • Birds usually occupy high trophic levels in food webs and are relatively sensitive to environmental change: e.g., trends in farmland birds in the UK correlate with trends in land-use intensity and climate. 
  • Bird population trends often mirror those of other species: e.g., mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants and invertebrates have shown trends similar to farmland birds in the UK since the 1940s. 
  • Bird distribution generally reflects that of many other wildlife groups: e.g., the network of key sites for bird conservation (IBAs) covers 80% of the area of those identified for other wildlife groups.”

What species migrate to our area and how have their numbers changed over time? 

There are several species that migrate to our area.

Here is a link to a graph from that shows many of the birds that migrate to our area, and their numbers from the last ten years:

Which species are indigenous and how have their numbers changed over time?     

This link provides a list of indigenous birds (natural appearance or by establishment of an exotic):

Florida is home to many endangered species, here is a list:
Least tern, limpkin little, blue heron, Marian’s marsh wren, osprey, piping plover, red-cockaded woodpecker, reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, roseate tern, Scott’s seaside sparrow, snowy egret, snowy plover, Southeastern American kestrel Falco tricolored heron, Wakulla seaside sparrow, white-crowned pigeon, whooping crane, white ibis, Worthington’s marsh wren, wood stork

What are their predators and how have predator numbers changed and have these changes impacted shore bird numbers? ...and how do impact by predators compare to impact by humans?--which is worse and why?

Two major unnatural threats are humans and cats. The development of coastal habitats from humans has resulted in a decrease in some bird populations; many coastal species are moving north because of this destruction. Climate change might also have an impact on unnatural bird movement.  

Human Population Graph

“It is estimated that nationwide, cats kill over a billion small mammals and hundreds of millions of birds each year.”

Looking at the numbers I would say cats are worse, but with the constant development of coastal habitats, it is a tough call.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Heather Talley UR- Would you like some metal with your aphrodisiac?

Oysters in lab

While conducting my research on cadmium and its effects on the sediments I came across an interesting article, Rising temperatures toxic for sea-dwellers.” The article was about a study that was conducted to measure the effects that global climate change will have on organism’s sensitivity to toxins in the water. Though it doesn’t necessarily have to do with sediments there has been a lot of talk about global climate change lately in class and I thought it was really neat to see the effects global climate change will have on cadmium toxicity. The researcher’s experiment consisted of measuring the metabolic rates and the ability to synthesis ATP (the main energy in a cell) of eastern oysters at different temperatures in both clean water as well as water that was polluted with the heavy metal cadmium. What the researchers found was that during increased temperatures the toxic effects of the cadmium also increased in the oysters by limiting their ability to synthesis ATP making the organism less likely to survive due to an energy deficit. If that isn’t bad enough the increase in temperatures also increase the speed of metal intake of the organism leading to an increase of accumulation of the toxin in the organism. 


Oysters are known for two things, being an aphrodisiac and producing pearls. I bet you didn't know that that pearl was once a little piece of debris that found its way into the shell. Maybe even some toxic sediment is to thank for that pretty necklace. Sediments are not just a place for organisms and plants to live, sediments can also be a pollutant. When sediments are washed into a river by storm

Sedimentation in Chattahoochee River, Atlanta, Georgia
drainage they will carry all the pollutants from the roads into the water and can also cause habitat loss on shorelines when water levels increase from the increased sediment. The part that caught my attention is that when that sediment reaches the water what is it going to do? Is it going to immediately settle out to the bottom nice and neatly? Maybe in as perfect world but here in reality it will become suspended solids in the water. Sediment particles absorb sunlight and increase the water’s temperature, one of the pollutants found in the storm water runoff are cigarette butts that leach out cadmium… do you see where I am going with this? It would be interesting to break away from the global climate change idea and do an experiment with the increased temperatures caused by sedimentation, I wonder if it also has an effect on the toxicity of cadmium. I think it will be an interesting study to do in the future if I do find that cigarette butts are leaching cadmium into the sediments.