Fish

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Samm, UR - We're at the End of the Line.

Well, we've finally reached the end of the semester. My research project has been challenging to say the least, between changing methods and trying to figure out how to use those rascally little test strips. But it's been a real learning experience, and I'm anxious to share my results!

A Look Back in Time

For those of you who are now just joining in, I have based my project on a study done this past summer in Spain, where two researchers found that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (both ingredients found in a variety of sunscreens) were reacting with ultraviolet light from the sun to create new compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide.
These ingredients mix react with UV lights and create excited electrons. Excitation is the process when an electron gains energy and cannot remain in it's particular orbit, so it goes to another orbit with a higher energy. As it leaves, a hole is created. The hole causes water to break up and become a free radical and hydrogen. The excited electron reacts with the oxygen already present in the water, which then reacts with the hydrogen created from the hole, and finally creates hydrogen peroxide.High levels of hydrogen peroxide can be toxic, especially to phytoplankon, which the two researchers found can inhibit their growth and development. This is primarily bad because phytoplankton are at the very bottom of the food chain. From small zooplankton, to large whales, phytoplankton help feed the entire ocean, making them extremely crucial in the food chain. 

With this knowledge, I wanted to learn more about how zinc oxide levels change over time in water from sunscreen. So, my scientific question became:
When under ultraviolet light, how will sunscreens containing zinc oxide concentrations change over time in fresh water?
I used Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, and pure zinc oxide as sunscreen test subjects. I decided to make pure zinc oxide as one of my sunscreens so that I could tell if any other ingredients in sunscreen would affect the readings. In order to make the pure zinc oxide into a paste, I had to mix the flour-like substance with deionized water (DI H2O). I used seven glass beakers, 250mL in size. Three beakers were smeared with roughly 20g of Babo Botanicals sunscreen, three beakers were smeared with roughly 20g of the pure zinc oxide paste, and one beaker was kept unsmeared, as a control. All the beakers were filled with 250mL of DI water. All of the beakers were put into a UV Box. Once a day, for five days I tested each beaker with Sensafe's Water Metals Check Test Strips. I dipped the test strip into the beaker and gently swirled it around for 20 seconds, then let it sit for another 2 minutes. After that time, I had a 30-second window to match the colour on the strip with the colour chart on the bottle of test strips. Once that was done, I lined all the test strips for that day into a tupperware lined with paper towel so that the test strips could dry without contaminating each other.

The images above are the results from my test strips. The first image is organized by Day (Control, Babo 1, Babo 2, Babo 3, Pure Zn 1, Pure Zn 2, and Pure Zn 3), while the bottom image is organized by test subject, Day 1-5. Unfortunately, the colour on my test strips does not match the colours on the bottle (which I will attend to in a minute), so in order to create a graph of my data, I used a simple scale of 1-5 as my concentration of metals present in the water (1 being the lightest, 5 being the darkest and present of the most metals).


My graph was made by averaging the three Babo Botanicals beakers and then averaging the three pure zinc paste beakers for each day, and using those points on my line graph. The control test strips were the only ones to get a reading of 1, seeing as they showed no signs of metal leeching. All Babo Botanical and pure zinc oxide test strips were given a reading of  2-5.
I have found that the Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen had higher concentrations of metals in the water, even though I used slightly more pure zinc paste to line the beakers. This could be because there are many more inactive ingredients in retail sunscreen that give it texture and scent, which could be reacting with water and UV light along with the zinc oxide. If I had to do this experiment again (which I definitely want to!), I would most definitely NOT use those test strips. A huge problem was that the colour of my test strips did not match up at all with the colour chart provided to me on the bottle.
While the chart colours are tan going to dark brown at best, all of my test strips were red/purple! And even though after they dried I was able to detect a difference in shade, trying to compare the tan/brown to my reds was like trying to compare apples to oranges!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mike Salisbury, UR - Results

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

I've graphed my data, and the results are really interesting! Check out the graphs below.





My conclusions based on these graphs are as follows:
  • Adult disturbances are the most common type of anthropogenic disturbance at Sites A, B, and C (47%, 69%, and 83%, respectively).

  • Shorebirds are more affected by the presence of humans than any other type of seabird. Notice in the third graph, shorebird numbers increase as anthropogenic disturbances decrease.  It is worth nothing, many shorebirds are beach-nesters!

  • Gulls/Terns opportunistically feed on anthropogenic food sources (scraps, garbage, etc.). During my observations, Site A consistently had more people.  As a result, Site A had the highest number of gulls/terns.


In conclusion, anthropogenic disturbances provide gulls/terns with a source of food, but have detrimental effects on shorebirds. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Heather, UR- This is SCIENCE!!








I have decided to dedicate an entire blog spot to respond to a question that I was asked today about my latest post “It has been a long cigarette butt filled road…but we made it” the question that was asked was:

“I'm reading your post and seeing all these mistakes you made. Aren't you bothered by this? Aren't you concerned that your research grade would be lowered because of it? I don't get it”



I feel that this may be a question that is on everyone’s minds as they are on the outside of the glass computer screen viewing myself and my fellow undergraduate researchers in our efforts to… well… do science. 


So before I begin to try to answer this question I would like to ask you, what is science? According to the Google definition search science is 


sci·ence



ˈsīəns/



Noun: science



    The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.



To put it simply science is observing, studying and experimenting to learn how the world works. One of the reasons why I love science and experimenting is because it is not as cut and dry, yes or no answers like that of a math class. When a scientist runs an experiment they will get a result whether it was what they hypothesized would happen or nothing at all. No results is a result all in itself in science, a great quote that embodies this is “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Thomas Edison in regards to inventing the light bulb and his many attempts.


So to answer your question about the “mistakes” I made and does it bother me… well I didn’t make any so no I am not bothered by this. What I did do is I figured out procedures for this experiment that I would change if I chose to recreate it. I also figured out that one cigarette butt per liter of water may be lethal to minnows but it is definitely not enough concentration to pick up any heavy metal traces with a SenSafe test strip (that I wouldn’t use again either if I have the choice). What I did observe is that the heated beakers may have shown a higher concentration of heavy metals so I will be recreating that experiment in the future… but this time I won’t leave the water to evaporate over four days… OK that may have been one mistake I made and I kicked myself as soon as I opened the black box…

Anyways



 What I am trying to get across is that there is no right or wrong way to experiment, even when your experiment doesn’t go as planned you still learned something. I was so relieved to finally see positive results with the test strips but throughout the experiment after all of the issues and yellow test strips all I could say was “well… this is science.” I am not worried about my grade being effected because even though my experiment didn’t go how I imagined, it was still a successful experiment. I have positive results that show cigarette butts do in fact leach heavy metals into water and in order to pick them up with a test strip that concentration has to be at one cigarette butt per 50ml distilled water. That little bit of knowledge will be my stepping stone for future experiments I will run testing whether salinity has an effect on the leaching process and (eventually) studying the effects sediments and aquatic plants have on the leaching process.


I hope this was helpful in clarifying any misconceptions about my experimental process, and if you still "don't get it" please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments below.

Mike Salisbury UR - Hello Goodbye

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

During my project I recorded 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

Disturbance = If the bird shows signs of distress or moves approximately 3 ft. or more because of human interference.  

I made 10 minute observations at three sites:

          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, less people (not a very popular location due to lack of street parking)


The locations
My trusty field notebook 
Bird identification pamphlet that I made 

I haven’t graphed my data yet, but I’m planning on having a few graphs done by next week. This has been a really interesting project:
  •  Site C (no beach driving, less anthropogenic disturbances) has shown the most diversity in species
  • Many seabirds opportunistically feed on anthropogenic food, garbage, etc.
  • Adult disturbances seem to be the most common type 
I’m excited to graph the data!  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Heather, UR- It has been a long cigarette butt filled road... but we made it

 

Cigarette Butts,

The last form of Acceptable litter

 

 

Cigarette butts are one of the last remaining acceptable forms of litter, accounting for over 32 percent of the litter clean up from the beaches. Every year over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered into the environment, a majority of these will make their way into our water sources causing havoc on the marine environment and the organisms that live there. Once a cigarette butt reaches the water it will begin to degrade leaching harmful chemicals and heavy metals into the environment. Many of these toxic substances will accumulate in the sediments and will be inadvertently consumed by sediment dwelling invertebrates and filter feeders that will transport the toxins through the food chain eventually leading to humans. the harmful toxins are not the only issue behind cigarette butt litter, the filter itself is dangerous to marine organisms. the cellulose acetate filter is not biodegradable it is actually photodegradable meaning it can take years for the sun's UV light to break down the filters. Most of the time the filters are mistaken for a food source my a bird or fish before they can degrade causing the organism to either starve to death or choke. There are several companies that are trying to find an alternative to the cellulose acetate filter, like that of Green Butts or Seed Cigs that use natural fibers so that the butt will fully degrade in months rather than years; however these are still in the developmental stages. I wanted to preform an experiment that would test the heavy metal leaching from cigarette butts into the environment. I decided to start out with the basics and just test to see in temperature had an effect on the rate of which the metals would leach, if they leached at all...

My First Experiment:

Tools:

Nylon Gloves

tweezers
distilled water
1.5 gallon tanks
SenSafe water metals test kit
thermometer
camel light cigarette butts
50 watt heaters
tape
sharpie marker
glass jar to store cigarette butts
plastic baggies to hole used test strips

Methods:

 My first experiment was supposed to show the differences between water temperatures in the leaching process of heavy metals out of the cigarette butts. I started out by prepping 7 1.5 gallon tanks by washing them in as little tap water as possible in hope to limit the contaminates contributed to the tanks from the tap water; as well as, rinsing with DI water to remove any residual tap water that may remain. I repeated this process for all 7 of the tanks and let them air dry as I prepared the other tools. I then washed and rinsed with DI water the 7 heaters that I would be using in each of the tanks along with the glass lids that would cover the tanks. I then took the tanks into the black box and using a 1000 ml beaker I proceeded to fill each tank up with 3 liters of distilled water (3000 ml) making sure to use a piece of tape and a sharpie marker to mark the water level to monitor any evaporation that may occur. I then set a heater in each of the tanks but only plugged in the 6 experimental tanks leaving the control unplugged. I set the first three tanks to a temperature that was supposed to measure around 79˚F and the last three tanks set to a degree that should have measured around 85˚F and I labeled each tank using tape and a sharpie marker and made sure to separate the tanks with cardboard to help insulate. I placed three cigarette butts with approximately 1 cm tobacco remaining into each of the 6 experimental tanks leaving the control empty, then I covered each tank and left them to reach temperature overnight. When I arrived the following day I was met with 7 cold tanks, after a frantic mess of checking wires and the power strip I discovered that the power strip itself had been unplugged sometime during my time of absence which leads me to…



ERROR ONE:
Each tank was at room temperature during the first test strip data due to someone unplugging the power strip.


The test strips showed little differences from the control strip leading me to believe that the either was too little concentrations to be shown or none at all. This is what I expected from the first day so I wasn’t too discouraged especially since each tank was left at room temperature. Day ones results were as followed:


Tank
control
Tank 1 A
Tank 2 A
Tank 3 A
Tank 1 B
Tank 2 B
Tank 3 B
Temp ˚F
59
60.8
62.6
62.6
64.4
64.4
66.2
Strip color
yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
yellow

I plugged the power strip back in and left it overnight to hopefully come to temperature again so that I would have better results with my next test. The following day I arrived to warm tanks and pretty decrepit cigarette butts which gave me hope that today I may just see the results that I have been expecting to see. I proceeded to take the temperatures of each of the tanks making sure to stay away from the heaters themselves to not throw off the temperature reading. I was then hit with another road block…

                ERROR 2:
The heaters were not heating the water to the desired temperature so further tampering with the temperature levels were needed.   
  
Again the test strips showed little to no difference from the control strip except for tank 2 B that showed a slight discoloration. As you can imagine I was quite excited to see this color difference but after the next test I think it may have been a piece of tobacco that touched the strip. Day 2’s test strip results were as followed:

Tank
Control
Tank 1 A
Tank 2 A
Tank 3 A
Tank 1 B
Tank 2 B
Tank 3 B
Temp ˚F
59
73.4
73.4
73.4
77
78.8
78.8
Strip color
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow/red
yellow

I decided to turn the three tank B’s up as high as they would go and turn the tank A’s up by “10” degrees then I left the tanks to sit for two days. When I returned two days later for the third test I noted that there was slight evaporation in the heated tanks. This can be an issue because it will concentrate the sample giving readings that would not necessarily represent the original sample. After waiting two days I came back and tested the tanks for the third time receiving results just like the other two test. Day (test) 3’s results were as followed:

Tank
Control
Tank 1 A
Tank 2 A
Tank 3 A
Tank 1 B
Tank 2 B
Tank 3 B
Temp ˚F
59
73.4
75.2
73.4
78.8
78.8
77
Strip color
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
Yellow
yellow

After receiving all my data I decided to stand back and look at the experiment as a whole… what could be some of the factors in why I wasn’t getting positive results with my test strips? The water had turned an ice tea shade of brown at this point, could there really be no heavy metals in the water? I decided to run one last test on this experiment. I had to clean up the tanks so that another student could use them but I had one more night to try to solve this mystery. I took all the tanks and to the best of my ability I concentrated all six of the tanks into one, making sure I got all tobacco and cigarette but remains into the tank while limiting the water allowed. Was not the most professional experiment but I was desperate, I was just after some form of a result from these test strips. After letting the concentrated tank and the control sit overnight one last time I tested again, and EUREKA! I got the results I was looking for! The two test strips showed a discoloration between the control and the test tank, though they were slight it was still a result in my book and it showed me that all I needed to do was to up my concentrations. This meant running a whole separate experiment where I decided to throw the two different heated temperatures out the window and just do room temp and a heated temperature. 
 

Experiment 2:

Tools: 

500 ml beakers
Nylon Gloves
tweezers
distilled water
SenSafe water metals test kit
camel light cigarette butts
50 watt heaters
tape
sharpie marker
glass jar to store cigarette butts
plastic baggies to hold used test strips 

Methods: 




My second experiment was purely to get some form of results weather it was that no heavy metals were leaching or that my concentrations were just off. I set up the experiment by using 5 500ml beakers, 5 heaters, and distilled water. I put 500 ml distilled water into each of the beakers as well as a heater in each. I came up with the concentration of one cigarette butt per 50 ml distilled water making it a total of ten cigarette butts per beaker. I set up the experiment by having one control that was just distilled water and an unplugged heater, two beakers that had distilled water/ cigarette butts/ and an unplugged heater, and two beakers that had distilled water/ cigarette butts/ and plugged in heaters set at the highest temp. I left these to sit over the holiday break and when I arrived to take my test I was met by a surprise….


ERROR 3:

Water evaporates when there is a heater introduced?! I had to laugh to myself, I was so caught up on getting concentrations down that it didn’t occur to me that the water would be evaporating over those four days. I can in to two beakers almost bone dry with crusted cigarette butts (thank god they didn’t catch fire.)


 Luckily I was able to get a few milliliters of liquid from the samples to run a test on just to see what would happen. The non-heated beakers were able to be tested as well as the control. After testing the control, two non-heated, and one from the heated I was able to get results that do indeed show that there are heavy metals being leached into the water. My next step will be to take the water from the non-heated beakers and run an arsenic test on them to hopefully show that arsenic is one of the heavy metals being leached into the water, I will have those results for the next blog post.