Survey your area to find out which species of plants and animals live there. You might be surprised to find out that something you grew up thinking was very common, is actually quite unique! For example, if you live in the great plains, then you may think that prairie dogs are a nuisance or a pest. Actually, some species of prairie dogs are only found here, and have a very important role for short and tall grass prairie ecosystems. The prairie dogs are an important part of the food-chain, and…
The sustainability of our ocean fisheries is a topic of concern for many, including environmentalists and fishermen who make their living on the bounty of the sea. It is important to use sustainable fishing practices so that our fisheries are not over-fished leading to a decline in productivity. Some states require fish markets to post information about their fish so that consumers can make informed decisions about which fish to buy. They post the type of fish (e.g., Coho Salmon), the source of…
Some plants use a lot of water, and some are very drought-tolerant. Drought-tolerant grasses are good for water conservation because they require less water to grow and stay green. How much less water do they need? Which types of grass are drought-tolerant? You can buy different types or brands of grass seed at your nursery that claim to be drought-tolerant. Grow them in a container and then starve for water after they are established. Which brands die out first? You can conduct a similar…
No one can deny the devastating consequences of an oil spill on the local wildlife. Oil affects all levels of the ecosystem, from plants to fish and birds. What happens to water plants if you add motor oil to their pot? What is the effect of motor oil on the health of a goldfish, or water insects? What happens to the barbs of a bird feather if they are dipped in oil? Can you test different types of environmentally-friendly detergents for cleaning the bird feathers? Can you test different…
Our forests are a very important natural resource that need to be managed wisely. We use wood products for many different purposes: building materials, paper, cardboard, furniture, fuel, etc. How can we use wood products in a sustainable manner? You can do experiments that examine the growth time of different tree species to see which are good candidates for tree farming. Which types of lumber are most sustainable? You can also compare the effects of clear cutting vs. thinning a forested…
How much water do you use? Conserving water can do more than save your parents' money, it can also save freshwater ecosystems, wetlands, and watersheds. Some companies are trying to help fix the problem by making low flow faucets and showerheads. How well do they work? How much water can you save? Go to the hardware store to buy a few of the water saving products. Compare the amount of water that you run over a period of time to determine how much water you can save. Which water saving…
One way to test for the presence of toxic compounds in a water sample is a bioassay. In a bioassay, a living organism serves as a detector for toxins—the same way canaries were used in coal mines to detect invisible toxic gases. In this project, water fleas (Daphnia magna), a freshwater crustacean, are used in a bioassay to monitor water quality. Many variations of this experiment are possible.
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Adult supervision required when collecting sediment samples from parking lot.
Invasive species are organisms (either plant or animal) that have been introduced into a new, non-native area and spread rapidly in the new environment due to a lack of regulation by predators. Frequently, invasive species will out-compete native species for resources which can put native species at risk. This is an especially big problem for threatened habitat and endangered species, which are already at risk. Survey your area to document cases of invasive species invading a local…
Do your parents like to garden? Then you might have a beautiful lawn surrounded by flowers, or a vegetable garden. Humans have been introducing plants to our landscapes for centuries, which has dramatically altered the natural habitat of many environments. Chances are, the landscape you live in is not a natural landscape. One movement is to restore these habitats by re-introducing native plants. Conduct a survey in your area looking for native and non-native plant species. You can take…
Many people routinely use fertilizer for crops, gardens, and lawns. What people don't know is that each time they apply fertilizer, the fertilizer seeps through the soil into the water table. This can eventually lead to the contamination of a local water source, like a stream, pond, lake, bay, or ocean. This is an especially big problem for agricultural practices that frequently use large amounts of fertilizer on fields that are connected by irrigation channels. The run-off of fertilizer…
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