Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Water Monitoring

After collecting water samples of the runoff leading into the Wissahickon we begin our work in analyzing the samples to assess the health of our local aquatic ecosystem. In the next week, we will be analyzing the samples for pH, dissolved oxygen content, nitrates and phosphates, turbidity, and coliform bacteria.

Research Question: Where is Lake Baikal and why is it such a unique ecosystem? What are some of the ecological threats facing Lake Baikal?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Freshwater Wetlands

Today we spent some time learning about the importance of our freshwater wetlands. Not long ago, wetlands were considered wasted space by humans. You can't grow useful crops in a wetland and they tend to be infested with insects. As a result, many, many wetlands have been drained in order to build residential or commercial spaces. Whenever they do this they displace the organisms that use that space, many of which are extremely useful to that local ecosystem. Nowadays, developers are expected to construct human-made wetlands in place of the original. But is this enough and how effective are these reconstructions?

Around 90 years ago, a scientist from the United States Department of Forestry received a packet of seeds from a friend in Australia. The seeds were from the melaleuca tree. The scientist scattered the seeds throughout the Florida Everglades, hoping they would soak up the "mucky wasteland."
Research the impact of the melaleuca tree on the Florida Everglades.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Aquatic Ecosystems

Today we discussed the ways in which organisms have adapted to survive in the varying conditions found in aquatic ecosystems. There are three broad categories of the types of organisms that exist in water; plankton (drifters), Nekton (free-swimming organisms), and Benthos (bottom dwelling organisms). I watched an online news segment about a marine biologist who has been studying some fascinating Benthos organisms, primarily the cuttlefish, and their amazing adaptations for camouflage. Octopi also have a camouflage adaptation and he was following one octopus for a while when he was able to capture this amazing footage:

What is eutrophication? How does it happen? What effects does it have on aquatic ecosystems?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan, a famous astronomer and author, once said that if you saw Earth from far away in space, what you would see is a pale blue dot. Our planet appears this way because 70% of it is covered in water. Every living thing on this planet owes its existence to that miraculous molecule.
In the next two weeks, we will be studying Earth's water systems and we will analyze water in our local ecosystems.
Tell a story about a body of water that you visited (lake, river, ocean, etc). Describe the ecosystem that existed there. What types of plants and animals did you notice? Was the ecosystem healthy, in your opinion? Why or why not?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Podcasts are up!

As we finish our reports on biomes, students have been working to post their research in the form of a podcast. Podcasting is a way to share multimedia resources through the internet. They usually get posted as either an audio or video recording. I have a link posted (under "links") for the podcast page, which is run by ""


Find the link to the podcasts on this page.

Listen to two of your classmate's podcasts.

Write a paragraph describing what you learned from the podcast.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Space Shuttle

On Thursday, the Space Shuttle launched and headed for the International Space Station. The liftoff was flawless.
Here is a link to the lift off.
Here is a link to live coverage.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dung Beetles

Today we learned about two fragile biomes, the desert and the tundra. What makes them fragile, you might ask? They are fragile because of the simple food chains that exist within them. Within the tundra during the winter months there are only a few organisms that can survive. If there is a disruption to any one part of the biome, the whole food chain gets disrupted.

However, despite the limiting factors, there are some amazing adaptations for the organisms that do exist in these biomes. There is a tremendous amount of symbiosis that exists between organisms. The Dung Beetle is a great example of this. Dung Beetles have been held in very high regard by many cultures, although they tend to get a bad rap in our country. Why are they such useful creatures?