Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sampling Experiments in the Berkshires

Cait Ward
Berkshire School
Environmental Science
November 20, 2015
2015 TTEC Cohort

It has proved to be a beautiful fall in the Berkshires, and we have taken full advantage of the weather in Environmental Science.  To kick start the year off, students completed a “21 question” exercise, in which they were asked to formulate a list of questions based on the surrounding ecosystem.  After teasing apart those questions which were testable, students were grouped based on interest and worked together to develop an experiment.  They have since been hard at work collecting data! 

As it turns out, these experiments will serve as great platforms for many of our lesson units.  Not only will this provide students the opportunity to share their studies and results with their classmates, but it will also draw further connections between the material and place that we are in. 

A sampling of experiments that we will use as platforms this year...
Roman, Jack and Johnny are working to determine how tree diversity changes as they head farther into the woods.  This group will be experts in tree identification by the end of their project, and they will be teaching their classmates how to identify trees as part of our introduction into the ATC plant phenology program.

Genesis, Chris and Luke have set up salamander boards (artfully crafted by our own Mr. Dalton!) along three transects with different soil moisture levels.  We will model this method of study at the Kellogg Conservation Center in the spring to study an isolated population of Jefferson Salamanders.

Quentin, Charlie and Jeremy are surveying the diversity and abundance of moss based on light availability.  Moss are both pioneer species and bioindicators of pollution, and data will be used to determine the health of our Berkshire ecosystem.  We will use their project as a cornerstone of our pollution unit.

Simi and Berit have collected soil samples in locations both on and around campus to compare the nutrient levels.  In particular, they are looking to compare differences in nitrogen, phosphorus and pH to determine how fertilizer applied on campus compares to the natural nutrient levels within the woods.  The results of this project will help enhance our unit on biogeochemical cycles, which we are currently in the midst of.

Matt, Jay and Charlie, known on campus as the “sali-hunters,” have spent their lab time searching for salamanders.  Their goal is to create a diversity index of the salamanders on the Berkshire campus.  Today the group found three Northern two-lined salamanders!

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North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald