Thursday, May 29, 2014

Students Present Field Study Research on Lonsdale Marsh

EDUCATION THURSDAY
Annabelle Everett
Communications Intern

In Laura Stanish’s Advanced Placement Environmental class at Central Falls High School, students combine classroom learning with a year-long field study at Lonsdale Marsh in Lincoln, RI. The class was divided into five groups: vegetation, macroinvertebrates, water quality, biodiversity, and human impact, and students studied the various environmental influences within the marsh habitat. 

The students spent their first semester monitoring the marsh twice monthly before applying their findings to create unique research projects. Each group proposed a hypothesis, crafted an experiment of their choice, and made multiple visits to the marsh to collect data.  Students then combined their discoveries into journal articles, which were presented at the Eco Summit at Save The Bay Center in Providence on May 27. Save The Bay employees were asked to evaluate the projects by listening to students discuss their results and answer questions posed to them. 

Pictures of the Lonsdale Marsh
in the Human Impact presentation
Each group’s project focused on an assigned topic. The human impact group proposed that as sound pollution increases around Lonsdale Marsh, the bird population will decrease and the number of small rodents will increase, as there will be fewer predators to prey on them. Students Lillian Marroquin, Sharil Deleon, and Christina Munoz visited four locations: two that had elevated sound pollution levels and two that had lower levels. Through observation of the bird population and the use of rodent traps in each location, the students concluded that their initial hypothesis was correct.

In the vegetation group, Laura Cuevas, Maria Felicidade, and Mercedes Peters hypothesized that Japanese knotweed, an aggressively invasive species, would not grow in soil with a pH higher than 6.5. By testing the soil in three areas in which the knotweed grows, as well as three spots where it does not, they found this to be true. However, they concluded that there were other possible factors, such as organisms or sunlight, that could have affected their results and therefore further experimentation was needed to form a concrete conclusion.
Vegetation group presentation

This field study program is just one example of how SaveThe Bay’s educational programs strive to connect students and teachers with the state’s rich environment on a more intimate level. Instead of simply absorbing information from a textbook, Ms. Stanish’s environmental science students were able to enhance classroom concepts with hands-on experience in the field. Supplementing knowledge gained in the classroom with actual field study is essential for educating students and their first step towards becoming environmentally informed and concerned members of their community. Save The Bay’s educational programs attempt to bridge a generational gap and arm students with the information and experience they need to become advocates for Rhode Island’s environment.
           
- Annabelle

Annabelle Everett is studying Writing & Rhetoric at Hobart & William Smith Colleges