Monday, September 30, 2013

Klaudia's Glacial Park Reflection

The trip to Glacial Park was very beneficial: not only were we learning about restoration ecology, we were also helping with the restoration process. The hands on experience allowed for better understanding of the topic as well as some outdoorsy fun. The hike up and down steep hills revealed beautiful scenery and resulted in some sore muscles the next day. After we had reached our destination, we were given glasses, gloves, saws, and loppers. Then, we were shown a site filled with invasive species that needed to be removed, and we got to work. We spent four hours sawing, lopping, pulling, and creating a burn pile of plants. The before and after pictures after just 30 minutes are quite impressive: 


I think the restoration process is necessary to make up for damage humans do not necessarily do to the specific site being restored but to the Earth in general. If it takes as long as 150 years to restore 3,500 acres with the help of restoration ecologists, then I would imagine it takes a lot longer to do it without their help.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Caitlin's Thoughts On the Glacial Park Field Trip

          I only wanted to go on this field trip to be with my friends and not have to go to class that day honestly. Cutting down trees did not seem like my type of fun at all. Little did I know how glad I was that I went when it was all done.
         Upon arrival at Glacial Park, our group of all the AP Biology students at PHS were greeted by a man whose job was to restore the land in the park. He told us about how it took about one hundred years for Glacial Park to become destroyed and how it will take even longer to restore it. He mentioned that because of their hard work, many species have returned back to the area such as badgers. These animals had left when the park was on a decline, but have been able to return in the recent years because of the work put towards restoration.  The last thing he told us was what our tasks for the day were going to be. They did not seem exciting at all. 
        To reach our places of work for the day, our group took about a five minute hike through the park. It was gorgeous. We had to walk up one hill, and at the top you could see for miles and miles. All the plants were green and full of life. The weather was perfect, too. The sun was shining and there was a slight breeze in the air was we walked. My groupmates and I took many pictures on our IPads during the trek. 
        The first part of our work was cutting down evasive species and brush. Types of plants such as honeysuckle that are not native to the area had taken over the land. In an area where the brush had already been cleared, all the grasses were at about waist high level. In the area where we cleared, it started out crazy, overgrown, and very tall. There were random branches and plants all over the place. We had a lot of work ahead. Getting started was the worst part. We had no idea where to start. We soon realized that you just had to go at it with a saw and clippers. Everything was uprooted, cut, or sawed down to allow species native to the area to grow. All of the dead stuff we collected was put into a big stack which we called the 'burn pile'. This massive pile of branches and leaves was going to be burned to rid the area of it. Burning the area may seem like it would kill the stuff still living, but it actually helps it. The native species can actually survive the fires because they are immune to them from the open prairies back in the day. 
       The second part of our work took place in a very open part of the park. Little trees that had already started growing needed to be watered, so we did that. The little trees received a ridiculous amount of water compared to their size, but this would be their on drink of water for the next ten days. Next, we planted acorns similar to how squirrels would do it, but with little shovels. By planting these, we hoped that at least some of them would take root to grow even more trees. Lastly, a couple kids and I sprinkled seeds of prairie grass all over the area where the little trees were. We hoped that eventually the grass will grow and spread it's seeds all over even more of the land. 
View during the walk to our work spot
Watering a tree
        Overall, I thought it was a very fun day. Cutting down the trees was more entertaining and rewarding than planting acorns. I liked how you could instantly see the effect you had on the environment whereas I couldn't even see that day if my acorns took root. I had a great time outside, and am very glad we went.
Adding a branch to the burn pile 

Beth's Restoration Ecology Reflection

I thought this field trip was very interesting. It was fun but at the at the same time a lot of work. When we first arrived I didn't know what to expect.  I first thought the area we were going to was going to be like a forest with a babbling stream and wildlife roaming everywhere. But instead some parts of it looked like a meadow or a "savannah" as the ecologist expert called it. It was a very pretty place. I liked spreading the seeds and planting the acorns. The acorns tasted okay at first but they had a really bitter aftertaste. I see how restoration ecology is important, but I would not want to be one. It was actually really hard cutting down the evasive species. All the thorns would cut my skin and it hurt. I felt like a lumberjack cutting down all the evasive species. It sounds bad but the water buckets were actually pretty heavy and I didn't like carrying them. I think I was a better seed spreader and acorn digger. It was really fun working with my friends. It was hard to use the 2-person saw. All the brush made it impossible to move the saw, but as more of the brush got cleared the easier it got. 
I thought restoration ecology was a lot of hard work, it's impressive how much work those ecologist all put in. This fields trip gave me more respect for restoration ecologist. We worked for 3 hours and only cleared 1/8 of an acre, I can't even imagine restoring all the thousands of acres Glacier Park has. I bet the ecologist get a really good work out when they clear the evasive species and water the new trees.   
Restoration ecology is very beneficial, I really don't see a downside trying to restore nature to its natural state. It is good that some people still care about the environment and they are trying to preserve it for future generations. I think everyone should try restoration ecology so they know how much effort these ecologist put into saving the environments.

Glacier park 

My friends and I cutting down brush 

Pouring water on new trees 

Burying acorns 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Abby's Glacial Park Restoration Reflection

Abby's Reflection:
On the field trip to the Glacial Park Restoration Center, which was about 45 minutes away, all the AP Biology students hiked up and down some hills to reach the spot we were supposed to work. By spliting into two groups, we were able to get more work done in a shorter period of time. Half the entire Biology class, about 25 people spent the first few hours cutting and tearing down excess plants and trees, any invasive organisms that crowded the larger trees. We used saws and lopers to do so, with protective eyewear and gloves, of course. After moving the entire heep of crowding plants, twigs, and leaves to create a burn pile (which contributes to quickening the process of natural restoration), we switched with the other group down the hill. This activity involved the watering of newly tranferred trees, the planting of acorns, and the scattering of praire seeds. By planting and feeding different organisms, we helped speed up this ecosystem's restoration process. I believe that restoring ecology is very important, especially now that ecosystems seem to be more jeopardized due to the constant destroying of ecosystems to build cities and buildings and such. This trip was definately worth my time, and I hope that everyone who went felt the same way. Yes, restoring ecology is necessary in my opinion because without people's help, it would take years and years for it to happen naturally. The only downside to this is that it usually takes a while to see results. When you water a few small trees or plant a bunch of acorns, you shouldn't expect to see it grow ten feet right there. On the other hand, the results of our work by cutting down and ripping out all the weeds and brush were immediate. By the end of the day, you could see a tremendous difference between the crowded area which we started and when we finished. We might've only improved 1/20 of an acre out of 3500, but it still makes a difference.

The transferred trees we watered, also where we scattered seeds
On the way up the hill
My classmates and I tearing down brush and trees

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Acid and Bases Lab

        In the environment, organisms need to be able to keep a stable ph to survive, even if changes occur. This lab tested that. The purpose of this lab was to see which material out of the ones provided was the best buffer of ph. The amount of acid and base added to the materials was the independent variable while the ph of materials once the acid and bases was added was the dependent variable. Acids and bases were used in this experiment. An acid is a solution with a ph of 6 or lower. When an acid is added to something, the hydrogen ion concentration is increased. On the other hand, a base is a solution with a ph of 8 or higher. When a base is added to something, the hydrogen ion concentration is reduced. After the experiment was conducted, the total buffer range was calculated. A buffer is a solution that minimizes change in ph when acids or bases are added to it, so the total change in buffer range would be how much the buffer had to change to keep the level of acids and bases the same.  
       Lab groups first tested the buffer range with water. Two 20 ML beakers of water were available for use. One beaker was for the acid and the other was for the base. In one beaker of water, groups added acid in five drop increments. In the other beaker, they added base in five drop increments as well. Every time after the five drops were added,  they would measure and record the ph of the beakers. This was done until the materials each had a total of thirty drops of acid or base in the beaker. Then, the acid and base content were measured with ph probes that were hooked up to Vernier Lab devices. This device was used to graph, chart, and measure the ph of the beakers. Next, the ph of spinach was measured. This was done by using two 20 ml beakers full of spinach. Five drops increments of acid were added in one beaker and base in the other beaker up until thirty drops again. Once again, the Vernier Lab device and ph probes were used to measure the ph content.
Adding acid and base to orange juice. 

Class data table that recorded which material it was, level of ph after acid and base was added, change in ph, and total buffer range.

       Our hypothesis was that artificially altered substances would be the best buffers because they can be engineered to have specific buffer ranges and can be altered to be good buffers; however, this was proved wrong. The lower the buffer range the greater the capacity that substance has to absorb acid before the acid starts affect the specific substance. Our data shows that naturally living things are the best buffers. We tested orange juice (best buffer) and spinach. Orange juice had a buffer range of 1.24 and 0.41, and spinach had a buffer range of 0.44. This was significantly lower than substances such as buffered aspirin that had a buffer range of 4.05 and antacid (worst buffer) which had a buffer range of 7.36. There were outliers in the data. For example, one group concluded that the buffer range for buffered aspirin was 1.95, and another that the buffer range for orange juice was 7.99. We can identify this as incorrect because after research we learned that naturally living things must be good buffers. This is because they have to react appropriately to acids in their environments in order to survive. If oranges and spinach were bad buffers, they would instantly die when coming in contact with acidic materials. 
     Each lab table tested different biological materials to determine the buffer range of each substance. The answer to the main question of this lab was that spinach turned out to be the best buffer our class concluded. Because it had the lowest buffer range, which is ideal, spinach's pH barely changed at all.