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VLAB: Stream Ecology

Name: ___________________ Date:

Core:

All questions are to be answered on your own paper. Use the simulation to explore the effect that pollution can have on a stream ecosystem. This activity requires that you make observations and consider what the results mean. For all experiments, you will use a virtual water sensor to sample the water upstream and downstream of the pollution source.

Each section must be titled, be separated by at least one space, and have questions with appropriate Letters and numbers assigned. For example: Part 1: Exploring the Simulation A.1. 2. B. 1 Assignment must be stapled together in this order:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. This sheet. Vlab Part 1 (Data & Observations) QUESTIONS VLab Part 1 (Data & Observations) ANSWERS Vlab Data Sheet: TABLE 1 Vlab Data Sheet: TABLE 2 Vlab Graphs 1 & 2 Vlab Analysis & Conclusion QUESTIONS Vlab Analysis & Conclusion ANSWERS

About the Topic A Balanced Ecosystem In a healthy stream, organisms exist in a balance that depends on a variety of factorsthe amount of oxygen in the water (dissolved O2), water temperature, the velocity of the current, stream depth, sediments, and other features of the stream bottom. The types and numbers of plants and animals living in the stream also affect this balance. If any of these factors change, the whole balance of the ecosystem can change. Pollutants There are many types of pollutants, from trash to toxic chemicals. Heat and food can also be pollutants. Many of the things humans dump into streamssewage, animal waste, fertilizers, and other organic pollutantscan be used as food by microorganisms. Microorganisms digest this food and use the energy to grow and reproduce. How much O2 do microorganisms need to break down a pollutant? That depends on two factors. How much of the pollutant is present and what is its Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)? Each type of pollutant has a specific BOD; the more energy it contains, the higher the BOD. Faced with large quantities or a high BOD pollutant, microorganisms can quickly deplete the stream's dissolved O2. Without sufficient oxygen, other organisms, like fish and invertebrate animals, will die. The stream can recover, but only after microorganisms break down the pollutant and the supply of dissolved O 2 is replenished (a process called reaeration). Streams are reaerated through diffusion of O2 from the air into the water, and photosynthesis by the stream's plants and algae, which produces O2. Use the simulation to explore the effect that pollution can have on a stream ecosystem. This activity requires that you make observations and consider what the results mean. For all experiments, you will use a virtual water sensor to sample the water upstream and downstream of the pollution source.

DATA & OBSERVATIONS Part I: Exploring the Simulation A. Observe the virtual stream and note the conditions as you answer the following questions. 1. In which direction (left-to-right or right-to-left) does the stream flow? Is the portion of the stream at the extreme left considered to be upstream or downstream? (By definition, water flows from upstream to downstream.) 2. What is the temperature of the water in the stream? 3. What is the depth of the stream? 4. What is the velocity of the stream?

B. Find the outlet pipe from the farm/power plant/city. This outlet is the point where the selected pollutant enters the stream. In the exercises that follow it will be referred to as the pollutant source or simply as the source. Notice that you can take samples up to 500,000 m (500 Km) downstream from the source. C. Slide the Sensor along the stream to the left (upstream) and to the right (downstream) and observe the Results panel. 5. What is the distance value at the source? 6. What happens to the distance values as you move upstream from the source? 7. Do the distance values increase or decrease as you move downstream from the source? Part II: Establish the Baseline Conditions E. Using the Sensor, sample the non-polluted stream at the farm/power plant/city by positioning the Sensor so that the distance equals 0 x 1000 m. 8. Record the values for temperature and dissolved O2 in the 0 row on the left side of Table 1 on the Data Sheet. 9. Indicate the species found by placing an "X" in the appropriate boxes in Table 1.

F. Without modifying the stream conditions, sample the stream water. Slide the Sensor to the left or to the right to collect samples. 10. Complete the left side of Table 1 by sampling each of the indicated locations downstream of the pollution source and one location upstream. Part III: Effects of a Pollutant on the Stream

G. Use the drop-down menus in the Select a Pollutant panel to select Animal Waste and a Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) ratio of 1:500. H. Sample the water at the source, at each of the indicated distances downstream and one location upstream of the pollution source, as indicated in Table 1. Record your answers to questions 11 and 12 on the right side of Table 1. 11. Record the values for temperature and dissolved O2. 12. Indicate the species found by placing an "X" in the appropriate boxes.

I. Consider the entire stream as you answer the following questions. 13. Did the pollutant affect the temperature, dissolved O2, or both? Explain. 14. Were the species that inhabit the stream affected by the pollutant? In other words, did some species disappear or did new species appear? Explain. 15. Did the pollutant affect the entire stream or were the effects confined to a small area? Explain. Part IV: Pollution Scenarios Your teacher will assign at least one of the following scenarios. You will need a separate blank copy of Table 2 for each scenario you investigate. You will use the data you collect to answer the scenario questions presented in the Analysis & Conclusions section. Pay attention to the following instructions as you investigate your scenario(s):

Identify your scenario in the title of Table 2. Read the assigned scenario carefully. You will run two different trials for each scenario you test. Each trial assesses a different set of conditions. Identify the specific stream and pollutant conditions for each of the two trials. Record the conditions for each trial at the top of Table 2. Set the specific stream and pollutant conditions and run the first trial. Collect the resulting data on temperature, dissolved oxygen, and species, at the source. Record the data in the appropriate spaces on the left side of Table 2. Repeat for the indicated locations upstream and downstream of the pollution source. When you have completed the first trial, set the conditions for second trial. Run the second trial and record your data on the right side of Table 2, as before.

Scenario 1: To grow or not to grow? A small town has always dumped its raw sewage into the stream. The amount of raw sewage was very small (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:10,000) and, according to the town council, the pollution never caused any serious problems. However, construction of a large housing development is about to begin at the edge of town and the town council is worried. Even though the builder plans to construct a treatment plant that will treat both the development's and the

town's sewage, the council is concerned that the increased amount of pollutants (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:100) will harm the stream. The town has hired you to evaluate the builder's proposal. Should they be concerned about the additional pollution? Scenario 2: Did they milk the system? A massive fish kill has occurred. Dead trout are floating downstream. The EPA suspects that the local dairy farm is dumping some of its animal waste into the stream. The dairy farm denies this accusation and has asked you to confirm their innocence. The dairy farm's records show that they could not have dumped enough wastes (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:5000) into the stream to have killed the trout. You agree that the dairy farm could not have dumped enough wastes to account for the dead fish. However, you do believe they are responsible for the fish kill. A recent drop in milk prices has meant that dairy farmers can make more money in government subsidies for not producing milk than the farmers can earn by selling the milk they produce. You suspect the dairy farm is discarding the milk it produces, by dumping the milk into the stream (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:200) so that the dairy owners may claim the subsidy. What caused the fish kill - the wastes or the milk? Scenario 3: Is dilution the solution to pollution? A town that dumps treated sewage (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:100) into the stream has come up with an interesting solution to its pollution problem. The town council plans to construct a small dam on the stream, increasing the depth of the water from 0.3 m to 3 m, reducing the (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) ratio from 1:100 to 1:1000, and reducing the velocity from 0.7 m/s to 0.05 m/s. You have been hired as an independent consultant to evaluate the council's plan. Is this a good idea? Scenario 4: Are you getting into hot water? (Note: Be sure to set the correct stream temperature and pollutant temperature for each trial.) You are an environmental consultant and you have been contacted by the local electric company. Its nuclear power plant uses water from the stream (normal stream temperature = 15 C) to help cool its nuclear reactor. This waste water, which has a temperature of 35 C but is not radioactive, is released back into the stream (Volume(pollutant):Volume(stream) = 1:10). The power company claims that this thermal pollution causes no significant ill effects on the stream. However, this last summer has been unusually hot, causing the stream temperature to rise to 20 C. Furthermore, the increased use of air conditioning brought about by higher temperatures have caused an increase in the demand for electricity and so the power plant has had to work harder to meet the demand. As a result, the waste water temperature has increased to 50 C. Should the plant be allowed to increase production as needed (assuming the Volume(pollutant): Volume(stream) ratio remains the same) or should they maintain power at current levels and tell their customers to buy fans and drink lots of cold lemonade?

Lab: Stream Ecology: Analysis & Conclusions


All questions are to be answered on your own paper. Related tables and graphs can be completed on the Data Sheet (PDF) provided by your teacher. In this section, you will graph and analyze the data you collected from the simulation. You will determine the effects of pollutants on a stream. Use the following guidelines to graph the data from Tables 1 and 2:

Answer all questions based on the information and data collected. Plot your data on the blank graphs found on the Data Sheet. Plot the data from both of the experiments recorded in Table 1 on Graph 1. Plot the data from both of the experiments recorded in Table 2 on Graph 2. Use a different colored pencil for each of the plots in each graph and provide a color key. Notice that Graph 1 and Graph 2 each have two parts (A and B). Note that the x-axis (distance from the source of pollution) for both parts A and B are the same. In part A of both graphs, plot the values for dissolved O2 (mg/L) on the y-axis. In part B of both graphs, plot the values for temperature (C) on the y-axis. Plot the distance values for dissolved O2 and temperature on the x-axis of both graphs. Provide a title for each graph.

Effects of Pollution on a Stream Refer to Table 1 and Graph 1 as you answer the following questions:
1. Why was it important to determine the baseline conditions before assessing the effects of the pollutants on the stream? 2. Describe the shapes of the dissolved O2 and temperature curves for the non-polluted stream. 3. Describe the shapes of the dissolved O2 and temperature curves for the polluted stream. 4. Compare the dissolved O2 curves for the non-polluted and polluted streams. Describe any similarities or differences. 5. Compare the temperature curves for the non-polluted and polluted streams. Describe any similarities or differences. 6. Describe any changes in the types and location of species living in the non-polluted stream. 7. Describe any changes in the types and location of species living in the polluted stream. How do they differ from the non-polluted stream? 8. Based on your data, answer why different species survive in some locations but not others. Cite specific examples. Name organisms and the conditions under which they appear or disappear. 9. Based on your data, identify species that, by their presence or by their absence, may serve as indicators of polluted water. 10. What was the minimum distance needed for the stream conditions and species composition to return to normal?

Analysis of Different Pollution Scenarios

Only answer questions below that pertain to the scenario(s) you investigated. Refer to Table 2 and Graph 2 for your supporting data. Refer to Table 1 and Graph 1 for data from the nonpolluted stream. Scenario 1: To grow or not to grow?
11. Describe the dissolved O2 curves produced by the raw sewage and the treated sewage. 12. Which pollutant had the greater effect on dissolved O2? 13. How were the species affected by the different pollutants? How do these effects compare with the results seen in the non-polluted stream? 14. Does the raw sewage affect the stream significantly? Explain. 15. Should the council be concerned about increased pollution?

Scenario 2: Did they milk the system?


16. Describe the dissolved O2 curves produced by the animal wastes and by the milk. 17. Which pollutant had the greater effect on dissolved O2? 18. How were the species affected by the different pollutants? How do these effects compare with the results seen in the non-polluted stream? 19. Is milk a pollutant? Explain. 20. What caused the fish kill - the animal wastes or the milk? Explain.

Scenario 3: Is dilution the solution to pollution?


21. Describe the dissolved O2 curves produced by the treated sewage under the two different conditions. 22. Which condition had the greater effect on dissolved O2? 23. How were the species affected by the different conditions? How do these effects compare with the results seen in the non-polluted stream? 24. Describe another experiment you might need to do in order to accurately determine whether or not building the dam is a good idea. 25. Is dilution the solution to pollution? Explain.

Scenario 4: Are you getting into hot water?


26. 27. 28. 29. Describe the temperature curves produced by the two different releases of waste water. Describe the dissolved O2 curves produced by the two different releases of waste water. Which release had the greater effect on dissolved O2? How were the species affected by the different conditions? How do these effects compare with the results seen in the non-polluted stream? 30. Should the power plant be allowed to increase production? Explain.

General Conclusions Compare the data for each of the different scenarios in a class discussion prior to answering questions 31-32.

31. Using your class' combined data, which type of pollutant has the greatest effect on streams, organic or thermal? 32. Use the combined data to rank the organic pollutants in terms of their effects on the health of a stream ecosystem. Rank them from "most harmful" to "least harmful." Were there any surprises? Explain.

Applying What You Learned Rainwater and other runoff that results from people watering their lawns and gardens or washing their cars is carried away by storm sewers that run beneath the streets in many cities and towns. Imagine that you live in a town where all of the storm sewers drain into a stream that runs through the park at the center of town. The members of the local environmental club are worried that the stream is being harmed by pollution in the runoff. Knowing that you have recently studied stream ecology, the members ask you to help them evaluate the health of the stream. How you would evaluate the health of the stream?
33. Describe how you would determine whether or not the stream was being significantly affected by the runoff. 34. List specific examples of the types of organisms you might expect to see in a healthy stream. 35. List specific examples of the types of organisms you might expect to see in a polluted stream.