Thursday, October 25, 2012

Testing Nitrate Levels in the Municipal Wetlands

What is Nitrate?

Nitrate (NO3) is a compound that is comprised of nitrogen and oxygen. Nitrogen comes from decomposing organic materials like manure, plants, and human wastes. Often the nitrogen (N) is derived from ammonia (NH3) or ammonium (NH4).

Plant species need nitrogen to form amino acids and proteins, which are essential for plant cell growth, but plants cannot use organic nitrogen directly. Microorganisms in the soil convert the nitrogen locked in crop residues, human and animal wastes, and compost to ammonium (NH4). Another specific group of microorganisms convert ammonium to nitrate (NO3), and since nitrate is water soluble, excess nitrate not used by plants can leach through the soil and into the groundwater.

The widths of the red arrows show relative amounts of nitrate leaching
into groundwater.

Nitrate is also present wherever biotic biproducts are breaking down or decomposing like animal waste, and septic system absorption fields or mounds.

On Friday, October 12th, our class took a trip out to the Municipal Wetlands in Springfield, Ohio for various sampling procedures; one of which involved the concentration of nitrate in the ground water. We used varying techniques of water acquisition depending on the state of the water (standing, flowing, or ground). For standing and flowing water, we collected a predetermined volume of water in vials. Once the sample was collected, a chemical indicator was added to produce a color reaction corresponding to a concentration of nitrate in  the water of that particular locale. Using the color wheel on the measuring device, the specific color-concentration reading was obtained. For ground water samples, an additional step was needed to be performed before the chemical indicator was to be added. First, the area of interest was cored, allowing ground water to flow into the new opening. The water was collected, solid particles were allowed to settle out until the above testing procedures involving the indicator and color comparison were done.

Below is a video demonstrating the nitrate testing site as well as techniques used:
Surface, Standing Water:
Ground Water:

Why sample nitrate?
Nitrate is a common contaminant found in many wells, wetlands, rivers, and other waterways. Shallow wells, wetlands, and streams in close proximity to agricultural land, and that collect runoff from cultivated land are the most vulnerable to nitrate contamination. Major sources of nitrate contamination can be from fertilizers, animal waste, and human sewage. The Environmental Protection Agency highly recommends testing drinking water supply on a regular basis. Elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water can cause Blue Baby Syndrome in infants under six months of age and that are bottle fed. Long term health effects to older children and normal healthy adults exposed to elevated levels of nitrate in their drinking water are not yet agreed upon in the scientific community. However, the National Cancer Institute suggests a link between elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system).

- Evan A.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The Municipal Stadium Wetlands are a very important resource for the Springfield and Wittenberg communities, as well as, a very beautiful, peaceful and idyllic location that can be enjoyed by the Springfield and Wittenberg communities. The Springfield community has certainly taken notice of the Wetlands importance with a recent article in the Springfield News Sun, about the wetlands and their value, in terms of a wetlands capacity to capture pollutions and impurities. A link to the article mentioned is However, as an individual who was born and raised in Springfield, I hope that this beautiful and educational place can be maintained and kept clean and welcoming, rather than attracting negativity. The Municipal Stadium Wetlands must be maintained as a positive place, that allows positive individuals to gather their without feeling unsafe or wary of their surroundings, because it is such an important resource, as well as a very pleasant place where people can enjoy nature.
-Stefan Latham

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Testing pH levels and Temperature in our Wetland

          Our Mission at the Wetland!
~ Our wetlands provide us with diversity of animal species and protect and filter our water. In the efforts to learn more about them, we have been collecting data of the pH levels of the water and also the temperature to see how this is related to the critical zone. By learning more we are able to take action and protect our wetlands. We tested the temperature using a YSI prob( which is described in the video below). 

~What is pH?

pH is defined as: A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, numerically equal to 7 for neutral solutions, increasing with increasing alkalinity and decreasing with increasing acidity. The pH scale commonly in use ranges from 0 to 14. ( 
                                      Video explaining pH:
                     (Source: youtube) 

                             Us testing pH levels at Wetland:
                ~What is Temperature? 
Temperature is defined as:a measure of the warmth or coldness of an object or substance with reference to some standard value. The temperature of two systems is the same when the systems are in thermal equilibrium. ( Temperature is very important to test because if the water is too hot then some species may not survive in the conditions. For example: in Buck Creek where we tested first, it is know for the trout because the water is at a cooler temperature.) 

                                                  Testing Temperature:
Overall Summation:
~ All these tests are very important in order to preserve and protect our wetlands. 


Municipal Stadium Wetland, Springfield Ohio

Probing wetland prior to sampling.
The Municipal Stadium Wetlands were created by a levee failure in 1937.  The levee break remained unfixed and the wetlands were created by subsequent inundation.  Additional flooding was allowed in the last two years by the incision of a flood bank of Buck Creek that drains into the wetland. (This resulted from class project work by geology students working with Dr. John Ritter).  

Dr. John Ritter and his students have installed instrumentation in the wetland to monitor changes in water stage, pH, ORP, temperature, and turbidity (See Fact Sheet). There is interest in the site from the City of Springfield Wetland Article by Tom Stafford

While the size of the wetland is small, nutrient (fertilizer) management continues to be a huge problem for the Mississippi River Basin.  Low-cost mitigation options might include targeting riparian areas of streams like Buck Creek for additional innundation and wetland creation. This site is ideal for study because watersheds like the Upper Great Miami that have among the highest nutrient loads (Combined Sewage Overflow & agricultural runoff).In fact, our class plotted data from a recent USGS study showing that the Great Miami is in the top 30 N and P loading watersheds of 800 that feed the Mississippi River basin and in the top 5 for watersheds in Ohio.

Geology of the Critical Zone is conducting a baseline study of the nitrate and phosphate concentrations in the wetlands during the drier period of the early fall. An upper-level projects class will conduct temporal sampling during the Spring Semester when the wetland will flood.  This class will expand investigations of nitrate and phosphate and also examine chemical weathering (and its role in climate change). It is relatively unknown how mineral weathering is altered by the presence of wetlands, and yet this process regulated the earth's temperature over geologic timescales.
Buck Creek adjacent to the Municipal Stadium Wetland.
Discussing where to collect nutrient samples.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sampling Wetland Pore Water

Water added to the soil by rainfall or irrigation percolates downward to groundwater unless it runs off to surface waters, evaporates, is taken up by plants, or remains within the soil profile Chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides can move with the water if they are not first broken down into other chemicals, transformed into gases, retained by chemical interaction with the soil solids, or taken up by plants or soil organisms. Successful crop production depends on careful management of soils, water, and chemicals so that plant needs are met as they occur in the growing season. Meeting these needs efficiently may also help to protect the quality of underlying groundwater by reducing the amount of chemicals being carried downward by recharge waters.Water in the soil originates from precipitation, irrigation, or upward flow from groundwater in areas with shallow water. It can contain dissolved minerals derived from the soil or atmosphere, as well as soluble pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemical compounds used or disposed of at the land surface. When soils are not saturated with water, then the pores also contain a mixture of gases, including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide (as in normal air) and more exotic types such as methane, phosphate and hydrogen sulfide. Soil gases are produced and assimilated by soil organisms, plant roots, and decay processes, and they are exchanged with gases from the atmosphere. Without adequate exchange of gases in soil pores, crop growth cannot occur because the oxygen needed by the plant roots would rapidly become depleted. Most water management in soil is aimed at providing sufficient water for plants without producing conditions of excess water that prevent proper gas exchange.

The link above is the link for the video of sampling the nitrate in the water from the pores in the wetland in Springfield, Ohio. The links below support that.

Zach Smith

Monday, October 15, 2012

Methods of Soil Creation

All around the world, the material that lies beneath us is crucial to what can grow and what can be built in a given area. Especially important to the farming community is the general makeup of the soil to be planted on. Its presence is often taken for granted and its origin often overlooked. From varying compositions of parent material (the original rock that gets broken down), soils of many types and mineral contents are formed. Soil forms by three non-mutually exclusive methods:

1). Physical/Mechanical: methods that involve a mechanical breaking or grinding of the parent material. Ex. - rainfall, glacial movement, wind exposure, water freezing (seen below), etc.

2). Chemical: methods that involve the alteration of parent rock by the effects of the presence of chemicals on the rock surface. Ex. - acid rain, pollutant spills, runoff, etc.
3). Biological: methods that involve biota effecting the rate of the breaking down of the parent rock. Ex. - root growth into rock, growth on the rock surface altering the level of exposure, biproducts of life processes causing deterioration of rock surface, etc. These can also be considered physical or chemical, but since they are due to an organisms life processes, they are categorized as biological methods.
The balance between soil formation and soil erosion has been both positively and negatively impacted by the presence of human activity. The urbanization of many areas has slowed the progress of the natural cycle of soil production and erosion by placing a barrier (a building, parking lot, etc.)between the soil and the environment. Also, the over-farming of areas has sped up the process of soil erosion and nutrient-leaching. With over-farming, the root growth also breaks up the soil faster than what occurs under natural conditions. Despite these negative impacts, the presence of humans has led to the preservation of many areas of natural soil production and erosion by the implementation of legislation defining nature preserves and state/national parks.
One of the most heavily affected areas of negative human impact on soil production and erosion is on the island nation of Haiti.  Here, the lumber trade has cut down a large majority of the nation's trees, leaving the ground underneath without a support structure that was originally supplied by the complex tree root system. Because of the lack of support, the soil is washing down hill, carrying sewage, trash, and more importantly homes. Fresh water is then heavily silted and polluted and unsuitable for human use. The washing away of soil has also left the agricultural community without a place to plant their crops.
Soil, both in Haiti, and also elsewhere in the world is important to preserve because of the geologic timescale in which it is formed. When we destroy the quality of soil now, we neglect the time required to replenish a suitable soil composition for our uses. It takes tens of thousands of years for parent rock to develop into soil through the three processes discussed above. It only takes a matter of years for us to decimate an entire nation's soil supply and utilization, but it will take an untold amount of time to recover.
- Evan A.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Soil Formation

Soil is formed from the weathering of rocks and minerals. The surface rocks break down into smaller pieces through a process of weathering and is then mixed with moss and organic matter. Over time this creates a thin layer of soil.

Human disturbances can affect the formation and erosion of soil greatly. Urbanization greatly affected soil erosion because to create buildngs we need to get rid of the land to build on it. Agriculture also affects soil erosion by planting crops on it and changing the terrain. Finally, deforestation affects soil erosion because humans remove the land. 

The haiti problem is from deforestation. The cutting down of trees has changed their country. The quest for wood decimates the forest. The damaged caused kills people, removes homes and also affects their water quality. This water affects hundreds of thousands of people due to this cycle of destruction. Soil is very important to the world because we are losing much more soil than what we are forming. If it takes thousands of years to create small amounts of soil, eventually we will not have any more soil. This can affect our agricultural aspect of the world. 

-Andrew Fuss

How is Soil Formed?

~ How is soil Formed?~
~~~ The formation of soil starts with the parent material (earthy materials such as minerals or organic material) the parent material is then broken down into small particles by the process of weathering. The  process is controlled by the climate of an area (temperature, humidity, rainfall,etc.).
Also both plants and animals help soil form. As these organisms die they add organic matter to weathered parent material to help form topsoil and subsoil( aka the layer beneath topsoil). Also these animals/ plants decompose they build layers.
Another factor that helps form soil is the topography (the hilliness, flatness, or amount of slope of the land). The other portion of the soil forming process is time. The age of soil takes hundreds of years for all these factors to form on inch of soil from the parent material.

Doesn't make sense? Well here is a short video that explains it with a visual :) Also here is a photo of how soil may look beneath the surface. 
( source: I edited it to the soil part)
Emilie Naccarato's hands during a soil sample of our wetland site ( source Dr. Fortner's camera)

3 Factors Human disturbances of Soil: 
Human activities are a major disturbance in the balance between soil formation and soil erosion.
Industrial farmland is very vulnerable to erosion because of intensive tillage, which is
plowing(the displacement of the ground). This tillage gets rid of protective ground cover from the
soil surface, as well as damages root systems, which help hold the soil together. Nutrient cycles
are a little different on farms. Due to the constant crops being harvested and eaten by the
livestock and humans ,no continual supply of decaying plant material to replace nutrient levels
within the soil. This causes nutrients to be replenished by the addition of fertilizers in the soil.
Also, the restoration of organic matter to the soil by synthetic fertilizers has been presented to
negatively affect soil productivity. Long-term depletion of organic matter is caused by these
fertilizers. Important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium that leach out of the
soil are the result of over fertilization. These nutrients in large concentrations become harmful to
organisms within the soil. ( Lastly, interaction amongst humans
and soil erosion through building and mining is an adverse process of soil formation. The use of
soil is the basis for societies and our soil is basically nonrenewable within the human time scale.
We have used it in ways that are not part of the natural process

The Haitian Situation: 
~ A) The source of the Haitian situation is the deforestation( the cutting down of trees). These trees normally protect topsoil by catching the rain and slowing its fall to the ground. The other sources are: erosion, flash-foods  pollution, and increased salt concentrations. With all these problems it decreases the way soil normally functions. 
B) The effects of these massive lands shifts are those of the explainable  Towns are harmed by the massive mud slides and flash floods  With trees being cut down there is nothing for the water to slow down. Then the chemicals in fertilizers used on farms run into water sources killing organisms. 
C) Our soil is important to protect because it protects our ecosystems. With great quality of soil, our crops will produce faster and better and have more nutrients. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

soil forming

Soil is made of minerals, decaying matter, water and air. Living things die and start decaying. As they break apart into bits, wind, water and other natural processes mix this up with minerals already in the ground adding air and water. This process takes a great amount of time to occur. That is how soil is made. As this material becomes exposed to the surface they begin to erode and become altered chemically. The type of soil that forms is a result of the available rock, and which minerals are contained within. Sandstone will form coarse sandy soil. Soft shale will turn into heavy clay soils and granite bedrock produces a sandy loam.
what-is-soil How is Soil Formed
Humans have a huge impact on the removal of soil but not as much of an effect on the production of soil. The difference between those two things are great. Humans destroy soil in many different ways a couple examples of this is agriculture, deforestation, over-grazing, construction, and mining. These things can lead to the erosion of soil.
Hatian situation
A) The erosion is from the the deforestation from the trees being cut down for charcol production. Once the trees are cut down the water from the ground and the rain take the soil and the nutrients from the soil  tumbing down the mountain side, (losing all chance for reforestation due to the nutrients being washed away) not having anything there to stop the soil but the houses below.
B)The damaged caused by these massive shifts of land are terrible. First if there is a town or village below the mountain then the people of that place have no where to go as the soil comes down destroying and flatening everything in its path. Also the runoff gets into to rivers and lakes causing the aquatic animals of that area to die due to the flooding of nutrients and all of the soil being thrown into the water that fast.
C)Protecting the quality of our soils is as important as protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. Protecting soil is critical to protecting our ecosystems and our ability to raise crops or maintain a backyard garden. Soil quality can be a measure of soil productivity. Soil quality can also be linked to water quality. If we protect the water we drink and the air we breathe then why don't we protect the soil which can have a direct effect on both water and the air depending on what materials get into the soil.
Zach + Stefan

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Miami Conservancy Trip

Dr. Sarah Hippensteel Hall from the Miami Conservancy District and the Geology of the Critical Zone class at the hydraulic jump, part of the RiverScape. During our visit Dr. Hippensteel Hall asked each of us why we like water. And she reminded us to put down our water bottles, and drink from the Great Miami aquifer, a clean and lasting supply of water.

Our tour included thinking about the watershed we live on (the Mad River->Great Miami->Ohio River->Mississippi->Gulf of Mexico). We thought more about how agriculture, dog poop, and combined sewers affect nutrients in water.  For example, the cost to un-combine the sewers of Springfield would be in the billions.  Some optimistic things were brought to our attention. 1) There are new incentive programs that pay farmers to reduce their nutrient loads. 2) Cincinnati is working to reduce their CSO problem by keeping the CSOs from filling.  This includes new green planning that routes water into rain gardens and reduces runoff and CSO discharge.  Springfield might benefit from similar practices. 3) Dam failure is not likely in the Great Miami Watershed, the designer Arthur Morgan planned for a flood capacity more than 40% over the Great Dayton, Ohio flood of 1913, the design considered holding areas throughout the watershed, and allows for baseflow waters to travel unimpeded. The design is still considered a good model for protecting water quality while still protecting against flooding.

Thanks for the great tour!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Water quality relates to humans and geology in many ways. Water quality is very important in human life because of the amount of water a person consumes. If the water quality is poor and carrying diseases, millions of people will be affected. There are drinking water quality guidelines to help protect human health. In geology, scientists perform hundreds of thousands of tests to make sure the water quality is safe enough for human consumption.

We tested pH, temperature, specific conductivity, and total alkalinity. Measuring pH is the hydrogen ion concentration and testing if the water is acidic, or basic. Specific conductivity tests the water's ability to conduct electricity. We measured the temperature in celcius of the water. Finally, we measured total alkalinity which measures the waters ability to neutralize acids. We tested all of these components at Mad River.

The trends of the temperature graph show that the temperatures change through each season. The temperatures are lowest in the winter and slowly start to warm up in the fall, they reach its peak in the summertime when the outside temperature is hottest, and finally the temperature starts to decrease again in the fall leading into winter again. 

-Andrew Fuss