Monday, December 10, 2012


Here are the students (Shirley, Emilie, Zach, Andrew, Stefan, Evan) who blogged so diligently  about their insights into the Critical Zone.  Last Friday they presented their posters describing their work in the Municipal Stadium Wetlands, Springfield, Ohio.  This launches future community research projects by Critical Zone students.  In their final presentation they described how local sites are ideal for ongoing student monitoring for scientific and learning reasons.  They also suggested ways that we could further integrate the course into the community.  (Zach suggested an afterschool science club exploration of the the Critical Zone mentored by undergraduates at Wittenberg).  The research questions that remain to answer are still as simple as trying to understand the controls of biogeochemical change.  What does this mean? We have a lot of exciting work ahead of us!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Square Meter Challenge - The Dream Team

The Dream Team - Andrew Fuss, Evan Amstutz, and Zach Smith

     For our square meter challenge, we chose to examine a portion of the naturally occurring wetland at the Municipal Wetlands in Springfield, Ohio. Our particular study site included approximately half dry land and half standing water. Included in the foliage were various species of riparian grasses, algal mats, and detritus material from surrounding maple and oak trees. At the deepest points, located furthest inland, the detritus and leaf litter extended 4.5cm down. The depth of the standing water gradually increased as measurements were taken farther away from land and reached a maximum depth of 6.0cm. When taking a soil core, the ground was understandably saturated with water and was comprised of primarily clay-based soil.

Below is a video explaining our study site and the purpose of our study:

Below is a picture to get an idea of the scale of our study site:

 - This is a dime that is laying on a piece of downed organic material
from a surrounding tree. It gives you an idea of the scale of our square
meter study site and its contents.

      Below is a chart of the various measurements we made describing the chemical and physical characteristics of the study site:

     With these small scale observations, we can make certain assumptions about the rest of the wetland area. Assuming that the surrounding area behaves in a similar fashion to the square meter study site, we can extrapolate our readings to the rest of the wetland. This is a valuable tool for studying a location with a relatively large area.

- Andrew Fuss, Evan Amstutz, and Zach White

Friday, December 7, 2012

Concept Mapping of Geologic Processes

Our Concept Map:

      The three cycles shown in the concept map, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphate cycle and the carbon cycle are all different and important in their own way, being major categories with numerous inter-relations, as the concept map shows. The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms. This transformation can be carried out through both biological and physical processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, mineralization, nitrification, and dentrification. Also, human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers, and release of nitrogen in waste water have dramatically altered the global nitrogen cycle. The phosphate cycle is important, because it is essential to both plants and animals, which includes humans, because of their importance in terms of developing healthy seeds, root growth, and stem strength for plants and developing healthy bones (works with Ca to build bone tissue) for animals (humans). Phosphorus is released from rock into the soil by a process called weathering. In land phosphorous is cycled by plants which take up phosphate through their roots, animals who eat the plants (get phosphate) and decomposers who return it to the soil. Phosphorous also gets cycled through our waterways by getting into the water by erosion, leaching, run-off with most settles at the bottom (turns into sediment), while some phosphate is taken up by aquatic plants. Humans affect the P cycle in a number of ways, such as, mining phosphate rock (for fertilizers and detergents),making fertilizers and detergents (industrial waste), applying fertilizer to land and by fishing. The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth. The carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making the Earth capable of sustaining life; it describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere. Human activity has modified the carbon cycle by changing its component's functions and directly adding carbon to the atmosphere, with the largest and most direct human influence on the carbon cycle being through direct emissions from burning fossil fuels, which transfers carbon from the geosphere into the atmosphere.

     We hypothesize that the concentrations of nitrate and phosphate (both found in fertilizer) will decrease the further into a state nature reserve (like the ones around here, surrounded by farmland) one tests using core samples. We cause anthropogenic changes (an example of a forcing) to the soil of the nature preserve, which is shown in both our conceptual map and the Brantley conceptual map, which contributes to our hypothesis. These additions of nitrate and phosphate from fertilizing of farmland causes change to the wildlife presence in the wetlands. This change of the wildlife presence causes alterations to the carbon cycle, by causing a change in the plant population, which directly sequesters carbon dioxide. We expect that our wetland will respond similarly if not in the same way as other wetlands that are surrounded by farmland. We would also expect that our wetland will have a more exaggerated response to fluxes of nitrate and phosphate, characteristic of a small scale wetland.
- Stefan Latham, Evan Amstutz, and Andrew Fuss

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Concept Mapping in our Geology 170 Class

            Concept Mapping Main Concepts in Geology 170

We categorized our concept map into 5 categories. They were large scale, measurements, cycles, observations,and small scale. We found that these were the most important categories because of their importance in the critical zone. The large-scale category is comprised of the world, National (USA), photosynthesis, etc. The measurements category was comprised of tools we used in the field, for example, YSI instrument, pH testing, phosphate testing, etc. Our cycles category was comprised of the rock cycle, phosphate cycle, water cycle, nitrogen cycle, and the carbon cycle. Our next category, observations, was comprised of things we actually saw or interacted with while out in the field. Our last category, small scale, was comprised of Ohio, Springfield, and Buck creek. All of these categories are inter-related because without one of the other categories,everything wouldn't function as it does.

What does a concept map look like?
This is an example of a concept map
Want to see our concept map? Click this link:)

Linking the Concept map of Brantley and Ours:
In comparing both concept maps, we found that we could study the new hypothesis that we can test the linkage between the community and how the levels of phosphate and nitrate. His concept map shows the anthropogenic issues ( human effect). Our concept shows the observations that humans could effect. System thinking is useful for science because it can connect multiply concepts to solve issues.

Blog by: Shirley, Emilie, Zach

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Square Meter observations of Municipal Wetland

Our Challenge~ 

  • We had to make as many observations within one square meter of the Municipal Stadium Wetland. In doing so we would use our field tools that we have learned such as; YSI meter testing, pH testing, Nitrate, Phosphate, and temperature readings. In our challenge we chose a site and then squared it off. Then recorded as much data as possible. 

Our Site: 
Here we have our site measured of 1 meter by 1 meter and the black lines show the border, and then the line dividing it shows the different types of land. The top half is mostly water and mud, and the bottom half is dry leafy material. 

     Our Purpose: This video explains our purpose for taking these     observations:

     Our Observations: 
  • In looking at this site, we saw that the area was 50% under mucky water and the other 50% was not. We also measured the level of vegetation, the vegetation in this location was 47cm above the ground. Then once we recorded the visible observations, we started to record more of the data that involved testing kits, and material. 
  • In our observations we also compared something that we found there with a coin. Also we observed a spider on a twig. 
In the red circle is a spider on a twig. 

In the red circle is the coin, as you can tell the scale of our observations were larger than the coin. 

       Our Results: 
This is our collected data that we had within our meter by meter location

    Overall, with our observations  we can predict how the rest of the wetland would react to certain   conditions, and how the levels of nitrate and phosphate are in the area. In doing small-scale observations we can predict things on a larger scale and then carry out larger scale operations.

by: Emilie, Shirley, and Stephan