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Seekonk High School, Seekonk, Massachusetts


Angela Cardono Cunard


AP Biology Class


For the past 4 years, students in AP Biology have performed summer Ecology research studies at Burr’s Pond in Seekonk. One goal of the summer research has been to provide the students with a relevant, meaningful inquiry-based learning experience. At the start of the school year, the students measure the dissolved oxygen as part of the required AP Laboratory Exercise 12. A second goal of the summer research has been to sustain an annual evaluation of the dissolved oxygen as well as the diversity and distribution of organisms in and around the pond. Unfortunately, the data is not very accurate and therefore difficult to compare year to year. General Biology students have also begun to relate their study of Ecology to the Runnins River in the classroom with the aid of online resources. These lessons could be greatly enhanced by field-based activities.

Thus, the goal of the fall watershed study was to collect preliminary data and evaluate all of the available methods of studying watershed health for the aforementioned, varied classroom applications. We utilized all available methods of evaluation at 2 points along the Runnins River. Site A was downstream of Burr’s Pond while Site B was just upstream of the pond. We chose these sites since they would be utilized in the future for the AP Biology study. First we deployed the Hydrolab & Minisonde device for 24 hour sampling. Resultant data was analyzed. Also considered was the feasibility of an AP Biology class deploying & collecting the Hydrolab within a 60 minute class period. We then measured the depth and flow of river segments at both sites. On another outing, we collected grab samples for SRP analysis in the classroom using the 2010. At the same time we measured samples onsite with the Hach 890 for comparison. Unfortunately, the measurements we got from the field analysis were not useable. Our final outings were to collect macroinvertebrate samples. We had to collect the organisms on different days as the process is time consuming. We then spent many days sorting, identifying and counting the specimens.

The Hydrolab deployment & data analysis will easily replace AP Lab 12 and offer a hands-on, field-based approach to the study. Grab samples would probably be the best method for analyzing SRP with the Biology students, although onsite analysis might be more rewarding for them. One class could potentially split up to measure depth & flow, collect water samples and identify/describe the river bed, canopy and riparian zone during one class period. Additional staff and/or more advanced students could work with individual groups of students. Macroinvertebrate sampling could be handled similarly with small groups measuring flow and collecting at fast & slow riffle sites. Identification could be completed in 2 class periods if each student is responsible for part of the count.

For next semester, we will investigate other potential sites along the Runnins River for analysis. Additionally, we hope to expand the project to include many different classes within Seekonk High School. Collectively, we hope to report on the Runnins River from its start to its outlet in Hundred Acre Cove, Barrington, RI. This will hopefully be an ongoing community interest project. Students will be able to educate their community about the Runnins River portion of the Narragansett Watershed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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