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Carlisle students get their hands dirty doing research at city lake
Tyler Kernodle (left) and Virginia Barry conduct tests on the water at Lake Lanier during a recent biology project. The students at Carlisle School recently spent time at the lake studying its biology, as well as the land surrounding it. They used the data collected to put together a project and presentation. (Contributed photos)
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
A recent biology project about Lake Lanier gave students a real-life application of some things they had been learning in the classroom.
That was the assessment of Carlisle seniors Katie Ryan Snyder and Tyler Kernodle. They were among the 15 seniors in the Carlisle School International Baccalaureate Higher Level 2 biology class and five juniors from the Carlisle IB computer science class who spent Sept. 9 at Lake Lanier, studying the biology of the lake and its surroundings, according to Ed Sharp, Ph.D., who teaches the biology class.
Biology students planned their investigation, did the field work, organized their data and conclusions, and created and delivered a presentation, Sharp said.
During planning, students used Google satellite images to provide a better vision of the task they needed to accomplish, and Google Docs (online documents) allowed them to coordinate their groups more effectively, Sharp said. He explained that each of the three groups of five seniors set up a Google Doc, which allowed the students to work at school or at home. Sharp said he wrote tips to the students at times in Google Docs to help guide or assist them or to compliment their work.
To assess water quality, the students used data sensors connected to hand-held computer inferfaces to measure the lake’s pH, dissolved oxygen levels, the levels of salt and fertilizer, and the temperature and clarity of the water, Sharp said. They used iPhone apps to identify grasses, shrubs and trees.
They estimated the frequency and density of shrubs and trees using quadrat analysis, a technique in which a sample area (in this case, 1 meter square) is counted. The results then are multiplied to estimate the total number of trees and shrubs on the entire property, Sharp explained.
Students identified more than 20 species of trees and recorded their sizes and numbers, Sharp stated. They also counted geese, ducks, insects, a lone muskrat, squirrels, fungi, turtles and other animals, and they used the Internet on their phones to identify them, he said.
Students looked at three different areas of the lake: a shallow area near Cherokee Trail, a deeper area near the boathouse and a pond area near Sam Lions Trail, Sharp said. The shallow area had lots of floating algae, possibly related to fertilizer washed off the land, he said. The pond area was murky and turbid, and there was less animal life there. The deeper area had more water flow, he said.
The project was much more about the process than the findings, and students were evaluated on three main areas: how well they worked together, how motivated they were and their self-assessments, Sharp said.
Tyler said the project was “a really phenomenal opportunity” to collaborate with other students in planning and carrying out the task. It also underscored the need to stay focused and be organized. She also learned how to use some tools, she added.
Both Tyler and Katie said some of their strengths were making sure everyone did his or her part and being detail oriented. Tyler said a weakness of hers was not fully understanding the project at first. Katie said she kidded around a little too much at times.
They said the project made them reflect on how to be better students and community members, and it drove home the need to protect the environment.
Sharp said computer science students will take the data generated by the biology students and analyze it.