The sun was shining on Oct. 13 as AnnMarie Mills’ and Sue Lange’s life science students from the middle school put on their waders to participate in the annual “A Day in the Life of a River” field trip. With the help of natural resource experts and several other middle school teachers, the eighth-graders engaged in hands-on citizen science exploration at the Carlls River in Babylon.
“A Day in the Life” features students exploring and collecting firsthand information to learn how their river fits into the larger ecosystem. Students examine the physical and chemical aspects of each aquatic ecosystem, such as salinity, the amount of sediments, nitrates, phosphates and oxygen levels in the water, as well as conduct biodiversity inventories of the flora and fauna in and around the rivers and estuary from the headwaters to the mouth of the river. Their work helps to determine the health of the aquatic ecosystem and biodiversity of the Carlls River.
“This year, our students really enjoyed using a variety of nets – including a seining net, dip nets and a cast net – to capture fresh water critters such as crayfish, bluegills, pumpkinseed fish and a largemouth bass,” said Mills. “The students were thrilled to put the equipment to good use.”
The event is coordinated jointly by Brookhaven National Laboratory; Central Pine Barrens Commission; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Seatuck Environmental Association; and Suffolk County Water Authority.
“’‘A Day in the Life’ helps students develop an appreciation for and knowledge of Long Island’s river and estuary ecosystems and collect useful scientific data,” said program coordinator Melissa Griffiths Parrott. “It teaches students to become stewards of water quality and connected to Suffolk County’s spectacular natural resources.”
“This program is a perfect vehicle for teachers to integrate various disciplines including math, media, social studies and science into their curriculum,” said co-coordinator Mel Morris, special projects manager at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s office of educational programs. “These activities are examples of authentic science research and mirror the way scientist collect and analyze.”