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 the Context

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  Research Question
  Background Info
  Research Methods
  Data Submission
  Results of Study
  Data Analysis
  Further Research
  Research Values


  Doing Research

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Research Focus Questions

1. What can we determine about the environmental health of the watershed and the stream by a visual survey?

2. By performing a combination of chemical/biological/physical tests, can we determine an overall water quality index for the stream?

3. Can we determine the presence of toxins in a stream by a relative amount of biodiversity in that stream.

4. Can we determine the velocity and volume of flow of the stream over time?

These research focus question are intended to give directions to your study of surface water occuring in streams. At this point we are trying to develop a deep understanding of the stream ecosystem. It's chemistry, where it comes from, where is is going, the living things in the stream, how much water is flowing in it, and what we can say about the overall health of the stream ecosystem.

Visual Survey/Site Description - The visual survey site is generally a 300-foot long section of stream that contains at least one riffle. Survey sites should be typical of the entire stream segment that will be monitored. The location of these sites should be considered permanent to allow the group to develop several years of data at the same location.

Water Quality Index - Many water monitoring groups perform nine chemical tests to determine a stream's water quality. William Stapp and Mark Mitchell with the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN) developed and explained the use of nine chemical tests in their Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring. As a result of their efforts, these nine tests have become somewhat of a standard among water monitoring organizations. The nine chemical/biological/physical tests that should be performed on a stream's water are; dissolved oxygen (DO), fecal coliform (FC), pH, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), temperature change (^T), total phosphates (PO4-3), nitrates (NO3-), turbidity, and total dissolved solids (TDS). It is possible to perform hundreds of other tests. These nine were selected because of their significant impact on aquatic organisms and because they are relatively inexpensive to perform. Furthermore, by performing these nine tests an overall water quality index can be determined.

Biological monitoring can inexpensively screen for problems that are not specifically tested for using common chemical kits. The presence of heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins in a stream may be indicated by a lack of biodiversity in a stream. Since certain organisms can tolerate more pollution than others, the greater the variety of organisms - the better the water quality. Biological monitoring can also indicate the presence of problems that extend over time.

Two important characteristics of streams is the velocity and volume of flow. Flow rate can control many other factors such as oxygen content, water temperature , composition of the stream bed, amount of food available, and pollution levels. These factors in turn directly affect the types and numbers of plant and animal species which exist in the stream ecosystem. Changes in land use in the watershed may shorten the length of time it takes for rainfall to enter the stream, resulting in sudden changes in velocity and volume of flow.

Working to answer these focus questions will help you learn a lot about streams. This information combined with the provided Background Information and information that you find on your own, should help you develop a rich understanding of stream ecology. While you are developing this understanding, additional question will come up. It is these questions that drive research.

With these focus questions guiding your work, proceed to the background information on Stream Monitoring.

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