Summer Session, Week 1
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Our trip to Pitt's Space Research and Coordination Center (SRCC)
Today started off with a game to better help us learn about each other's hobbies and interests.
It was an exciting day; new field notebooks were passed out to each Energy-Net teen, EI and staff member. They're to be used for keeping track of observations, quotes and other notes for each day, as well as how material from that day can be adapted for use in our exhibit.
We learned how normally-beneficial nutrients in water can be detrimental to an aquatic ecosystem if found in high concentrations. We added words like nitrification and eutrophication to our vocabulary.
Then, we journeyed up to tour Dr. Emily Elliott's and Dr. Dan Bain's laboratories. Using lake core specimens taken from all over the world, Dan and Emily were able to measure radioactive decay of stable nitrogen isotopes (N14, N15) in order to determine the age of the sediment. Using a watershed model table, we observed first-hand how sediment of different shapes, size and density tend to settle and build layers when exposed to a moving water system. We noticed that the small, red, less-dense sediment tended to migrate the farthest, before being deposited at the mouth of the watershed. Layers continued to build on top of the red, tending to build in order of small/less dense, to large/more dense.
Nitrification - the biological oxidation of ammonia with oxygen into nitrite followed by the oxidation of these nitrites into nitrates. Degradation of ammonia to nitrite is usually the rate limiting step of nitrification. Nitrification is an important step in the nitrogen cycle in soil.
Eutrophication - is the ecosystem response to the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to an aquatic system. One example is the "bloom" or great increase of phytoplankton in a water body as a response to increased levels of nutrients. Negative environmental effects include hypoxia, the depletion of oxygen in the water, which induces reductions in specific fish and other animal populations. Other species (such as Nomura's jellyfish in Japanese waters) may experience an increase in population that negatively affects other species.
Photos from today can be viewed here