Monday, September 30, 2013

Glacial Park Restoration Blog

Gunnar Robeznieks: On Wednesday September 25th, I along with all the other students who are enrolled in AP Biology attended a field trip were we went to a conservation area in McHenry County called Glacial Park. Glacial Park is a 3,400 acre restoration site where people work to help speed up the restoration of the ecosystem and maintain it. They do that by removing the invasive species. The park contained a diverse array of landscapes including prairie, wetlands, savannas, and delta kames. But being only about 60 students we could only focus on one type of landscape and only in two specific areas of that landscape, in an area about the size of an acre. That landscape was the tallgrass prairie because it was the landscape that required the most amount of agricultural practice due to the invasive species.

At the tallgrass prairie we started out by separating into two groups.

The group I was in, at first, had the job of watering oak saplings, spreading natural prairie grass seeds, and planting acorns to grow more oak trees.

         (watering oak saplings)                      (spreading natural prairie grass seeds)      (planting acorns to grow more oak trees)

Once my group finished watering saplings and plating seeds we switched jobs and locations with the other group.

The other group had the job of clearing evasive plant life from the side of a trail, using tools such as handsaws and large shears, and placing the plant material into giant piles for them to be burnt later by the people who work there.
(clearing evasive plant life from the side of a trail)                                                                               (burning piles)

                                                        (handsaws and large shears)
In my opinion, the field trip was by far the best field trip that I attended in my High School career! It was a great learning and team building experience, too! From it, I learned that as human beings we tend to only focus on the "the present", whether it be what we want to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or taking care of the day to day routine. We literally get lost in our own world where nothing else matters, but what benefits us. All of our energies appear to be directed toward our rather selfish concerns. Sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture, which is the future and ways we can improve it. And an amazing way we can do that is by restoring habitats to their natural states, just as we did at Glacial Park. Without restoring our ecosystems, to help maintain a healthy biodiversity, life as we know it would have a harder time existing, and could eventually cease to exist.

Luke Marvin: This was easily one of the most exciting field trip I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. It was nice to see both sides of the restoration process, from the destruction of invasive species to the planting of the indigenous ones. My favorite part of the trip was the brush clearing we did on the side of the path. In a combination of teamwork and testosterone, we were able to clear a great deal of trees and vines. I think the occupation of restoration ecologist is extremely interesting. The fact that people are selfless enough to devote their lives to the environment. Sadly, their team is very small and it will take hundreds of years to fully restore the area.

Anthony Chau: The field trip was a great learning experience for me in general. I got to learn many things about the small things to help the ecosystem. From planting acorns, watering trees, and cutting down invasive specie, all these things even though not done in a large scale will help in the long run. One thing I have learned throughout the field trip is that our generation is not enough to restore the park. We must have the future generations be apart of the experience as well if we want parks like this to flourish like before. Overall I enjoy the time with my classmates helping the ecosystem.

our group helping saplings grow
(edible acorn that was really bitter) 
highlight of the field trip, lifting a really heavy log
Derek Thomas: I found the ecological work to be rather satisfying, and I wouldn't have minded spending more time out at Glacial Park. It's true that having a proper, correctly oriented ecosystem is nice, but is it really necessary?
It's hard to gauge the significance of restoration ecology in the long run. On one hand, the imbalance of most ecosystems doesn't have any tangible effect on those of us living in suburban or urban environments. On the other hand, we have to think about the results of restoration ecology and how they affect us indirectly; what about bees? If we did use restoration ecology to restore the bee population and it worked, that would be a major success! The real value of restoration ecology is in the intangible, vague effects of the work. There are widespread, immeasurable gains to be had if restoration ecology is advanced, but we have to have faith in the process in order to reach them. After all, what bad could it do?
Acorns prior to planting
Death to shrubbery! (This whole area was covered in bushes about two or three hours earlier.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Acids and Bases Lab

Purpose: The main purpose of the lab was to measure the buffer on each liquid solution. The concepts we were testing was acid and base droplets measuring the buffer of the solution. The independent variable in the lab was the droplets of acid or base. The dependent variable was the pH of the one solution tested for reactions from both the acid and base droplets being added. Overall what our group was trying to do was to find the buffer range comparing the pH of acid and base affecting the one solution to another.
 Introduction: What will be considered a base is a solution whose pH is above 7, While for an acid when the pH is below 7. pH  can be solved with the equation of -log[H+] and is based off H+. This means that to find for hydroxide OH- one would subtract 14, which is the highest pH from the pH of the H+ solution. An example of this would be if a solution has a pH of 10 the OH- concentration would be 4. Last but not least is the buffer which minimizes the H+ and OH- concentrations depending on the situation which can be if the solution is excess or depleted in hydrogen ions. These things are important concepts to understand for the experiment.

Methods: After setting up the LoggerPro to collect data from the pH probes and gathering up the materials, we had two group members man the dropper bottles of 0.1 M acid and base, while the other two handled the LoggerPro and held the probes in place. For each step, the two with the droppers would drip five drops of their respective substances into the respective beakers at the same time, at which point the LoggerPro guy would add the new pH reading into the data table as a data point.
(Y-Axis: pH. X-Axis: Drops of base or acid added to beakers. Blue line: Beaker containing base. Red line: Beaker containing acid.)
(Y-Axis: pH. X-Axis: Drops of base or acid added. Blue line: Beaker containing base. Red line: Beaker containing acid.)
(Note: "Buffer acid" refers to buffered aspirin.)

Discussion: When we tested buffered aspirin, the beaker designated for bases was moderately basic (at 9.11 pH) and the beaker for acids was just slightly acidic (at 6.75 pH) already. This may have been a result of us forgetting to clean off the probes between buffers, so there was lingering acid and base still left on them. Now, as we added drops of the acid and base, both gradually became more acidic, even the beaker into which we were adding base. The acid ended up just a bit more acidic than before (6.05 pH), and the base was noticeably more acidic than it had been (7.90 ph). A similar phenomenon occurred with the orange juice test. While both beakers started out acidic (4.67 acid, 4.83 base), they both ended the experiment marginally more acidic than they had been, at 4.42 and 4.67 pH, respectively.
What can be definitively observed is that orange juice is a much stronger buffer, resisting pH change strongly so that the net pH difference was less than 0.5 pH for both beakers. The buffered aspirin is more difficult to place; while the acid beaker resisted the pH change rather well, only changing by 0.7 pH, the base beaker  had a larger change of 1.21 pH, which doesn't seem like ideal buffering. The pH also should not have been decreasing in that case, obviously, so there had to be some outlying error.
I think there would have been two errors that could have affected the outcome of the experiment, and both of them were the product of haste. First, we gave the mixtures very little time to settle before we collected data. Basically (har har), we added the drops, charted the pH change immediately, and then went straight to the next five drops. The readings would probably have been more accurate if we had given the machine more time to process the data. Additionally, we didn't rwally cleanse the probes between buffers. We did put the probes back in the "clean water" beaker after doing the tests for buffered aspirin, but we never changed the water to make sure it was clear of leftover acid or base that came off the probe, so we may have had the same residue from the first tests misleading the probe throughout the rest of the experiment.

Conclusion: According to our data, the most effective buffer that we tested was Orange Juice because it had the smallest change in pH when we added acid and when we added base. The change in pH in the acidic solution was .25, going from 4.67 to 4.42. The basic solution only became slightly more acidic at a change of .16, going from 4.83 to 4.67, although this may be attributed to a previous error n experimentation.

References: Pearson Publishing. " Campbell Biology: 9th Edition" 2011.