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Back Capturing and Counting Plankton to Assess Water Quality

This grant funded the purchase of a plankton net, plankton counting slides, and cover slips for use in the Ecology Unit in BHS Regents-level Biology courses and as part of a weekly program of stream sampling in the new Environmental Science course.

Thanks in part to recent grants from the Brighton Education Fund, the BHS Science Department is equipped to measure a variety of physical, chemical, and biological parameters of water quality. As part of the the curriculum of the new Environmental Science course, students have embarked on a program of weekly water tests in nearby Buckland Creek. This sampling program provides students with:

  • meaningful hands-on activities in the field and laboratory
  • constructive involvement in monitoring the environmental health of their community
  • a means of tracking changes in water quality not visible to the naked eye

Adding plankton counts to the student repertoire provides another method of assessing short-term changes in biological parameters of water quality. Students were already able to sample bottom-dwelling organisms, but the equipment funded by this grant will enable a more time-averaged measure of water quality. Algae -- particularly planktonic algae -- are a sensitive indicator of environmental change.

Students will use this equipment in conjunction with the following course work and extra-curricular opportunities:

  • Regents Biology laboratory exercises on microscope use and ecology
  • annual field trip to Mendon Ponds
  • annual Whale Watch field trip
  • Environmental Science weekly assessment of water quality in Buckland Creek

story by George Smith

October 27, 2001

Brighton Education Fund
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