Alcona Community High School students learn about soils from Jack Guy.



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Testing the Waters

ROGERS CITY-Seventh graders strapped on waders and hiked through the Herman Vogler Conservation area Tuesday morning to take water samples and test the freezing waters for invertebrates.  The field trip is part of a two-year, $6,000 grant from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. 

As part of their water study unit, students in the classrooms of middle school teachers Holly Wirgau and Dave O'Bryant learned elements of earth and physical science before heading into the field to test Trout River waters. 

"We've been doing watersheds around here (in class).  A watershed is where all the lakes and streams start to flow into,"said seventh grade student Kyle Knopf. 

Students tested the water for pH levels, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and salinity.  Wirgau said the pH levels the students recorded, 8.96 were high because of the limestone in the area.  The conductivity levels show the ability for the water to conduct electricity.  Total dissolved solids are the amount of sediments in the river.  The salinity is the level of salt in the water.

"Rinse the jug out with water, do not disturb the bottom of the river, and collect water all the way to the very, very top," Wirgau told students collecting samples of the river water to bring back to the classroom.

"This is such a teachable place," she said.  "They're learning about ecosystems and the biodiversity in the area." 

Outdoor data collection ties in with the Salmon in the Classroom program Wirgau conducts for her middle school students.  In the fall, students collected salmon eggs, and they are raising them in a tank in Wirgau's classroom.  There, they can observe the stages of a salmon's life and monitor conditions to help the fish survive.  Wirgau told students there are salmon living in the river now that are the same size as the fish living in the classroom tank. 

"We always test the water so that we can see the temperature for the fish in the tank," said seventh grade student Salena Heidemann.  The temperature of the water on Tuesday was 12 degrees Celsius.

Charles Lyon, the Presque Isle County Drain Commissioner, and Ralph Stedman of the Conservation District addressed students before they took their data.  Lyon said the students' information will help the county, and the students' involvement is beneficial for future generations.

"We need that information in our office to help with water planning...If we're going to have safe water to fish in and swim in and water-ski in, it's up to you people to help take care of it," Lyon said.

Students also checked the water close to the Trout River Dam for small macro-invertebrates.  O'Bryant said they used nets to kick up the riverbed and scoop out the small insects.  Students used spoons to separate them into rare and common invertebrates like caddis flies and mayflies.  By examining the type of macro-invertebreates found in the river and using mathematical equations, students determined the quality of the water based on what kind of animal can survive there.  By Erica Fifelski/Alpena News/ December 2010

Created on Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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