Integrated Environmental Systems at TSU Farm
This workshop presents educators at all levels with activities and lessons to help incorporate nature into their classes. The TSU campus farm and wetlands provide important ecosystem services and avail magnificent resources to explore the natural world. The workshop will be helpful for educators to include active learning opportunities for students to explore how geology interacts with environments (ecological niches) resulting in different biological responses.
Each set of activities will commence with a group discussion of objectives & goals. We will use fieldwork and active learning activities to explore various approaches to teaching and learning about integrated environmental systems while in the field. Each day will close with some questions to explore and curriculum development discussions.
This workshop presents educators at all levels with activities, lessons, and online data to help teach students about the interaction of earth's water systems, landscapes, and biota. As our local working environment, the TSU campus hosts a farm and wetland that provide a demonstration site for considering various geological and biological systems, and how they interact to define ecosystem services, environmental challenges, and landscape history. Since similar settings can be found in almost any location, the lessons learned in the workshop can be broadly applied to one's own backyard environment. The workshop will be helpful for educators to include active learning opportunities for students to explore how geology defines key aspects of local ecosystems, habitats and ecological niches, and related ecosystem services and human health risks.
GoalsExplore learning approaches for lab, classroom, and field-based activities that demonstrate for students how earth's surface processes define local environments and their history, as well as links to society and human activities. The concept of Integrated Environmental Systems can be based on any multi-disciplinary approach carried out along a stream valley, river-floodplain, lake margin, or similar setting. Such environments present the opportunity to discuss interactions of surface and groundwater hydrology, sediment transport, ecology, geochemistry, anthropogenic impacts, and general landscape evolution and environmental problems.
Following are the general themes that the workshop with focus on, but the intent is to consider these areas in broad context so that they are adaptable to many different settings that participants may have access to in their own backyards.
Part 1: Ecosystems - Wetland Wildlife Ecology
These activities will explore the important roles that wetlands play in terms of ecosystem services. Additionally, workshop participants will gain expertise learning how to sample for wetland wildlife, specifically turtles, but applicable to any interesting critters that help students link geological processes to plants, animals, and ecosystems.
- How to convey the importance of wetlands and their roles in:
- ecosystems and wildlife habitat
- water quality and geochemical cycling
- Learn different approaches to sampling for wildlife in wetlands and similar settings
- Methods for processing biological data acquired during sampling
- Developing a curriculum for field-based exercises and course projects.
Part 2. Water Resources - Aquifer Properties
Aquifer properties are crucial when determining the capacity of an aquifer and designing a well field for industry, utilities and irrigation. Participants will learn ways to develop lessons such as calculating storativity and transmissivity of the aquifer. Online resources for local surface water hydrology will also be explored as a link between climate, rivers, floodplains, and groundwater.
- Learn to collect field data related to groundwater discharge and compare to online resources for local precipitation and stream discharge.
- Develop curriculum for field-based activities on groundwater that can be coupled with online data-bases for use in homework exercises or lab-based activities.
Part 3. Landscape Development – River valleys and floodplain history
While students can relate to surface hydrology as a dynamic process - watching water discharge along a stream channel - it can be more difficult for them to link these observations to longer-term landscape evolution, such a stream valley erosion and floodplain development. Here we will consider simple ways to explore such history such as hand augering or trenching to reveal soil profiles and floodplain stratigraphy. Such field-based observations will be linked with landscape elevation profiles that students can extract from open software such as GeoMapApp and Google Earth.
- Be introduced to various online resources for students to explore local landscapes and their history.
- Learn to connect local hillslopes, rivers, and valley systems into an integrated understanding of landscape history and development.
Part 4. Integrated Environmental Systems – Exploring evolving, dynamic interactions
Together, basic calculations can be made to link river discharge with climate, hillslope erosion, sediment deposition, and landscape evolution.
- Explore how various attributes of the systems interact to define the modern setting.
- Exploring how past activities or geologic change influence the modern system.
- Understanding how humans work with or against the natural setting and the potential consequences or benefits.
- Develop curricula for field, lab, and classroom based courses.
Each set of activities will commence with a group discussion of objectives & goals. We will use fieldwork and active learning activities to explore various approaches to teaching and learning about integrated environmental systems while in the field. Each day will close with some questions to explore and curriculum development discussions. Participants should wear comfortable field clothes, shoes appropriate for sampling in a marsh environment, and bring a notebook. Optional, yet recommended items: hat, sunscreen, and water. Workshop leaders will provide any other gear, if needed.
Other potential environmental systems and questions to explore
- Valley bedrock type and age
- Regional tectonic history
- Quaternary climate variability
- Valley - scaling the system via Google Earth elevation transect across the river system to each elevation divide
- Channel - reach-scale channel (straight, meander, etc); measure floodplain width to channel width ratio
- Floodplain - make notice of river terraces; is valley incising, infilling, etc?
- Sediment - are there bars in the river; banks eroding or accreting; compare size of channel bed sediment and overbook floodplain sediment
- River discharge - get history from USGS or local agency flow gauges
- Water quality - measurement of temperature, suspended sediment, DO, pH, other surface water attributes
- Water Pollution
- Groundwater - dig to water table (if possible) and do similar measurement
- Threats to wetlands
- Soils and Vegetation:
- Transection of shallow cores/pits that compare soil properties with distance from river
- How does vegetation vary?
- River engineering - location and history of dams, dredging, embankments
- Land use - history of local land use
- Historical - land ownership, etc.