I was very impressed with the quality and interest level from all of the Quarry Lane students. This was an interesting program for Headwaters because it was our first one that had a mix of middle and high school students within the same school group. The research projects students completed were amazing. In groups that had a mix of high school and middle school projects, the older students were great role models for the younger students and pushed the younger students academic boundaries. The older students gained experience acting as the group leaders while still giving the younger students plenty of opportunity to take ownership of their projects. The one group with only high school students, worked very independently and pushed each other. Their project had many more components than the other projects and was a great example to younger students in other groups to push their research further. As their final products show, the Quarry Lane students all got a lot out of having a large age range and student ability.
The independent group high school girls, designed a project that looked at growth of lodge pole pines in the last year in relation to their micro-environment. They compared tree growth to soil nutrients, sunlight, soil moisture, and pH. From their data set, they found that there was no relationship between the amount of sunlight, the soil nutrients, the moisture or the pH and growth. When their initial hypotheses came up null, I was impressed with how well the students looked at their data, created new hypotheses, and designed ways to test them. The students found that the Lodge Pole pines growing near the open meadow were growing faster than the ones in the forest. They also found that there was more sunlight and soil moisture in the meadow than the forest. This project gave students great hands on experience designing, implementing and working through hurdles that come with scientific research. To learn more about this great research check out their presentation on Prezi.
Two middle school groups studied different aspects of a species of parasitic Dwarf Mistletoe. One group studied how the number of infections in an area is related to characteristics of host trees. The other group looked at how infections on a tree affect localized growth on the tree. Both of these projects were impressive feats by small groups of middle school only students. You should check out their presentations (growth of host trees and spread of infections) and learn more about parasitic dwarf mistletoe on Donner Summit.
One of the mixed age groups studied lichen in the forest. They were trying to determine what type of micro-environments lichen live in. Their survey of Wolf Lichen on Donner Summit found that lichen are found more readily on Fir trees than Lodgepole Pines. From the data they collected, they suggested this may be due to the deep bark indentations that fir trees have in comparison to lodgepole. The more varied topography of Red Fir bark likely provides a better way for the lichen to attach to the trees. The group also found that taller trees had significantly more lichen than shorter trees. You should check out their great presentation to learn more about lichen.
The final group looked at how water quality affects algae and fish in Van Norden meadow. In part due to number of different types of algae creaek, they found that there was no correlation between the water quality and the amount of algae growing in an area. However, based on the data they collected, they found a correlation between an increased number in fish and areas that had an alkalinity near 40 as well as between a pH closer to 7. Among their conclusions, where that trout are more sensitive to water quality than algae on the whole. You should check out their interesting presentation to learn more about the water quality and how it affects the species living there.
We had a great week with the interested and hard working students from Quarry Lane. We hope they got a chance to show off their amazing research to their parents, peers, and teachers that were not able to come on the trip.