Urban School Ecology Program
- October 19, 2019 -

Headwaters was excited to return to the Urban School of S.F. to help students conduct scientific research in the Rodeo Lagoon watershed. Over four sessions, we guided students through asking original science questions and conducting experiments to test their questions. Through this process, students not only learned about this unique ecosystem but also gained valuable critical thinking skills. Read on to learn more about their awesome research projects. An overview of riparian areas can be found in this blog post featuring a great article from Global Rangelands.

Field Site: The Gerbode Valley riparian corridor in Rodeo Lagoon.

While the focal question of this program was “What factors affect the riparian corridor in the Gerbode Valley ecosystem?” each group chose a different way to investigate this further. Check out their questions below.

Question:  How do soil nitrate and phosphate levels change with distance from hiking trails and rivers? Hypothesis: Soil between path and river will have the most nutrients because that is where the most runoff will collect.

Question:  What is the relationship between soil quality and plant diversity along a transect from riparian areas to upland areas? Hypothesis: There will be higher diversity in riparian areas of plants compared to upland areas because riparian areas have more soil nutrients allowing a greater number of plant species. 

Question:  How does biodiversity change across a lateral riparian transect? Hypothesis: As you move higher in elevation, biodiversity decreases as does soil moisture content because plants grow better when they have water to grow. Vegetation densities will likely decrease as we move higher.

Question:  How does the salinity of different areas affect vegetation?  Hypothesis: In areas with more salt there will be less plant growth.

Overall students found that areas closer to the creek had a higher diversity of plants and soils with greater amounts of organic matter. In waterways closest to the lagoon there was less dissolved oxygen, but greater plant coverage along the shoreline. Beyond the results of their research, students also gained critical science skills. Between pre and post-program surveys the number of students who responded as “very confident” in their ability to apply the scientific method increased by 45%.