Selected Science Datasets Sites

Estuary-Net Project

Estuary-Net is an excellent website for teachers to use guided inquiry learning activities in their classroom. Estuary-Net was developed by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System in response to water quality issues arising in coastal areas. This project strives to develop collaborations among high schools, community volunteer water quality monitoring groups, local officials, state Coastal Zone Management (CZM) programs and National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS) to solve non-point source pollution problems in estuaries and their watersheds. This website provides comprehensive information about characteristics of estuaries, estuarine ecology, water quality monitoring, and quality assurance, quality control, and standard operating procedures of a water quality monitoring program.

This web site contains a database of monitoring data from National Estuarine Research Reserve sites and volunteer sites. Data includes water temperature, water level, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and stream flow. Biological variables and bioassment techniques are also included in the dataset. These include water quality, habitat, benthic macroinvertebrates, intertidal organisms, aquatic vegetation, chlorophyll/plankton, and fecal coliform bacteria. In addition to the datasets, the secondary school volunteer sites contain metadata. The metadata includes research descriptors, entry verification, experimental design, research methods, site location and character, data collection period, associated researchers and projects, data table descriptors, and remarks.

This web site provides many classroom activities from the Estuary-Net curriculum. The classroom activities are divided into three levels in order to provide various degrees of involvement in the subject, ranging from lab experiments to single field experiences to long-term monitoring. The benefit of this scaffolding is that schools which do not have easy access to watershed areas can still participate in the Estuary-Net activities by engaging in hands-on/minds-on laboratory activities. All Estuary-Net activities contain objectives, assessments, time needed, materials, procedures,and hypotheses.

Level I activities do not include a field sampling component, but provides classes with a hands-on, inquiry experience that explores the habitat variables tested in later levels. Students use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret water quality data in their classroom. In addition, these variables are investigated using current data available at this web site. In these activities, students use telecommunications for collaborative problem-solving. Students relate their data to problems that exist in their local watershed.

Level II activities focus on the development of a watershed map and a water sampling plan. These activities provide a format for conducting a reconnaissance of the area, and a stream survey. Students study the relationship between upstream influences in their watershed and their watershed's estuary. They identify the information needed and the resources necessary to address a potential watershed question. Students use USGS topographic maps to create their own watershed map of their local area which identifies watershed and access points to those water sheds. They also create mylar overlays of their local map showing soil type, plant communities, and other land use categories. Classes are expected to make one reconnaissance field trip and at least one sampling field trip during this unit. Students will survey the biota of the water course and conduct sampling for macroinvertebrates, and chlorophyll a or another appropriate indicator species following the design of their approved water sampling plan. Students identify the species collected and analyze their samples for species diversity and population characteristics.

Level III activities focus on improving the quality of data gathered for a class's water quality monitoring program. By this level, classes have
conducted their initial sampling and, along with with their other regional partners, identified a condition that warrants further study in their water shed. Students learn about the different components of a Quality Assurance Project Plan. They work in groups to write the proposed expansions to their sampling plan and identify any resources from the community that they may need prior to implementing the plan. Students learn how action plans using "Best Management Practices" and other pollution control measures support solutions to their possible watershed problem.


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