This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.

Friday, July 22, 2016

SIFT Summer Projects at Shaw Nature Reserve

Fish Survey and Water Quality Monitoring - July 8

Six students experienced two aquatic-focused projects at Shaw Nature Reserve on a hot and humid day.  In the morning data was gathered on fish in the Pinetum Lake.  Students spent the first half of the morning catching as many fish as they could using a rod and reel. Many bluegills were caught along with a few large-mouthed bass.

Data including species identification, length and population numbers were collected on the fish before they were returned back into the lake.

After lunch the students loaded up the truck with their gear and headed down to the Meramec River where they conducted water quality testing as part of the Missouri Stream Team program.  They first conducted a site survey looking at vegetation along the banks, evidence of people, quality of the stream bed with a focus on algal and sediment coverage on cobbles and rocks, and color and odor of the water.

Checking the percent coverage of algae on the gravel bottom

Once the visual survey was completed, students conducted water quality tests that included dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrates and phosphates, water temperature and turbidity.  The final procedure involved the collection of macroinvertebrates using a kick-net. There was an abundance of stonefly, mayfly and caddisfly nymphs as well as a few crayfish. Using a metric provided by the Stream Team Project, they were able to determine that the water quality was very good. Once all of the data was collected, students returned to the office to enter their results on the Stream Team database.

Students entering data from their water quality survey

Invasive Oak Weevil Project - July 19

Dr. Laura Catano and Dr. Robert Marquis, both from University of Missouri - St Louis, needed some high school students to assist them in testing a citizen science program focusing on invasive oak weevils.  Basing out of the Trail House, nine SIFT students were trained in the protocol of the project.  They were then divided into small teams and sent out into the woodland to collect the weevils.  Field work included identifying the host trees to sample, identifying and counting insects on host plants, and counting leaves on sample branches.  After the collecting, students gave feedback to the leaders as to the ease of understanding the instruction and in the identification of the weevils.

SIFT team of collectors

On their way back to the Visitor Center, the group made a quick stop in the Sense of Wonder Woodland to play on some of the made-from-nature features.

Making their way across the TREE-mendous bridge