Environmental Analysis Lab

The design of the Environmental Analysis Lab was to provide information on several different ecosystems around Fayette. The ecosystems studied were meadows, forests, river, and lake ecosystems. First, brief descriptions of the site and atmospheric conditions were recorded. Temperatures were then taken of the air, soil, and water (where available). Soil and water samples were also collected. Wind Velocity and relative humidity were measured as well.

Because many different readings were taken at four different sites, the techniques for gathering the samples had to remain the same. The following is an outline of the different procedures used in gathering all the data.

The information gathered started with a general description of the location and the atmosphere. The locations were described by the types of ecosystems, the plants found in the area, and the topography of the locations. The atmospheric conditions were expressed in terms of how hot or cool it felt, the presence of wind, and the feeling of humidity.

Outside air temperature was measured using a mercury thermometer held out of the direct sunlight to avoid false readings. All temperatures were recorded in degrees Celsius.

Wind Velocity was recorded using wind meter. The opening of the wind meter was held facing into the wind. The wind entering a hole, forces a small ball up a tube. The higher the ball raises, the stronger the wind velocity. The velocity was then recorded in miles per hour.

Relative humidity was then measured using the sling psychrometer. One end of the psychrometer has a sock that absorbs water, known as the wet bulb. The other side of the psychrometer remains dry and is therefore call the dry bulb. First the wet bulb is dipped into a vial of distilled water. The psychrometer is then spun around by its handle for twenty seconds. The temperature of both bulbs is then recorded. A chart that accompanies the sling psychrometer is then consulted. The point at which the two temperatures meet indicates the relative humidity.

Soil temperature is recorded by inserting a thermometer into the ground. The thermometer is left in place for several minutes to insure an accurate reading of the soil temperature rather than the air temperature.

A soil sample was then collected from all the sites, excluding the lake. The soil samples were collected from the same area the temperatures were taken from. The top layers of vegetation were removed so that only soil was collected. A description of the soil was recorded including its color, general moisture content, and an estimation of its percent of sand, silt or clay. The samples were weighed in the lab using an electronic scale.

Soil Percents were measured using the Soil Lab. The soil samples were dried and then ten ml were placed in a tube. The tube was then filled to the 40 ml line with water. Ten drops of a reagent were added and the tube was shaken for two minutes. Then the tube was allowed to settle for thirty seconds. The height was then measured. The tube was allowed to sit for another 30 minutes before being measured again. Finally the height was measured after the tube had sat for at least twenty-four hours. These measurements were then compared and used to determine the percents of sand, silt and clay.

Water temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen were measured using the hydrolab. The device was held under water in an area where the water was clear and free from debris stirred up from walking. The information was then sent to a lap top computer where it was recorded.

The water sample was also collected from an area that was free from any unnecessary turbidity

Turbidity was determined using a nephelometer, which uses small beams of light to determine the amount of debris in the water.

Hardness of the water was measured in the lab using a harness kit. First the total hardness was measured by filling a titration tube to the 12.9 ml line. Five drops of hardness reagent 5 were added along with one hardness tablet 6. The tube was then swirled to dissolve the tablet. The titrator was then filled to the hardness reagent 7. Reagent 7 was added one drop at a time and mixed between drops until the color changed from red to blue. The amount of reagent added was then used to figure the hardness in ppm.

Calcium hardness was figured by filling the titration tube to the 12.9 ml line then adding 6 drops of sodium hydroxide and mixing. One calcium hardness tablet was added and the tube was swirled to dissolve the tablet. The titrator was then filled with hardness reagent 7 and the process continued the same as the test for total hardness.

Magnesium hardness was figured by subtracting calcium hardness from the total hardness.

The salinity of the water was found by filling a titration tube to the 10 ml line with demineralized water. The titrator was filled with 1 ml of the water sample. .5 ml of the sample was added. Three drops of salinity indicator reagent A were added and swirled into the mix. The 0-20 titrator was filled with titration reagent B and added one drop at a time. The drops were added until the color changed from yellow to a pink-brown color. The results were measured in ppm based on the amount of reagent added.

Site Description and Atmospheric Conditions
Data \ Location Meadow Forest Volga River Volga Lake
Site Description Located in a meadow on a small hill consisting of tall grasses 1-2 ft. tall. Some patches of thicker growth.Few flowers were present along with a few spotted trees. West side of the hill covered with small Oak trees. Wooded area on a mild slope. Small under-growth and thorny bushes. Floor scattered debris and branches from trees. Woods consist of pines and oaks. Canopy thick, and low light penetration. Small shallow river with a sandy and rocky bed and shore line. Dense growth along banks. A small rock dam up stream. Small lake with rocky shores and steep banks. Dark green-brown water. Dense trees and high grass surrounding the area.
Atmosphere Atmosphere was warm and humid. Slight wind blowing with periods of higher gusts. Atmosphere was cool. Slight breeze felt through the area. Humidity felt low. Atmosphere was warm with low-mid humidity levels. Clear skies, calm wind with slight gusts. Clear skies and cool temperatures. Windy conditions. Low humidity.
Air Temperature 30° C 26° C 32° C 22° C
Wind Velocity 4 mph 1 mph 0 mph / Gusts 3-4 mph 6 to 10 mph
Humidity (%) 64% 70% 72% 64 %

Soil Description and Analysis
Data \ Location Meadow Forest Volga River Volga Lake
Soil Temperature 23° C 19° C 24° C NA
Soil Weight 172.1 g 245.3g 266.7g NA
Soil Description Soil was a dark brown color and felt of clay. The ground was slightly moist Soil was a dark brown and crumbled easily. Soil was moist to touch and appeared mostly clay. Light color, almost all sand, with many small rocks. NA
Percent Moisture 13.6% 12.6% 14.6% NA
Soil Textures (%Sand %Silt %Clay) Sandy-clay (71% 7% 22%) Sandy-silt (57% 42% 1%) Sandy-silt (73% 27% 0%) NA

Water Sample and Analysis
Data \ Location Meadow Forest Volga River Volga Lake
Water Sample NA NA Clear with small debris. Larger debris than river. Darker color.
Water Temperature NA NA 22.81° C 20° C
pH NA NA 7.98 8.3
Conductivity NA NA .494 .288
Dissolved Oxygen NA NA 11.81 9.9
Turbidity NA NA 4.34 11
Total Hardness NA NA 220ppm 124ppm
Calcium Hardness NA NA 140ppm 64ppm
Magnesium Hardness NA NA 80ppm 60ppm
Salinity NA NA .6ppt .8ppt

The results of our experiments show varying environmental conditions at each of the four test sites. This shows that the location, topography and vegetation in an environment can have an effect on the climate. It is important to note that although these test were performed in the most precise and viable ways possible there are several factors, which may skew the results. One is the fact that different people performed the tests at each of the sites. To insure that the tests were as accurate as possible the same testing equipment was used, and the others in the group confirmed the results. Another important factor that changes the results is the fact that the tests were not only performed in different locations, but also on different days. This means that various atmospheric conditions may not only be affected by the location but also the time at which it was taken. With these variations in mind we can then look at the results of the tests and draw several conclusions. As mentioned earlier the topography, location, and vegetation in an environment can affect the local climate.

All of the tests were performed on days that were relatively clear or only partly cloudy. This means that the results were not affected by rain or inclement weather on the day of the tests. As we go down the list of elements checked we first studied the atmospheric conditions. At the meadow and Volga River sites we find the temperatures at 30 C and 32 C respectively. The forest temperature was recorded at 26 C, a decrease of 4-6 degrees. This is not much of a decrease but it may be attributed to the shade provided by the dense tree canopy. The Volga Lake site temperature was recorded at 22 C. This large difference in temperature may be attributed to several factors. One that will be covered later is the increased wind velocity. Humidity was low on the day of the testing as well. Probably the single biggest factor in the low temperature readings was the location itself. The location was a large body of water that had a temperature of 20 C. The high winds blowing across this cool body of water would have a cooling effect on the air and surrounding environment. This, combined with the other factors would result in the temperatures being 4-10 degrees colder than the other test sites.

The air temperature directly affects the relative humidity. Yet when we look at the results we see a pattern that doesn’t seem to fit. When the temperature was at it’s highest (32 C at the Volga River) we see the humidity at it’s high of 72 %. As we go down in temperature to the 30 C recorded at the meadow site we also see the humidity drop to 64%. Now when we continue down in temperature to the 26 C at the forest site we see the humidity come up slightly to 70%. Finally at the lowest recorded temperature of 22 C at the Volga Lake we notice the humidity drop to 64% again. This flux can attribute to location. Upon first glance we would have expected the humidity to increase as the temperatures went down. However we must also take into account the proximity to water. We see when the temperatures were 30 C and 32 C at the meadow and Volga River sites respectively, the humidity levels were at 64% and 72%. The same pattern holds true for the other sites. The pattern is that the colder the air temperature the high the humidity and when temperatures are the same or close to each other then the area nearest to water has the highest humidity levels.

Wind velocity was observed to have a range of 0-10+ mph. Yet we find a reasonable amount of consistency between the wind velocities and the areas where they were measured. For instance, the wind was measured at 4 mph in the meadow and 10 mph on the Volga Lake. Both of these areas are located in open spaces. The meadow was located at the top of a hill with almost no trees in the area. The lake was a flat body of water with no tree cover near the shore. We then find that the wind velocities in the forest and Volga River sites were at 0-1 mph. The forest site was located in the middle of dense tree cover. This provided excellent shelter from the wind. The Volga River site was also shaded from the wind by being located down in the river bottom and by being sheltered by dense vegetation that grew up to the banks and provide a wind block.

Soil samples were also collected and analyzed. We find some distinct variations in the readings when we look at the results. The soil temperatures we recorded in all the sites except the lake site. We find that soil temperature stayed relatively close and that no single factor could really be named as the main reason for a difference. The air and soil temperatures only differed 7-8 degrees from the air temperatures. The percent of moisture in the soil varied between the test sites yet the soil temperatures remained within a narrow range. The coolest soil was 19 C in the forest and the forest also held the lowest air temperature of 26 C.

The soil was also collected at each site for lab analysis. The weights varied so the percentages are the only way to compare the data. We find the Volga River site had the highest percent moisture (14.6%) and the forest site had the lowest at only 12.6%. This percent was not only affected by the sites location but also the soil content. One would expect, and indeed it does prove true, that the Volga River site would have a higher percentage of moisture. We also see that the Volga River site had a higher percent of sand in the soil (73%). This is compared to the forest site, which only had 12.6% moisture and 57% sand in the soil. These results seem skewed because we would expect a clay based soil to hold more water because the particles are closer together and a sand based soil to hold less because the particles are farther apart and the water would filter down easier. Therefore these results may have been affected more by location and precipitation than by the actual content of the soil.

Finally we come to the water data. Only the Volga River and Volga Lake sites were used to collect water data because they were the only sites that provided standing bodies of water. The water temperatures were relatively the same and didn’t vary in correspondence with the air temperatures. Both temperatures were 20-23 C.

The pH of the two bodies was measured at 7.98 and 8.5 (river site and lake site). This shows that both the river and the lake were slightly basic in nature.

The Dissolved Oxygen Content was also measured. We find the lake site had a dissolved oxygen level of 9.9. The river site on the other had had a dissolved oxygen level of 11.81 percent. This can be attributed to the size of the bodies and the fact that the river flowed over rocks, which churned the water and added small amounts of oxygen.

The turbidity was measured at 4.34 in the river. There was an obvious difference in the clarity of the two sites that was confirmed when the turbidity of the lake was measured at 11.

Again, a small sample was collected and taken to the lab of study. The samples were tested for salinity and hardness. The river salinity was at .6ppt and the lake salinity was at .8ppt. This slight increase can be explained as a result of evaporation. Salt doesn’t leave the lake when the water evaporates. Therefore the salt that is carried down stream by the river is built up in the lake as the water evaporates. This accounts for the slight increase in lake salinity.

The lake hardness was recorded at 124ppm total hardness and the river was at 220ppm total hardness. The lakes hardness levels were close at 64ppm calcium and 60ppm magnesium. However the river showed a much greater difference with 140ppm calcium and only 80ppm magnesium.

In conclusion we see that overall the atmospheric conditions, soil conditions and water conditions can vary greatly over a small area depending on how the environment changes. We find cooler, less windy conditions in a forested area and warmer, windy conditions out in open planes and on lakes. Soil content can affect the soil temperature and moisture content. The size of a body of water can affect its temperature, dissolved oxygen and salinity. All of these factors combined can create diverse environmental states. This in turn affects the biotic and abiotic elements of the ecosystem. Understanding these differences is key to preserving these systems.