Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Charleston AFB Earth Day

Today, the education department from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest loaded up the car with jars of swamp bottom samples along with trays and equipment with which to pick through the samples. After ensuring that we had proper photo identification to pass through security, we headed out to the Charleston Air Force Base's annual Earth Day event.

Although it rained last night, today's sun quickly dried out the field and tables and warmed the air. A gentle breeze kept the "noseeums" grounded made for a perfect day to be outside picking "bugs." What the 220 excited 5th graders were actually picking were a combination of crayfish, insects, worms and mollusks. A qualitative value can be determine for water quality by examining the macroinvertebrate community present in a sample. Some organisms are quite tolerant of pollution, while others are somewhat tolerant or quite intolerant of pollution. Therefore, based on the percentages of these groups (taxa), one can determine if the water is poor, fair, or outstanding. Based on quarterly sampling done by the Beidler Forest staff, the water in Four Holes Swamp remains high quality. However, despite the high water quality, the fish remain low quality due to the buildup of mercury in their bodies.

Images by Mark Musselman

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