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Station 1: Water Testing

Scientists at SERC regularly collect and test water samples from the Rhode River to assess the quality of the water. The Rhode River is part of a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay, making it home to many migrating and resident aquatic species. At the water quality station, students perform the same tests basic tests that scientists use to evaluate the quality of the water. Students measure salinity, pH, depth, turbidity, nitrates and temperature to understand the conditions that affect organisms investigated at other stations. This station focuses on SERC science and why scientists use measurements like these to characterize the health of the water, and how it helps us understand what's going on in a watershed.

 > Objectives

At this station, students will measure salinity, pH, depth, turbidity, and nitrates and discuss what these measurements tell us about the water quality of the Rhode River. 

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 > Procedure

 >The five tests:


Salinity is a measure of the amount of salt in water. Scientists keep track of the salinity in the water to understand the behavior and adaptations of estuarine animals. In Estuary Chesapeake students will determine the salinity of Rhode River water with a hydrometer and compare it to the typical salinities across the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and the Atlantic Ocean.


To determine the acidity or alkalinity of the water, students will perform a pH test. In an estuary, many animals and plants are very sensitive to changes in the pH level, which can be a result of acid rain. Scientists at SERC monitor the pH of rainwater as well as the creeks and rivers.


The Rhode River is part of a tidal estuary, meaning the depth of the water changes throughout the day. The depth of the water often has a great affect on the intensity of changes to the water, like temperature or turbidity. Students will measure depth at a given spot off the dock, and can compare this to measurements of other groups to determine how the tide has changed.


Turbidity, or the cloudiness of the water, is an important parameter. When the water is too cloudy because of sediment or algae growth, not enough light can penetrate to the underwater grasses that need the light to grow. Student will measure turbidity with a Secchi disk and discuss the factors, such as a recent rain storm or high winds that can affect this parameter.


Nitrates come mostly from fertilizer and runoff from the Bay. Students will use a colormetric test to determine nitrate levels in teh Rhode River, and discuss why nitrates are used in fertilizer, and their effects on plankton in the Bay.


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 > Content Standards

> Maryland Content Standards
Water Testing Science Indicators:
1.0 Skills & Processes: 1.5.1, 1.5.2, 1.5.4, 1.5.5, 1.5.6, 1.5.7, 1.5.8, 1.5.9, 1.5.11, 1.5.14
2.0 Earth/Space Science: 2.5.12
3.0 Life Science: 3.5.7, 3.5.9,
6.0 Environmental Science: 6.5.2, 6.5.5

> Virginia Standards of Learning 
Water Testing Indicators:
Scientific Investigation, Reason & Logic: 4.1, 5.1
Living Systems: 4.5
Interrelationships in Earth/Space systems: 4.6, 5.6, 5.7
Resources: 4.8

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