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Become an Urban Ecologist – Summer 2021

Are you a young person who enjoys the outdoors? Do you like collaborating with other youth? Do you like working outside? Do you live in the city? Will you be a junior in the fall? 

If you answered yes to these questions, then you are probably a perfect fit for the Seneca Park Zoo Society’s Urban Ecology Program.

Genesee River Gorge Hike

What is the Urban Ecology Program?

It is a two-year, year-round, paid workforce development program for high schoolers who live in the city of Rochester. Through the program you will have an opportunity to be immersed in and learn about the natural world. While learning and enjoying yourself, you will also serve the community through park clean-ups, planting community gardens, leading hikes, and working with kids at Rec-Centers. 

Gardening at the First Street Children’s Garden

Why should you join?

You make friends, explore parts of Rochester that you never knew about before, help the community become more knowledgeable, and you make a real difference in the environment. 

Don’t just take my word for it though, a current senior urban ecologist reflected, “Each experience I’ve had over the years has only helped develop me as a person as well as develop my community awareness. Being an Urban Ecologist helps you realize just how much nature you are surrounded by and how diverse the life within it is.”

Kayaking on Red Creek

How do you find out more?

contact@rocurbanecologists.org
585-563-9604

How do you apply?

Step 1: The Urban Ecology program is a job with a clear purpose and impact. If you are interested in becoming an Urban Ecologist the first step is to apply through the City of Rochester Summer of Opportunities program before March 26.

Summer of Opportunity Home Page https://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=21474845425 

Application Websitehttps://rocsummeryouth.com/

Step 2: Send an email or text to Chris Widmaier, Program Manager

contact@rocurbanecologists.org
585-563-9604

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First Day Over 60 Degrees Activities

The first day over 60 degrees is a day to be celebrated. Tomorrow I had planned to have us hike but I changed my mind. We will not be meeting at Seneca Park. I want you to have the time to decide what you want to do. It has been a long winter and we will have plenty of time to walk and work together in the coming weeks.

If you were planning on the hours / still want to get some hours do one of the following:

  1. Convince someone else to go out for a walk with you. Share who you went with and where you went.
  2. Clean up the trash and things on your block or in a park (your front yard can count, your backyard doesn’t). Send me a text with the amount of clean up you did.
  3. Take at least 5 pictures – signs of spring for the #RocAroundTheBlock challenge. Send them to me or post them to our instagram.
  4. Write outside – it doesn’t matter what you write. Drawings, poems, lists, an essay, doodles. Send me what you write. I will ask permission before I share with anyone.
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BEET SALT NEXT STEPS

After examining the data we determined we could not conclude whether or not there were differences in the impact of beet salt and road salt on germination. We decided the best next step was to do another experiment:

 Our experiment will be pretty much the same as last time, compare beet salt and road salt, but we will each put our own variable. Everyone will try to keep track of progress and keep more data like some sort of watering schedule and keeping track of water use. 

Variables everyone will use:

Independent variable: type of melting agent (beet salt vs road salt)

Dependent variable: rate of germination (how many germinate or not)

Set up controlled experimental variables that you could vary include: 

  • Paper towel or soil
  • Amount variable
  • Sunlight
  • Water temperature
  • Air temperature
  • Solid salt or diluted in water
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NY DEC Explore Local Live

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Road Salt vs Beet Salt

Is beet salt more environmentally friendly than rock salt?

We have been investigating the impact of Road Salt on the germination of seeds. It is important to understand the impact on seed germination because few seeds germinating means fewer plants growing and possible a less diverse ecosystem. Fewer plants could lead to less food in the ecosystem or an increase in erosion. 

We have determined that road salt reduces the rate of germination on a variety of seeds and studied the literature to see that research shows road salt has negative impacts on a variety of organisms in the ecosystem. In the search for more environmentally friendly solutions for melting ice and snow on the road beets and sugar from beets have been identified as potential substitutes. We wonder if is really is more environmentally friendly. There are many factors to consider like the fact beets are an organic, renewable resource but one key factor is whether or not it impacts the germination of seeds. 

We are going to try “crowd sourcing” the data to determine how beet salt compares to road salt when it comes to impact on rates of seed germination. It is important that you follow this procedure and report this data so we can combine it for analysis. 

Research Question: How does the impact of beet salt on radish seed germination rate compare to the impact of regular road salt? 

Independent variable: type of melting agent

Dependent variable: rate of germination

What are possible hypotheses?

  • Beet salt will have less impact on rate of seed germination than road salt
  • Beet salt has the same impact on the rate of seed germination.
  • Beet salt has more impact on seed germination. 

What is our procedure?

A. Set up the experiment 

(watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi2HSV3rBIo )

Mixing a solution of road salt and water

  1. Put 2 cups of water in a bowl or cup.
  2. Add ½ of a teaspoon of road salt to the water. 
  3. Mix the water and road salt until the road salt is dissolved.

Setting up road salt replicates

  1. Label 5 plastic cups “road salt”
  2. Cut a paper towel in half
  3. Place 10 radish seeds on the paper towel.
  4. Fold the paper towel over the seeds.
  5. Put the paper towel and seed packet in the cup
  6. Use the pipette to squirt 10 mL of salty water onto the papertowels.
  7. Cover the cup with a paper towel or paper and tape the cover on.
  8. Repeat this four more times.

Mixing a solution of beet salt and water

  1. Put 2 cups of water in a bowl or cup.
  2. Add ½ of a teaspoon of beet salt to the water. 
  3. Mix the water and road salt until the beet salt is dissolved.

Setting up beet salt replicates

  1. Label 5 plastic cups “beet salt”
  2. Cut a paper towel in half
  3. Place 10 radish seeds on the paper towel.
  4. Fold the paper towel over the seeds.
  5. Put the paper towel and seed packet in the cup
  6. Use the pipette to squirt 10 mL of beet salt water onto the paper towels.
  7. Cover the cup with a paper towel or paper and tape the cover on.
  8. Repeat this four more times.

Running the experiment

  1.  Place the 10 cups in a warm (64-68 degrees) location
  2. Leave it for one week.
  3. Check to see if the paper towel is still damp. If it looks dry add 1 ml of tap water to keep it moist.

B. Record data 

  1. After one week open the cups.count how many seeds have germinated in each cup.
  2. Open the paper towels to view the seeds.
  3. Photograph the seeds in each cup.
  4. Send your photographs to the group chat.
  5. Record the number of seeds in the chart below.
  6. Take a picture of the data table.
  7. Send the data table to the group chat.

Your Name _______________________________________________-

TreatmentCount of Seeds germinated Cup #1Count of Seeds germinated Cup #2Count of Seeds germinated Cup #3Count of Seeds germinated Cup #4Count of Seeds germinated Cup #5
Road Salt
Beet Salt

C. Submit your data

Enter your data here: 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RNH5xxdbVGjgyxvVUbGSTIYkTBnBJ02lS2HeGYcrpFI/edit?usp=sharing

D. Summarize your data:

Total Seeds Germinated
Road Salt
Beet Salt
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February #RocAroundTheBlock Challenge

 Our January #RocAroundTheBlock challenge is over and we are happy to announce that we donated $25.00 to @wwf to support their work in Arctic ecosystems.

This month we hope to get even more people out. Participating is easy. 

How it works: 
1. Go outside.
2. Try to find these things:
– An Icicle (don’t stand under it!)
– An Evergreen Tree (small or tall)
– Piece of Trash (pick it up!)
– A Groundhog (too early?) 
– A Cardinal (hear or see)
3. Share a picture with us. You can tag us, add the hashtag #RocAroundTheBlock or email rocaroundtheblock@rocurbanecologists.org
4. We donate money to conservation. For every person who participates we will donate $5.00 to a conservation organization we choose.

We look forward to seeing you outside.

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Road Salt Ecotoxicology Part #3

We need everyone to try the same experiment with different concentrations of salt. We are doing this to practice using a method that is repeatable, have some experience with mixing different concentrations and understand how much salt is reasonable to experiment with.

We got some ideas from studying this scientific article, “Effects of Road De-icing Salt on Larval Wood Frogs” It looks complicated but it is pretty much the same thing we have been doing.

Together we came up with the following procedure to test the speed snow melts in different concentrations of salt.

Materials:

  1. A bowl to mix salt and water
  2. A cup or measuring cup
  3. A spoon or measuring cup
  4. Salt
  5. Water
  6. Snow
  7. Timer

Procedure:

  1. Mix 4 concentrations of salt and water and one control using the coldest water out of tap. Make sure you stir the water after you add the salt.
    1. 12 grams / l= 2 teaspoons of salt / 4.0 cups of water
    2. 6 grams / l  = ~1 teaspoon of salt / 4.0 cups of water
    3. 3 grams / l = ½ teaspoon of salt / 4.0 cups of water
    4. 1.5 grams / l = ¼ teaspoon or salt / 4.0 cups of water
    5. 0 g/ l = 0 salt / 4 cups of water
  2. Get some snow – volume or weight the same amount for each concentration fo salt. You can use a cup from the cabinet as a scoop
  3. Put snow in the  salty water
  4. Time how long it takes for the snow to melt.
  5. Record the time in a chart.
  6. Send the data to me.

Watch the zoom video of us setting it up:

https://rit.zoom.us/rec/share/LH-wSGgjwui4jO7Is2wz-jyUqQ_yJgpxlmUxZoLj9NiSoXOF0KqzHsrGYw6u8m2F.mXaPH7_E2c-iHMry

Watch this video of Linden’s experiment:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OHvPNkHI7HkkKCyYindnmAMfyhX9TtPy/view?usp=sharing

The procedure below is another way to mix the different concentrations.

Mix 4 cups of 12 g /1 l

Uwe 2 cups of solution for the experiment, melt the snow.

Mix remaining 2 cups with 2 cups of water = 6 grams / l

Use 2 cups of solution for the experiment, melt the snow

Mix remaining 2 cups with 2 cups of water = 3 grams / l

Use 2 cups of salt water with 2 cups of water = 1.5 grams / l

Sample Chart:

ConcentrationTime to melt
12 g / l4 minutes
6 g / l5 minutes
3 g / l
1.5 g/ l
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Schedule

Schedule for Week of 1/17

There are two important events this week that I want to highlight. Please read this whole email!
1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is January 18th. I have not scheduled work tomorrow because I think it is an important day to observe. There are many ways you can observe it. I always read or listen to a speech (other than I have a Dream)This website has some resources: https://thekingcenter.org/. It is also designated as a day of service. I think our work is service but I want to leave it up to you if you want to do something to choose what you think is right. If you want paid hours you can complete this lesson and send it back to me: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Zh5JCWa6qYuoz9uapj_8D-R4BwVJ_3mb6iXMAwhmWLU/edit?usp=sharing 
2. The Presidential Inauguration is on Wednesday, January 20 at 12:00 PM. It is an important day in our nation’s history (every inauguration is). You can participate in any of the week’s activities for hours but you need to write or record something that answers these questions: What did you do? What did you learn from it? How can you apply what you learned? https://bideninaugural.org/schedule/
The rest of the week’s schedule is shifted a little bit. Please share any pictures of your experiment set up and try to attend each day’s shift. I will get them on Humanity by the end of the day. 

15Monday1/18No Work MLK Holiday
15Tuesday1/19Independent Project Work4:00 – 6:00On Zoomhttps://rit.zoom.us/my/cjwcbet
15Wednesday1/20Meeting and Work Time4:00 – 6:00On ZoomSpecial Guest! Naaman will join us to talk about college.
15Thursday1/21Salty Science Seminar4:00 – 6:00On ZoomWe will discuss stage 2 experiments and stage 3 and 4.
15Friday1/22#RocAroundTheBlock3:30 – 5:30Any Where!Get Outside!
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Road Salt Ecotoxicology Pt 2

In our last Salty Science seminar we discussed the results of everyone’s experiments. The general conclusion was that salt impacts the germination of seeds and by extension salt has an impact on ecosystems.

We came up with a good list of additional questions around this topic and had a good discussion about them.

  1. Does seed type matter?
  2. How much salt can you put in water before you taste it?
  3. Why do the salt trials not absorb all of the water
  4. What affect is the application of salt having on the environment?
  5. How much salt do you have to alter the amount of salt in the environment to see an impact on a particular aspect of the ecosystem?  
  6. Does the temperature matter?
  7. Have plants developed a resistance / tolerance to water being pulled from cells by salt?

The next step of this research project is to extend your research by doing one of the following things:

  • Research others have done
  • Your own experiments
    • Repeat same experiment but improve set up
    • Same experiment but alter variables
    • Different experiment
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#RocAroundTheBlock January Challenge

Jaunary is a great time to get outside for a walk and we want to give you a little motivation to get up and out (in a COVID-19 safe way) with the #RocAroundtheBlock challenge.

It’s simple. 
1. Go for a walk anywhere in the city.
2. Look for the items on our scavenger hunt.
3. Take some pictures of all or one of the items on our scavenger hunt.
4. Share what you find with us by tagging us (@RocUrbanEcologists) or using the hashtag (#RocAroundTheBlock).

For each person, group, or family that shares with us we will make a donation to a conservation organization.

Scavenger Hunt Items
– A squirrel
– A tree without leaves
– Water (puddle, river, lake, pond)
– An evergreen tree
– A bird