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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
Convince someone else to go out for a walk with you. Share who you went with and where you went.
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.
Take at least 5 pictures – signs of spring for the #RocAroundTheBlock challenge. Send them to me or post them to our instagram.
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.
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 4. We donate money to conservation. For every person who participates we will donate $5.00 to a conservation organization we choose.
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.
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.
Does seed type matter?
How much salt can you put in water before you taste it?
Why do the salt trials not absorb all of the water
What affect is the application of salt having on the environment?
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?
Does the temperature matter?
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:
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
How does road salt impact the germination of seeds?
Salt is used to melt snow and ice on roads and sidewalks. This reduces injury and accidents. Keeping the roads and sidewalks free from slippery ice is generally considered a good thing. On the other hand the salt doesn’t go away at the end of the winter. It stays in the environment. Some of the salt stays in the soil and some of it enters streams, rivers, and lakes with the melting snow and rain. Organisms living in the ocean have evolved to tolerate salt but other organisms do not have adaptations for living in a salty environment. People are starting to study how the salt in our environment impacts ecosystems.
The germination of seeds might be affected by salt in the environment. If seeds are more or less likely to germinate in a salty environment there may be impacts on other organisms that rely on the plants as well. Seeds need specific environmental conditions to germinate. A seed can sit for years and only start to grow, or germinate, when the moisture level changes for example.
Your goal for this project is to design an experiment that tests an environmental condition that impacts a seed germination. You’ll have to think carefully about variables and you’ll want to make sure you have multiple seeds in each group. Some helpful information is included below to help you out as you begin this interesting investigation.
There is an easy way to get seeds to germinate that we can use for experiments. I found a good way to set up seeds without soil to get them to germinate. All you need to do is fold a paper towel in half and then fold it in half again to make a pocket. Put four seeds inside of the paper towel and then place it in a plastic bag.
To make things easy we will use chia, bean, and radish seeds.
Under ideal conditions, radish seeds will germinate within three to four days, but may take as many as 10 days.
Key things to review:
Hypothesis = The possible answers to the question you are investigating
Dependent Variable = The variable that you are measuring changes in. In our case the dependent variable is whether or not the seeds germinate
Independent Variable = The variable that you have set up to see the effects of. We want to see the effects of salinity.
Control Group = This is the group that will be normal. In this experiment seeds without salt will be our control group.
20 plastic cups
10 zip lock bags
20 paper towels
chia seeds, bean seeds, radish seeds
Step 1: Experimental Design
Directions: Design a high quality experiment to explore how salt impacts seed germination.
Experimental Design Guide
What is the experimental question?
What is your hypothesis and why do you think that?
What is your dependent variable?
What is your independent variable?
This chart will help you design your experiment. You might want to set up more than one experimental group, like low, medium, and high amounts of salt.
In the final box you will need to draw what each experimental set up will look like.
Experimental Group (s)
Amount of salt
Number of seeds
Amount of water
Draw what each set up will look like
Step 2: Data
What data are you going to collect? You can collect data about how many seeds germinate, how long the roots get, how soon they germinate.
How many seeds will you use in your experiment? You need to get enough data to compare your different groups. Does your experiment include enough seeds? Enough replicates? The rule is usually at least 20 but can be less. _____________________
What will your data collection table look like?
Step 3: Set up the experiment and record the data.
Use the experimental design to set up your experiment. Recording the data can be as simple as counting, it could be taking photographs, it could be measuring. Whatever works best for the type of date you are trying to collect.
Step 4: Use some sort of analysis to compare your control group and experimental groups.
Usually this is an average but could just be a count. It is also common to make a graph to compare the collected data.
Step 5:Come to a conclusion.
What is the answer to your experimental question?
When you compare the seeds that were given salt to the seeds that were not what are the results. To do this use the claim, evidence, reasoning format. You can write this up, record a video, just tell us at the next meeting.
Claim: What are you saying is true?
Evidence: What observations have you made to say this is true?
Reasoning: Why do your observations mean your claim is true?