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October Public Library Teen Event: A Water Pollution Mystery!

On Wednesday, EcoReach visited the Athens-Clarke County Public Library to hold an event as part of our monthly series for teens. This month’s event was based around a water pollution mystery!
We began the event by discussing fish kills and water quality problems that might cause fish kills. A fish kill refers to a massive die-off event of fish in freshwater or saltwater environments. After this initial discussion, we then proposed a hypothetical “fish kill” in Athens. Students were asked to visit 5 stations, each run by an EcoReach volunteer, to test water samples from before and after the fish kill. Over the 5 stations, students measured a variety of water quality parameters, including pH, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform counts, algal biomass, and macroinvertebrate species richness.
After the students visited all of the stations, we came back together to use the clues from each station to determine what was the cause of our fish kill. In our hypothetical situation, pet waste was the cause of our fish kill. We then had a discussion about how pet waste is an actual problem in Athens, and what we can do to stop this poo-llution!
Check out some pictures from the event below! If you are interested in our library series, please contact us!
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Kelsey leading a discussion on fish kills and what might cause them
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Nate at the fecal coliform count station. Do you know where your pet’s waste is going?
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Margot at the macroinvertebrate station. Can you name any macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) found in Athens? Learn about Georgia’s macroinvertebrates here!
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Katherine teaching the teens everything about pH measurements! Do you know what pH levels are necessary for healthy streams? Learn more about pH here!
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Dan at the conductivity station! Conductivity is a measurement of the ability of an aqueous solution to carry an electrical current. Why would this be important for fish and other aquatic organisms? Learn more about conductivity here!
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Chasing Coral: Georgia Premiere at UGA

On Wednesday and Thursday, UGA hosted three special screenings of the award-winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, followed by discussions with one of the producers and prominent cast members. Chasing Coral follows a team of divers, engineers, and scientists around the world to document the catastrophic bleaching events and rapid decline of coral reefs. The Odum School of Ecology’s own Dr. Jim Porter, a renown coral ecologist, was featured in the movie and served on the discussion panels.

During this screening series, several schools around Athens, including Clarke Central High School, Cedar Shoals High School, Athens Montessori School, and Double Helix School, brought students to the Wednesday morning and Thursday morning showings. Wednesday night was a screening open to the public. Additionally, the Georgia Museum of Natural History had a display of a dozen different species of corals, collected around the world by Dr. Porter, as well as some other marine animal specimens.

EcoReach volunteers were in attendance to answer questions about the museum specimens and to teach the students and the public about corals and their current plight in the face of climate change. Between the three screenings, EcoReach interacted with hundreds of students throughout Athens while also supporting an incredible campaign to educate the public about the importance of corals and overall ocean health.

To learn more about Chasing Coral, please their website. Chasing Coral is currently available on Netflix. Watch the movie. Host a screening at your home. Spread the word. Call your senators and representatives. Let’s work together to save the corals, the ocean, and the entire planet.

Financial support for this project comes from Kirbo Charitable Foundation, Reef Ball Foundation, ECOGIG Research Consortium at UGA’s Department of Marine Sciences, Peabody Media Center, Katherine and Bertis Downs, Odum School of Ecology, and Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. Additional promotional support was provided by UGA’s Speak Out for Species club, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. We are grateful for the partnership of the Clarke County School District.

Chasing Coral won the Audience Award for the U.S. Documentary category at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

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Dr. Porter! Featured in the film
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Zackery Rago! One of the main cast members from the film!
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Zackery Rago with some of our volunteers. Thank you Zach for this incredible film.
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Anya trying out the virtual reality of coral reef diving brought to us by the Chasing Coral team
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A full house of Athens high schoolers. The kids were very inquisitive. Over 20 minutes of Q + A with some of the cast!

 

Rivers Alive Athens! Annual Volunteer River Cleanup

Some of our EcoReach members volunteered at the annual Rivers Alive Athens-Clarke County River Cleanup Saturday morning. As Ecologists, it is important to work to maintain natural ecosystems and preserve habitats. And especially as members of Athens-Clark County, it is vital to work with people in our community and support efforts such as Rivers Alive to Keep Athens Beautiful.

This year, Rivers Alive had over 450 volunteers, and 21 sites throughout Athens-Clarke County including two waterways. To learn more, visit their Facebook page.

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September Public Library Event: Predator-Prey Tag

Last spring, EcoReach began a partnership with the Athens-Clarke County Public Library to develop and organize monthly events for teens. Our events will be primarily focused around various Ecological concepts.

For our September event on Thursday, 11 of our volunteers played Predator-Prey Tag with about 15 teens at the library after school. In any given ecosystem, all organisms will act as either a predator, a prey, or oftentimes even both. For example, a gray wolf is a predator which will feed on its prey, such as deer. Deer typically feed on plants and seeds, but in order to avoid being eaten by wolves, they have to be able to run quickly, hide, or utilize their brown coat to blend in with their surroundings. The wolves will also need to run quickly to catch their prey, but if they cannot find the deer or see the deer, the wolves will be unable to eat them.

For our activity, we took this concept and played Predator-Prey Tag. We played three rounds of a 7 minute game. During each round, six different people are the “predators” and everyone else is their “prey”. The goal of the game is for the “predators” to eat (tag) all of the “prey”, and for the “prey” to avoid being caught as they run across the field to grab their own food (cardboard cutouts). Each “prey” must try to collect 3 pieces of food without being eaten. Another important aspect of the game is that the “prey” are able to avoid being eaten (tagged) via a hiding spot or camouflage by standing in safe zones or by standing still.

Once our games were finished, everyone went back into the library and the EcoReach volunteers held a discussion with the teens regarding predator-prey interactions. We discussed examples of predator and prey pairings, how an animal can be both a predator and a prey, examples of how predators and prey successfully avoid being eaten and/or sighted, and other general lessons learned from the activity. During this library event, EcoReach was able to teach some Athens teens about predator-prey interactions while also getting outside and having fun together.

If you would like to view the website that we adopted the activity from and the rules of the game, please visit this link.

 

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Carol asking the teens what they know about predator-prey interactions ahead of the game
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Hi Denzell!
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The “prey” are on the move! I wonder what animal everyone is imagining?

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These cardboard cutouts are food for the “prey”. Every “prey” had to run across the field to collect one
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Deven planning his next run

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A standoff between the smaller “predator” in the jersey and his prey, Denzell
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Our volunteers were quickly “eaten”. It was hard to outrun the teens
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Predator-Prey discussion inside the library
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If you were a “prey”, how would you avoid your “predators”?
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Group pictures of our EcoReach volunteers!

Athens Water Festival 2017

Last Saturday, EcoReach volunteered once again at the Athens-Clarke County’s annual Athens Water Festival. This year’s theme was “Be a Sewer Hero” and the EcoReach booth was titled “The Amazing Underwater Tape of the Caddisfly, a true superhero of the stream”. Caddisflies (Order: Trichoptera) are important freshwater insects that contribute to aquatic ecosystems by feeding on detritus and leaf litter as larvae, existing as prey for other organisms, and also functioning as indicators of good stream water quality. Additionally, caddisflies are incredible architects. Many larvae will build cases using salivary secretions that act as an underwater double-stick tape so that materials such as wood, rocks, or shells can attach and form a casing around their bodies. These cases provide protection and camouflage from stream debris and predators.

EcoReach volunteers had caddisfly cases that were recently collected from Cowetta, GA, to show the visitors, along with many preserved caddisflies and other aquatic insects that can be found throughout streams in Georgia. To learn more about the Amazing Underwater Tape of Caddisflies, please visit this PBS video that our volunteers also played during the festival.

Check out our photos below!

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Emily showing off the caddisfly cases to visitors
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Carolyn and Denzell identifying our many aquatic insects at the booth
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A young visitor was teaching Carol about caddisflies!
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So many awesome aquatic insects!
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Carol and a visitor discussing the importance of caddisflies
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These visitors were watching the PBS video “The Amazing Underwater Tape of the Caddisfly
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Superhero Emily made her own caddisfly case!
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Our very helpful volunteer also made her own caddisfly case!

 

Eclipse Viewing at J.J. Harris!

Leading up to this past solar eclipse, the College of Education and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences through UGA created a campaign to “Help Clarke County Students Watch the Solar Eclipse” (Georgia Funder). This campaign not only existed to provide all prekindergarten through 12th grade students in Clarke County with solar eclipse glasses, but it also brought teams of STEM educators and researchers to each of the schools.

EcoReach brought two members to J.J. Harris Elementary Charter School where they helped out with first and second grade classes. While the students were waiting for the eclipse to occur, the EcoReach volunteers briefly taught each of the classes about why solar eclipses occur and asked the students to make predictions about what they will see throughout the eclipse. Once the students were outside, the volunteers answered questions and provided helpful (and constant) reminders to keep their glasses on. Overall, the students were very excited and EcoReach had a great time sharing this experience with the school.

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The kids showing off their handmade eclipse masks with Reed (Photo by Nancy Evelyn)
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Kaylee viewing the eclipse with a student (Photo by Nancy Evelyn)
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Reed and Kaylee posing outside of J.J. Harris with UGA Eclipse Blackout shirts (Photo by Nancy Evelyn)

EcoReach General Body Meeting

EcoReach is having its first general body meeting of the academic year next Tuesday, September 5th at 5pm in the Ecology Auditorium (Room #201). There’s going to be lots of important information distributed, including ways for you to get involved in EcoReach during the upcoming school year, so you won’t want to miss out!

 

During the meeting we will be:

-reviewing our goals for the 2017-2018 academic year

-discussing Fall 2017 events (and signing up for them)

-learning about background checks/training requirements for working with minors (as now is required by UGA)

-signing up for committees

 

Everyone is welcome to attend this meeting (undergrads, graduate students, post-docs, faculty, staff, etc.), so please encourage your eco-friends to attend! As if you needed another reason to come to the meeting…. there will be some snacks and free EcoReach stickers!