Synopsis of current ecoflask status:
1. Give a detailed qualitative analysis in narrative format (paragraphs) of changes that have occurred in your flasks sinceyour initial construction and the addition of producers. Write to give the reader a mental PICTURE of what’s going on in the flasks. What are the similarities and differences? Be sure to remind the reader about what constitutes your control and experimental groups.
We put our flask together november 10, 2005. In total, we added two plants in our flask. One of which was Wolfia, also known as Wolfia Genus. We came to the decision that we should use only 20 ml of Wolfia because the main characteristic that it's known for is that it reproduces fast, causing lots growth when it's alive and lots of decayed wolfia when it dies. The wolfia should be able to live well, because they reproduce fast, and they will provide food for the snails and other various creatures.
A. Purpose and HypothesisThrough our ecocolumn experiment, there are many things to be discovered. By using many different plants and organisms in the experiment, we can further learn about ecosystems in general and life. With each success and failure in our ecocolumn, we can see how the different organisms will affect each other and what certain organism need to survive. From this, we will see how just as everything in our ecocolumn can affect everything else, so everything in our earth affects everything else as well. Our ecocolumns will be striving to be their own self-sustaining ecosystem representing a kind of mini version of our own world. By seeing the changes and growth in our ecocolumns we can gain a better understanding of how our own world works. In our ecocolumn we decided to use coral gravel as our experimental variable. We know that coral gravel is supposed to buffer the pH level of the water as well as help to maintain hardness in the water. The pH level is the concentration of hydrogen ion in the water. We know that plants often do well in a neutral pH level of around 7. The affect the coral gravel has on the organisms will depend on how much the coral gravel raises the pH level.Hypothesis: If coral gravel is added to the ecocolumn, then the organisms will be able to better survive because of a raised pH level.B. Background Research1. A self-sustaining ecosystem is a community of many different types of organisms. Within the ecosystem all of the organisms interact with each other, and they react to their physical environment as well. Every living organism requires energy to survive, and the amount of energy available in the ecosystem determines how many organisms are able to survive in the ecosystem. In the ecosystem there must be producers and consumers. The producers convert the energy from their environment into organic molecules that can be used by other organisms. Consumers then consume the energy from other organisms that the producers had produced. A type of consumer is a decomposer which consumes organic waste. Through these producers and consumers, the energy available in the ecosystem is cycled. A self-sustaining ecosystem is able to survive on its own using this cycle.2. The first organism is the orb snail (Heliosoma Genus). It can obtain oxygen through a lung, and it gets the oxygen from the surface. We chose it because it can eat decaying plants and algae and keep the water clean. What it eats is decayed plants and algae, and it likes to live in small ponds and lakes. We are going to use 2 snails for each so the reproduce and keep down plant population, but are not too invasive. One of the plants we chose to use is the Azolla Water Fern (Azolla Genus). The Azolla water fern has blue-green algae. We chose it because it provides shelter, minerals, and nutrients for all the organisms. They make their own food, and like to live in still, fresh water. We are going to use 30 mL of Azolla, because we need a bunch of them to supply enough nutrients.The next plant we chose to use is the Wolfia plant (Wolfia Genus). Wolfia is the smallest flowering plant in the world. We chose it because it reproduces fast and supplies lots of food to the orb snails. It makes its own food, and likes to float in still, fresh water. We are using 20 mL of Wolfia because Wolfia are really small so we need enough, and they are a key producer of food for the orb snails, because they reproduce fast and probably leave behind lots of remnants.The last plant we will be using will be the Pigmy Chain Sword (Echinodorus Genus). They have green, grassy type leaves, and can be medium to light green in color (depending on the type). We chose the mainly because they produce LOTS of oxygen in the water. They make their own food, and like to live in slightly acidic water at around 22°-30° Celsius. We will use 20 mL of P.C.S. so it will produce plenty of oxygen in the water.The first small organisms we're using are Water Fleas (Daphnia Genus). They are pathogenic and are usually predators or herbivores. We chose them because they will keep the flask clean by eating all the leftovers. They eat bacteria, fine detritus, small algae, and any other nutrients provided by the plants. They are most commonly found in ponds and lakes. We are using 4 mL of them because they have very distinct characteristics (i.e. they eat fine detritus) that are not found in many other organisms, and can be helpful to our ecosystem.The next small organisms that we're using are Hydras (Hydra Genus). They can regenerate any piece of their body. We chose them because they probably won't die out because they can be fierce predators, and we needed something to control the growth of the other two small organisms. Hydras are fresh water hydroids and they eat other small marine creatures. We decided to use 4 mL of the Hydras because it's enough to get them started, but not too many to have them grow wildly.The last small organisms we are going to use are Copepods (Copepoda Order). They are similar to some types of plankton and are predators. We chose them because they are vital to the food chain because their guts accelerate the flow of nutrients. They eat most types of small nutrients, and like fresh water. We decided to have 4 ml of Copepods in our flask because their guts are necessary, but we don't want too much to have them grow out of control.There are four main abiotic factors. One is the water. It will provide support for the plants and organisms and provide oxygen. The next is the coral gravel. The coral gravel will buffer the Ph level in the water and keep the water clean and comfortable for the organisms. The third is regular rocks. The regular rocks will provide a place to hang on to for some of the plants and organisms and give shelter or shade to any organism that wants it. Lastly is sand. The sand will provide shelter for plants and organisms. All of these will contribute to the column of stability by keeping the environment favorable for the plants and organisms.3. We have, in total, three different types of producers, three different types of living organisms (small), and one type of snail. We predict that the three producers will absorb the sun and produce nutrients (photosynthesis), and these nutrients will be dispersed into the water. Also, the pigmy chair swords will oxygenate the water and because the Wolfia plant reproduces fast, they will provide a lot of food for the snails. The snails will be helpful by cleaning up any decaying plants and algae. Water fleas also feed on decaying plants. The copepods' guts are supposed to be vital to the food chain because they increase the flow of nutrients and help the other organisms get food. The water fleas, copepods, and hydras will all eat the nutrients provided by the producers. We also think that the hydras will eat some of the water fleas and copepods because they are known to eat the other organisms around them. This will probably manage the amount of the other organisms in our ecocolumn. Finally, if there are microbes in our ecocolumn, then they will help keep the flask clean by eating away at any decayed plants.4. We will set up a controlled ecosystem that does not need any maintenance. To do this we will need to set up a population that supports itself and does not cause one species to overpopulate. We will set the number of plants to about 6 for every herbivore, and 2 herbivores for every carnivore. We will need orb snails to start because they multiply fast due to its low trophic level and eat decomposed plants. Bacteria will be introduced by itself through other organisms to decompose and clean the ecosystem's contents. The population of the plants must be the biggest because they provide the sun's energy to water fleas, and copepods (herbivores) which consume some energy and lose a little in the process they will also cleanse the tank and provide decomposers food. Energy will then travel to hydras which will need an abundance of food because a lot of energy is lost as it travels to each organism. The biomass will get lower on the higher levels of the pyramid per population to stabilize the ecosystem. The organisms with a low energy conversion rate will need the most food and will most likely be harmed so we will use only 4 mL of hydras in our experimental and control. Our biotic factors will include the plants Azolla water fern, pigmy chain sword, and Wolfia that feed water fleas and copepods. Then they clean and feed the hydras and then the hydras will die and provide food for the orb snails. Our abiotic factors will include our experimental variable coral gravel and vary the amount as well as add some rocks and this will be held in a plastic container. The rocks, coral gravel and plants should create a niche for many organisms and a livable habitat. The nitrogen and carbon will be provided as food starting the food chain at the plants. The oxygen will be absorbed through the water. The other nutrients will be provided by the contents of the water or food. We have chosen organisms with their primary food to avoid competition, but we will have to observe the consumption of the plants. We will watch out for limiting factors and only limit the growth of organism through the food chain. We will also try to maintain a community of organisms that help each other as in symbiosis. The Orb Snails will slow the pH level of the ecosystem and the bacteria will help it and the ammonia level eventually reach a stable point, cleaning the water. Most dead organisms will be decomposed by orb snails and various bacteria. This combination of nutrients, abiotic and biotic factors, and water purification will hopefully make a closed ecosystem.5. Everyday we will conduct tests to observe what creates certain conditions and how to change them. Everyday we will need to record the temperature with a thermometer and record the effects on the different climate organisms. A healthy range would be close to a little below room temperature. Every three days we should check the amount of dissolved compounds to see how fast the nutrients are being used. The compounds oxygen, carbon dioxide, phosphates and nitrates could tell if too much of one element is being produced creating an unhealthy unbalance. If these elements are decreasing quickly then they might not level out before killing many organisms and so it is a good indicator if they are unchanged or slowly changing. Ammonia and pH levels should be tested to see if there is too many organisms that produce it and if they are at harmful levels and need more cleansing organisms. pH levels should never exceed 7.5 or go below 3.0. pH tests should be taken every other day. If these tests prove that the ecosystem is leveling out or it is balanced then there should not be a significant change in the number of organisms to balance out the ecosystem.6. There have been other related experiments involving creating a self-sustaining ecosystem. One example is the EcoSphere. (http://www.eco-sphere.com/home.htm). In the case of the EoSphere, scientists have created a self-sustaining ecosystem within a glass circle or sphere. All the EcoSphere's need to survive is a source of light because they are already self-sustaining. They are filled with sea water and a number of different organisms. However, the EcoSphere can only typically survive for up to two years. Also, what differs from our own experiment is that these EcoSpheres were created by top scientists from NASA. The EcoSphere is very close to what we are trying to achieve with our own ecocolumns.C. Materials List1. Orb Snails (Heliosoma Genus) 42. Azolla water fern (Azolla Genus)- 1 oz.- p. 99- 86W5400- Ward's Natural Science Book- $6.25- using 60 mL3. Wolfia (Wolfia Genus)- using 40 mL4. Pigmy Chain Sowrd (Echinodorus Genus)- using 40 mL5. Water Fleas (Daphnia Genus)- using 8 mL6. Hydras (Hydra Genus)- Green Hydra- 87W2120- p. 115- $7.95- Ward's Natural Schience Book- using 8 mL7. Copepods (Copepoda Order)- p. 123- Ward's Natural Science Book- $6.20- 87W6020- using 8 mL8. 50 mL of coral gravel9. 800 mL of sterile fresh water10. 40 mL of rock11. 100 mL of sandD. Flask Construction Procedure1. We will first order all our products this will include ordering, 4 orb snails (Heliosoma Genus), 60 mL Azolla water ferns (Azolla Genus), 40 mL Wolfia (Wolfia Genus), 40 mL Pigmy Chain Sword (Echinodorus Genus), 8 mL Water Fleas (Daphnia Genus), 8 mL Hydras (Hydra Genus), and 8 mL Copepods (Copepoda Order). We will use half of each of these for each ecocolumn, We will also include 50 mL of sand, 400 mL of sterile fresh water, and 20 mL of rock for each ecocolumn. In one of the ecocolumns we will include 50 mL of coral gravel.2. We will measure out or abiotic factors and make sure they are sterile before we proceed. We will measure the coral gravel in a graduated cylinder by poring in water and then poring in gravel to see how much the water level rises and then subtract the measure of the water to the measure of the water and coral gravel to get an accurate measure of 50 mL of the coral gravel. This coral gravel will only be used in one of the ecolcolumns. We will repeat this procedure to measure the rocks substituting the coral gravel for rocks and using new water which we will measure to 20 mL. After the rocks and coral gravel are measured then we will measure the water to 400 mL of water. We will then measure 50 mL of sand. We will repeat all of the same steps for the other container, excluding the coral gravel.3. We will wash out the container and then set up the environment. We will spread the coral gravel over the experimental ecosystem and regular sand over the control. We will then place 20 mL of rocks in each container on the coral gravel.4. When the gravel, sand, and rock are in place we will carefully add the water.5. We will wait until everything has settled in each container and then we will add the plants carefully setting the ferns, and chain swords in the gravel in the gravel, and then putting the Wolfia on the top to float.6. Once we wait a few minutes letting the plants settle we will begin putting in our animals. We will drop in a different species every minute in each container starting with the snails then proceeding to copepods, water fleas, and Hydras in order.7. Finally when everything has settled we will tightly screw in the lid and set them on a spot near the window where they both get equal light.E. VariablesControlled Variables:1) Water amount - We will measure about 400 ml of water in a beaker twice.2) Water content - We will get the water from the same sink and use the same beaker.3) Water temperature - We will keep them in the same room with the same room temperature (approximately 72°).4) Sunlight for plants - We will place them right next to each other and in places where they will receive equal amounts of sun and shade.5) Movement - If we move one flask to view it, we will move the other.6) Equal number of plants - We will put the same number of each plant species in each flask.- 30 mL of Azolla water ferns, 4 mL of Hydras, and 20 mL of Wolfia7) Equal number of organisms - We will put the same number of each organism in each flask.- 2 orb snails, 20 mL of Pigmy Chain Sword, 4mL of water fleas, and 4mL of Copepods.8) Equal rocks - We will put the same size, type and amount of rocks in each flask.- 20 mL9) Put together the same time - We will assemble the flasks at the same time.10) Set up - We will use the same procedure and steps for each flask.11) Arrangement - We will place the rocks, sticks, plants, etc. in the same place for each flask.12) Equal amount of sand- The sand can provide a home for the organisms and help them survive, so we will be using the same amount in each ecocolumn.- 50 mLExperimental Variable: Coral GravelIn one flask, we will include 50 mL of coral gravel. In the other, we will not put any coral gravel in.Dependent Variables:Each day we will conduct tests to observe what creates certain conditions and how to change them. We will record the temperature with a thermometer and record the effects of different climate organisms. Every three days we will test the amount of dissolved compounds to find out how fast the nutrients are being used. Oxygen, carbon dioxide, phosphates, and nitrates can tell us if too much of one element is being produced and making a dangerous unbalance. Ammonia and pH levels should be tested to see if there are too many organisms that produce it and if they are at harmful levels and need more cleansing organisms. pH levels should never exceed 7.5 or go below 3.0. The pH tests should be taken every other day. It these tests prove that the ecosystem is leveling out or it is balanced then there should not be a significant change in the number of organisms to balance out the ecosystem.F. Random ErrorTo prevent some random error we will take the most careful precautions. We will make sure that all abiotic factors including rock, coral gravel, the water and the container are sterile. Possibly if one of these were not cleaned then it could bring in some unexpected variables that can damage or change our project. We will always make sure our container is secured tightly because there is always a possibility of a leak of water and some of the organisms escaping if it is not closed. When ever we handle the container we will make sure we turn it slowly and carefully without changing the environment. If one of the containers is shifted and the control isn't then that is another variable we now have to take into account. We will make sure we keep a safe procedure throughout this experiment.G. Environment Our ecocolumn experiment can teach us a lot about the environment and how to take care of it. First of all, we will see the interactions between organisms and plants. They all will rely on each other to survive. In our environment humans are so quick to destroy trees and other aspects of nature. From this project, people can see how much everything in the environment is linked to everything else. Maybe then they will think twice about destroying one aspect of the environment. Also, we will see the impact of the type of organisms we're using. Most of our organisms will be very tiny and hard to see. However, these organisms will grow, provide for other organisms, and rely on other organisms. We will learn that everything in our environment, no matter how small, can do a lot and is very important. Through this experiment, we will all learn a lot about our own environment and hopefully our careless attitude towards the environment will change significantly.H. SOURCESEcoSphere. [Online]. Ecosphere Associates Inc. Available: http://www.eco-sphere.com/home.htm [2005,Oct.1].The University of Hawaii System. (2005, August 30). Ecosystem Project. [Online]. 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