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Using Soundscapes to Analyze Environments

If you were to make observations of your local environment, what types of data would you collect? Have you ever considered the sounds of the environment to be an important factor? Consider what information sounds can provide about the condition of an environment. Many ecologists study specific environments using their natural combination of sounds, called a soundscape. This innovative technique allows scientists to use more types of evidence to describe an environment and study how it may change over time.

Visualizing Your Watershed

Watersheds can be as small as a lake or thousands of square miles. The natural or human-made surface of the land and the sediments and rocks below are all part of a watershed. Rainfall
supplies watersheds, and water moves across the surface or infiltrates and moves through the ground.

In this activity you will use a computer model to explore the movement of water within your watershed.

Materials

• Computer with internet

Wash This Way!

People interact with Earth’s water (hydrosphere) in a variety of ways. We depend upon water for survival, but we also need it to keep clean and help avoid spreading disease. On our ever-changing Earth, the supply of fresh water can be limited for some humans. We need good techniques to make the best use of the fresh water we do have. For example, when you wash your hands, how do you do it? With soap and water? With water alone? Do you scrub your hands or simply rinse them under the faucet? Does it even matter? Yes, it does!

Watch Out for Landslides

Landslides not only are dangerous — causing on average more than 25 deaths and over $1 billion in damages a year — but are also widespread, occurring in all 50 states. Compounding the hazards, these natural disasters often occur along with other similar natural phenomena, such as floods or earthquakes. To minimize risk, the slope of land and materials underground must be considered when planning how to build in a community. Altering the slope of land, or even the amount of vegetation on a slope, can have dangerous consequences.

Water Filtration

Each group will design a water filtration system and present to the class, why they picked their design.

Water Quality, Dissolved Oxygen, and Phosphorous

Tap water from the kitchen has very different properties from water in a stream or a pond, even if they might appear similar. Water quality refers to the physical and chemical properties of water
that make it suitable for a particular use based on biological, physical, and chemical characteristics. A fish might live in sedimentrich water at the bottom of a lake, but you would not want to drink it!

Water: A Never-ending Story

Water on earth is used over and over. The water cycle, the continuous movement of water from ocean to air and land then back to the ocean in a cyclic pattern, is a central concept in meteorology.

Wetland in a Water Bottle

Wetlands are places where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by water or saturated at least some of the time. They include mangroves, marshes, swamps, forested wetlands, and bogs and are important nurseries for young birds, fish, amphibians, and other aquatic plants and animals. In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, wetlands offer storm protection, improve water quality, support aquatic species, and provide recreational opportunities. 

What Covers Our Land?

Looking at Earth from space is inspiring. All of the colors you see in a satellite image tell you a lot about the world around us. What is on the land around you? Pavement? A grassy lawn? A forest? What covers our land matters because we depend on and pasture to produce food, forests for wood products, plants for clean air, and water to support wildlife.

What Do Mineralogists Do?

Minerals are the naturally occurring solid materials that make up rocks and sands and are found in soil. You are probably aware of everyday minerals like halite (sodium chloride — table salt), graphite (“lead” in pencils), quartz (main mineral in beach sand), and others. As of this writing, there are 5,663 known minerals, and new ones are still being discovered. You can learn about minerals online in the Handbook of Mineralogy (https://handbookofmineralogy.org/).

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