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Water Quality Partnership

Area Students and Water Quality at the North Carolina Zoological Park

An important environmental partnership continues with RandlemanStudents testing water High School and now includes participation with Asheboro High School, Zoo School and UNC-Greensboro. Community conservation involving high school and college students in hands-on science investigation is giving students valuable experience outside the classroom. In return, the N.C. Zoo is receiving important data to analyze its impact on the natural waters of the Zoo.

A total of 13 sites have been identified on Zoo property and surrounding areas for the project. Teachers feel that ecological problems that have local impact always capture the attention of their students.  Because students are investigating waters in their own community, they are naturally led to question what is happening to the water system and what they and the Zoo can do to preserve or improve its quality.

A variety of chemical tests and scientific equimpent is used by the students to test for nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen and pH levels. These tests provide the Zoo with a "snapshot" of what is in the water at the place and time it is measured. In addition, students are discovering the value of aquatic macro-invertebrates as living indicators of water quality and the overall health of a river or stream. These animals live in the waterway for years and come into contact with whatever enters the waterway over time. Some are more pollution tolerant than others, so students look at how many macro-invertebrates are found an what types are present.

As a result of their participation in the Zoo's water quality investigation, students are developing the abilities necessary to conduct scientific inquiry. They are also increasing their understanding of factors affecting environmental quality, including the interdependence of organisms and human-included hazards. This will aide students in learning how science and technology can help people solve local, national and global environmental problems.

The Zoo is greatly benefiting from the student investigations. Staff have been busy identifying potential pollution sources such as sanitary sewers, points of storm water runoff, petroleum/fuel storage areas, organic waste sites, erosion-prone areas and locales with highest rates of fertilization. Locating these sources, analyzing student-collected data and addressing corrective measures have resulted in the Zoo's  first "pollution prevention" plan. This will certainly aide the Zoo in becoming a better environmental steward by maintaining high quality natural waters for the plants and animals that live on-site and everyone who lives downstream.