Team Members

T. M.

Sarah Howard and two interns from Earthos came in and talked about water preservation and water consumption. Initially, they discussed water consumption; we talked about how much water is on the Earth to utilize (3% fresh water, .03% is usable), and how much we use in every day tasks and in industry. Washing machines, toilets, and sinks all use a lot of water within the house, and a shocking amount of water is used in production, specifically in the production of jeans (5-8 gallons). We then talked about water preservation using the Earthos bioregional and scaled thinking. Sarah Howard first started describing the state of the Ipswich River, and the effects of fishing and draining of the water for human consumption. She then moved to a water shed, and later to rivers in Massachusetts as a whole, and described the connected effects of overusing and affecting each one.

On Wednesday we had Begabati come in to talk about medicinal plants and how we could use them to heal sickness and how they can be poisonous. Poke weed is an example of a poisonous plant that could kill if eaten. She also showed us the purple coneflower which helps build your immune system and fights against infections. After lunch Iris came and showed us what plants we could eat like elderberry and plants you can't eat like water hemlock. Iris told us that the elderberry can be made into syrup and jam ,and it can also help build your immune system. The water hemlock killed Socrates because he ate it and he felt the numbness from the feet up.

On Friday Matt Wilson gave a brief introduction to water quality, and then we went outside to begin the testing on the our own zones within the reservation. At our zones (3 and 6) we tested for the levels of phosphate, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, coliform, pH, temperature, and turbidity. It was interesting to learn how the MyWRA and professionals tested water quality, and some of our findings were striking. For example, our pH levels were surprisingly neutral as they averaged around a score of 7. Additionally, our dissolved oxygen was higher than expected. Nitrate was low and phosphate was good. Later, two interns from MyWRA came and further presented on dissolved oxygen. We learned that dissolved oxygen is key to any ecosystem as it supports all life, and they also showed us their advanced machinery that they use for expedited testing. Overall, we learned a lot about water quality and got an insight into how it is tested for.

We went to the State House on Monday and advocated for the reservation to three different legislative aides: the aide for Representative Provost, the chief of staff for Senator Jehlen, and the aide for Representative Garbelly. Each meeting was very informative, and it was clear from talking to the aides that each representative/Senator was pretty invested in the environment. Our group specifically focused on Senator Jehlen; we each asked a question to the chief of staff. Tenzin's question was: Considering that we have a low fish population in Cambridge waters, what could Senator Jehlen do about raising and protecting the fish population? Senator Jehlen's chief of staff's answer was that he doesn't know much about the fish, but he does know that habitats were altered in the building of dams and through development, but they are making a lot of fish ladders to aid in the upstream migration of fish. Zarifa's question was: Is it possible to add green spaces into Cambridge, and if so what possible steps could be made to add them? The answer to the question was a little disheartening; the chief of staff essentially said that there is not even enough green space to begin with, and based on the dense population there is not much space to alter. However, he did say that Senator Jehlen advocates for green space to be added whenever there is the opportunity. Ryan's question was: What action could the Senator take to help with the water quality of Little River, the main river in the Alewife Reservation, given that it was awarded a D- in the latest EPA assessment? The chief of staff did not really give a straight answer, saying that it was a concern but not addressing a plan of action. Overall, we learned about different stances and possible actions legislators can take as they work, however we also learned that it is very difficult for any change to actually be enforced.

7/29 (Field Trip: Deer Island)

We visited the island to learn about what MWRA (Mass. Water Resource Authority) does. They receive sewage water from many cities and treat the water, flushing back out the waste into the ocean. We absorbed several facts regarding the process of the MWRA's cleaning system. For one, trash can back up the system therefore it's very important that only liquids and items that are able to break down, go into the toilet. "Flushable" baby wipes actually aren't flushable because when the cloth is submerged in water, it does not break down. The storm water wetlands is where you treat the water in Cambridge. The water is cleaned through various techniques that in the end have taken out both the big and small waste. The last step is to infuse the dirty water with Sodium Hypochloride before they release it through the pipes nine miles into the ocean. In the past, they used to release the water into Boston Harbor but no longer do so because it harms the creatures within. Overall, Deer Island taught us to be more mindful of what we flush into toilets.

7/27/16 (Guest: Jim Lowry)

We learned about animals and their benefits in ecosystems. We learned about the five different kingdoms; animal, plant, protists, bacteria, and fungae. He said that bacteria are everywhere and that there's good and bad bacteria. A major topic he talked about was integrating wolves back into the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem since the lack of them was also linked to the fall of the ecosystem (lack of wolves = elks grazing more which meant more erosion). Wolves were vital to Yellowstone National park. When wolves were there, elks had to move more which stopped excessive grazing which in turn allowed trees to grow, therefore spreading out plant life. Beaver dams helped control the flow of water and give habitat to wildlife.

07/25/16 (Guest: Ingeborg)

We learned the difference between marshes and bogs. We also learned various types of wetlands support different types of life. Numerous types of vegetation are indicative of water quality; marsh marigold and cranberries could only survive in oxygenated and flourishing water environments. An activity we did was practice drawing a wetland by creating one mentally. We learned which vegetation is good to stabilize banks, what structure or bodies of water is conducive to supporting healthy water or an area, and the names of various plants such as marsh marigold, willow, silver maple, yellow birch, etc.

Ingeborg told us some different projects she's been a part of such as clearing out invasive plants, reestablishing native plants, and creating wetlands. Overall, her presentation was very informative; we learned about various bodies of water in the area.


We gathered macro invertebrates (spineless and backbone-less bugs) in Sites 6 and 3. Many macro invertebrates we found were scuds, leeches, blood worms, dragonflies, etc. Dragonflies go through metamorphosis. They have less outward wings than damselflies.

We identified different macro invertebrates by viewing dead ones in little tubes and trying to match them with the pictures on the sheet.

Below are ranges of pH levels that are good or bad for macro invertebrates to live in. The more basic the water is, the better (to a point).

Excellent 3.6+

Good 2.6-3.6

Fair 2.1-2.5

Poor 1-2

The waters weren’t in great condition because they had particularly bad bacteria (for humans). Going deeper into the water posed a threat to human legs because of deep sticky mud that you could potentially sink into. Site 3’s water smelled like methane which emitted a strong, foul odor. The water is unbalanced chemically and the water bubbles once you step into it. There’s also a lot of sediment and trash. There were a lot of scuds in Site 3 but not a large variety of macro invertebrates. Section 6 had much more organisms, emitted no smell, and seemed cleaner. We also saw a turtle lingering 100-200 feet from the sites.

One solution to improve water quality of both sites is to remove the sediment by scooping it up.

Our expectations of the reservation were that it would be nicer (less sediment, clearer and better smelling water, and no trash) and safer (less thistles, thorns, and poison ivy). However, this beauty mainly subjects to the aesthetic appearance of the reservation rather than what is within. However some areas smell bad and while walking between sites, people have gotten hurt by thistles and thorns.


We watched a fish presentation here and learned about different fish. We learned about the electrical poles, which stun fish to help people catch them. This also posed a threat of electrocution if a human was to come in contact with that water.


For solar panels, you only pay down payment of the panels and no monthly fees like you would pay for electrical energy (most common source). Solar energy is reusable and its panels cannot emit energy without any sun. The sun is collected in the panels in order to power buildings. Building the solar puppy (from a toy kit) was tricky because of a lack of well-written directions. Wind turbines also emit reusable energy. When the wind blows against the turbine, it gains energy.

At the Reservation, the water at Blair Pond was polluted.

Week 2

It will take a lot of work to effect change on the struggling banks in the Alewife Reservation. Among the necessary tasks that need to be completed are bank restoration (with coir logs and stakes), the eradication of invasive species, nurturing of native plants, and restoration of the clay and impermeable soil. Invasive plants make up about 70% of the plant population according to Mike DeRosa, and that is not compatible with a healthy and natural space. The goal is to be majority native plants, as those are the plants that should be present and thriving, so therefore there is a lot of work to be done in weeding and destroying the invasive species. In terms of the soil, it is not very porous. That means that not a lot of water can reach the plants, and because of this the root systems are shallow which is unhealthy. In order to fix this, we would need to mix healthier soil, such as soil made through composting, with the clay so the soil can become more porous and fertile. Unfortunately, DeRosa mentioned that in order to actually impact the area we would need a lot of money and manpower. These two valuable resources are not readily available to FAR, so DeRosa predicted that the project would not be finished in the near future.

Pictures from the web based on Week 2
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They had only one pipe for sewage and storm water, and when there was a storm the pipe would overflow into the river (Combined Stormwater Overflow) which would lead into the Boston Harbor and make the Boston harbor and other rivers in the area even dirtier than they already are. The stormwater wetland was created to clean the pollution in the water and to bring animals like the green heron back to Cambridge.