L. B.
G. M.
T. M.
A. K.

Recap of the past five weeks:
This camp has been a great experience because I've learned a lot about the Alewife reservation and ecology in general. I learned about water quality, and how different factors (oxygen levels, macro-invertebrates, bacteria, etc.) can contribute to that and the environment that surrounds it. I also learned about how all the species in an ecosystem effect each other and contribute to each other's existence and wellbeing. This experience has greatly enhanced my understanding of what an ecosystem is and how it functions, and it's been very fun to learn about all the different plants and animals that exist at the reservation that I never realized could exist in an urban environment. This has made me much more conscious of my surroundings and my place in making the reservation a healthier, safer habitat for the species that depend on it for survival. I've also learned a lot about how our day-to-day lives and processes affect the environment which has made me more conscious of what I consume and produce as a member of our society.
We learned how important every little being and action was, from not killing little bugs to not pouring soda down drains, because we learned that everything comes back to us. The waste and waste water we think we are getting rid of is going through a series of systems to get back to us in a different form. If we give the system what it takes, like recycling, rain water, and toilet paper, it can reuse the items for something new. But if we give it trash, oil, and tissues, it will only spit it back up later. We learned we have to be cautious of what we throw around, because it can be highly dangerous and threatening to the environment and everything that lives in it. On a higher note, we learned about ways to help our local ecosystem. For example, bringing attention to the reservation to not only people at the top, but also civilians who can help and spread the word. Repairing banks, putting more oxygen in the water, cutting down invasive species, and more.

Last week, Sarah came in with the interns from Earthos and taught us about the importance of water and how much water goes in to manufacturing everything that we take for granted in our day to day lives. She said only 3% of the world's water is freshwater and 0.03% of the world's water is drinkable freshwater which we found very interesting. Within 60 years, supposedly, we might run out of fresh drinking water unless we change how we use our water. Sarah also covered the story about the wolves at Yellowstone National Park and added the fact that the reintroduction of the wolves to the ecosystem changed the shape of the river.

On Wednesday, Beghabeti taught us about medicinal plants that can help cure various injuries/diseases/conditions and that could be useful when working at the reservation. Later in the day, Iris taught us about edible plants and showed us several species to look out for. We were able to try some of these plants, but Iris was often unable to identify whether the plants e saw were edible or not.

On Friday, we collected water samples and conducted water quality tests, including nitrate, phosphate, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, and chloroform. As expected, most of the tests showed us that the quality to the water is fairly low, although in certain locations the dissolved oxygen was surprisingly high. From these tests we learned a lot and got a lot of hands on experience working with the water. Later on in the day, two interns from the Mystic River Watershed Association taught us about the process of testing water samples, specifically for dissolved oxygen.

On Friday, July 21st, we caught dragonflies and damselflies at sections 1 and 4. The species we observed in section 1 were the variable dancer and calico pennant. In section 4 we observed a common whitetail but no other species were found. On Monday, Ingeborg Hegemann came and presented about the various kinds of wetlands, including marshes, swamps, and bogs. We learned about the distinctions between the different kinds of wetlands and what makes them important. Jim Lowry came on Wednesday, and showed how ecosystems are very complex and that each component of a habitat contributes to the well-being of the others. When the wolves disappeared at Yellowstone National Park, for example, the park didn't have as much biodiversity and the vegetation was weak. When the wolves were introduced, life in the ecosystem thrived once more. We also learned about the five kingdoms--Animal, Plant, Bacteria, Fungi, and Protista. Lastly, on Friday we visited Deer Island. We learned a lot about the waste treatment plant, and the the journey sewage takes to safely be put into the ocean. It's a very complicated six step process to clean the waste water enough to send the healthy water 9.5 miles out to the ocean. Demonstrations were made about everything that goes down the toilet, what is okay to flush and what doesn't break down and can clog it. We also took a tour and looked at the treatment facilities. There are large egg-shaped containers from Germany that Deer Island which turn sludge into fertilizer. This process releases methane gas, and they recycle the gas and use it as a heater during the winter, which saves a lot of energy and money. The smell was, unfortunately, not very pleasant, smelling like a combination of "dead fish, rotten eggs and sewage". On the way there we had bus complications, and we had the same problems on the way back. We could not use our Charlie Cards, and had to buy tickets that were later not even accepted. We had to use a specific weekly bus ticket, and even with that the biased bus driver was reluctant to let us on. Finally we got on for free both times, and went on our way home.

July 20, 2016

On Wednesday we did the Macro-invertebrate test to determine the quality of the water at the six sites of the reservation. We did sections 1 and 4 and we found many different species: at section 1 we found dragonfly larvae, damselfly larvae, snails, pouch snails, water scorpions, scuds, and leeches, and determined that the water quality was fair. At section 4 we found damselfly larvae, riffle beetle larvae, scuds, and blood-worms, and determined that the water quality was poor. There were 32 macro-invertebrates found at section 1 and 18 at section 4. We found through the test that some species are great indicators of water quality--the less tolerable the species, the better indicator it is of an area's water quality because species like the damselfly can only survive in fairly high-quality water. Meanwhile, species like scuds can survive in low-quality water so they aren't necessarily an indicator of how good the water is in a particular area.


July 18, 2016

On Monday we learned about water quality based off the fish that lived there. We found a baby Largemouth Bass, crawfish, a minnow, and a lot of water boatman (an insect). We had a lot of different fish that lived in the pond. This is good because there is a lot of biodiversity in the water. Considering how unhealthy the water is, there were a lot of good finds. The people who were testing nearly fell multiple times because the sediment was very soft. This could be dangerous because the nutrients in the sediments could kill fish if the carp kicks up enough sediments and decrease the amount of oxygen for the fish. Later on, we found a snapping turtle that was about 1 week old in section 5.


July 13, 2016

Mike came at 9:30 and gave us a presentation about river banks and invasive species. He taught us about ways to make the water in rivers cleaner and healthier, such as replacing invasive species with native species and creating barriers along the banks of the river to prevent run-off from entering the water. We learned that about 70% of the plants along the banks of the Little River are invasive species. He also told us that sometimes invasive species can be helpful and that in one case, they were used to feed giraffes at a nearby zoo.

On Monday, we visited the sites for the first time. Everyone walked through all sites, all the way to section 1. There were many different amounts of denseness, ranging from a few trees to having to push your way through heavy thistle and other plants. This path led us to Little Pond, where there was an otter dam and a nice view of the water. We noticed many different kinds of plants, invasive and native. You could see how they took over, how big they got, and when not cut back, could grow in many different directions.

We learned that the water around the Alewife Reservation is very unhealthy, some are just dirty, and others are toxic. One way to prevent any toxic waste or unhealthy things from getting into the water, we can use natural filters. For example, we can have trees directly next to the trees, and next to the trees should be shrubs, grass, crops and so on.

I learned that it’s going to take 2-5 years to fix the river. They feed giraffes the Knotweed in the zoos to help compost the materials without spreading it further.


Insights from Week 1
Our insights for this week. Each group member contributed one observation.

I learned about one-planet living and that some people use a lot more than their fair share and that others are forced to use less than their fair share.

I learned that there are little frogs that hide in the grass

I learned how most everything plays a part in the ecosystem and in maintaining a healthy world, and we should protect these resources. This includes waste, land, all living things, and more.

I was pretty surprised that there wasn't a lot of trash around the wetland. But it was still shocking to see so much trash in one of the ponds.

It would be nice to have more signs on the south path naming the plants next to the paths and perhaps a bigger sign ‘inviting’ people into the boardwalk area.

More picnic tables would be good. It was so popular when we went.

It would be nice to have signs mentioning ticks and other risks at the reservation.

Communication and spatial awareness (like in the pole game) is useful in conservation; you can tell people where interesting things (or bad things) are located.


Our Questions:
1) Why is the water so dirty under the bridge?

2) What kinds of adaptations do geese have that let them swim and eat in such nasty water?

3) How do we balance conservation of natural spaces and access for education and enjoyment?

4) Why are there not drinking fountains at the Reservation?

5) Why is the water in the ponds with the fountains cleaner than the water in the Little River?

6) Are there any other open spaces in the Cambridge area that could be protected?