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Deer Island Field Trip
Deer Island is where the waste water from most of the Boston metropolitan area goes. Deer Island is a key factor in keeping the Boston Harbor clean. In the past Boston Harbor was polluted from the sewage runoff and combined sewer overflow. Deer Island collects and treats the waste water and sends it 9 and a half miles into the ocean. We learned about the 7 steps in the process of treating the water. The byproduct from this process which is methane is also used as an energy source to save money.The human waste that is removed form the process is treated and made into bay-state fertilizer. It was very interesting to see the facility where all of our waste water is cleaned.

Symbiosis and Jim Lowry
There are 5 kingdoms, the animals, the plants, the fungi, the protists, and the bacteria. Bacteria is essential for the survival of the other 4 kingdoms. Bacteria decomposes stuff, which improves soil quality and provides food for plants. If you imagine the kingdom of life as a hand, the bacteria would be the thumb, since everything relies on the bacteria for survival. We also learned about symbiosis. Symbiosis is when organisms work together, and benefit the environment in the process. An example of this would be Yellowstone National Park. After wolves were brought back into the ecosystem the population of deer and elk declined. They also started to avoid certain areas where they feared being eaten. Because of this aspen and other types of trees came back, supporting the riverbanks and preventing erosion. This also brought back beavers and birds. The wolves left food that other animals like bears could eat. This is a perfect example of symbiosis, as something as unexpected as the wolves, one of the top predators in the food chain can impact not only the other animals, but the environment itself.

Wetlands Discussion
We had previously learned about the storm water wetlands in Alewife. Ingeborg Hegemann recently came to teach us about wetlands in general. We learned the difference between marshes, bogs, and swamps, which are all types of wetlands. We learned more about how wetlands offer a unique living environment that works as a wildlife sanctuary. There are too many plant and animal species that play a role in the wetland ecosystem to list, but something important to note is that practically everything living thing in a wetland is tied together. For a very long time wetlands, particularly swamps and bogs have been viewed as undesirable living habitats. Only recently have we begun to study and realize the great living conditions that wetlands can provide. Something I found interesting was what we learned about bog iron. Bog iron are big lumps of iron that form over time, as the iron in a bog starts to sink and is forced together. These lumps of iron take many years to form. In medieval Europe the majority of iron used for weapons and building came from bog iron. Mining for bog iron offered jobs to many people, as it took a lot of labor just to find and dig up the iron. It was very interesting to learn not only how our view of wetlands is different today from the past but also how wetlands were utilized in the past.

July 20 2016

Macro Invertebrates
Arlene Olivera from The Nature Conservancy came to teach us about macro invertebrates. She showed us the different families of macro invertebrates, and how you can evaluate the quality of water by what species of invertebrates are living in the water. This can be done because different families of invertebrates have different tolerances to pollution. They can be divided into four families. Tolerant, Semi-Tolerant, Semi-Sensitive, and Sensitive. Sensitive species of macro invertebrates are not well equipped to survive in water will pollution or low oxygen levels. Knowing this, if you find an invertebrate that is very sensitive to pollution you know that you must have pretty good water quality. You can go to a body of water and try to catch macro invertebrates, and record how many, and what species are living there. You can then calculate a score that represents the quality of your water. Unfortunately our sections did not score very well for water quality, which is important to know when you are working with the ecosystem as a whole. Section 5 got a score of 2.1, which just barely makes it into the "Fair" range. This water is very unhealthy. Section 2 scored a 3.3, which is within the "Good" range. However it is hard to tell exactly how accurate these results are, considering how small our sample size was, and the fact that we only spent 1 day collecting data.

July 18, 2016

Fish and Insects Day
Josh presented about the species of fish found at Alewife Reservation. We talked about the native species found at Alewife Reservation like the Alewife, Sunfish, Large Mouth Bass. Sea Herring migrate between the fresh waters and the ocean Sea herring come to fresh water to spawn their eggs and then after they are born they migrate to the ocean to live. They used to be native in New England but their species have decreased by 85% because of industrial fishing in the ocean. Sea Herring were not meant to be caught but were caught in bycatch. This results in the population of Sea Herring decreasing because they are not able to come back to fresh waters to lay their eggs. We also watched video of different hunting methods used by fish. They were visually quite interesting. After that Jake presented on the anatomy of Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Harnessing the Sun
Last week we met with Quinton Zondervan, the president of GreenCambridge. GreenCambridge is a non-profit organization that lobbies for green energy and environmentally friendly practices in the Cambridge and Somerville area. Although solar energy is getting more affordable, for many people installing solar panels is still a very large investment. It's true that solar panels pay for themselves over the course of a few years, but it's a big payment up front that for many people is unaffordable. Solar energy is becoming more widespread though, and hopefully as more and more people convert to green energy the price and availability of solar energy will continue to improve. Another topic Quinton explored was wind energy. Wind energy is different from solar energy since wind energy is less of a decision an individual has to make, and more of an effort as a community. Wind energy can be extremely effective off of shorelines, where there is constant air flow. Private organizations are fighting for the installation of wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts, with the hopes of utilizing the large amount of wind off the coast. Hopefully wind energy will gain popularity as much as solar energy, and GreenCambridge has been a key role in the growth of green energy in the Cambridge area.

July 13, 2016

Presentation by Mike DeRosa
First, bank erosion prevention takes a lot of man power, time and money. Invasive species further complicate the process of preventing bank erosion. Invasive species take space from the native plants and animals and there are very few things that can stop them from spreading. Most of the time there aren't native animals or insects that eat the invasive plants, meaning there is absolutely no benefit to letting the invasive species grow. We have learned that it is important to prevent erosion using methods that positively impact the environment and also will work as a long term solution. One of these methods involves replacing the invasive species living on the river banks with native plants, particularly ones with deep root systems, which will naturally hold the bank together and prevent erosion. Many times wood posts can also be used on a steep river bank to support the bank and prevent it from crumbling. A combination of these methods are live stakes, which are trees that are grown on the riverbank. These live stakes are often behind coir logs, which act as a place where more seeds and live stakes can grow. This method is meant to continue to improve the river bank, as over time more seedlings will grow and replace the old vegetation.

July 6, 2016

First Thoughts on the Alewife Reservation
Although neither of us had spent much time at the reservation, it was relaxing and pleasant to experience for the first time yesterday. Despite all of the beautiful wildlife and vegetation, it seemed as though people didn't appreciate the reservation as much as we would have expected. We went the the construction site that had previously been the Silver Maples forest. Even though we had heard all about the struggles of the community to stop the destruction of the forest, it was even more powerful to see it in person. Although the construction is being done to provide more living space, a cause that isn't a horrible idea by itself, it was hard not to view the construction as a disrespect to the reservation. Despite this, we are excited to see and explore the reservation to its fullest.

July 6, 2016

Storm water and how it connects to Alewife
Storm water is constantly flowing within the Alewife Reservation. Storm water is filled with pollution; it may contain oil and other artificial fluids from vehicles, as well as litter from the community. Pollution is especially prominent in storm water if there has not been rain for a while. Called the first flush, this initial rain carries an abnormally large amount of pollutants into the forebay. Street cleaning is essential in the attempt to mitigate the effects of the first flush. It flows in through an inlet into the forebay, and is filtered there. The water stands still, and sedimentation occurs with big particles, and other big pollutants such as coffee cups and cigarette butts are left in the forebay as well. The cleaner storm water then works its way towards Little River, getting further filtered as it travels through the wetland. Eventually, the water enters Little River much cleaner then when it initially entered the system.