Kids study Brandy­wine wa­ter

Ken­nett stu­dents give Brandy­wine wa­ter qual­ity an A+

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tom Ta­tum tatumt2@ya­

There’s some wel­comed news for those of us who spend time fish­ing, kayak­ing, ca­noe­ing, and tub­ing down the West Branch of the Brandy­wine Creek -- and for those of us who just care about the en­vi­ron­ment in gen­eral -all thanks to a re­cent study con­ducted by a group of bud­ding young en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tists from Ken­nett High School.

Back on Oct. 4, Mr. Mike Re­plogle’s AP En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence Class aban­doned the musty con­fines of the class­room for the great out-of-doors, em­bark­ing on a Ca­noe­ing Wa­ter Qual­ity Stream Study in con­cert with the Brandy­wine Red Clay Al­liance who helped sub­si­dize the cost of the ca­noe rentals. Twenty-two stu­dents paired to­gether in eleven ca­noes launched from Cor­co­ran’s Bridge that morn­ing un­der partly cloudy, chilly skies. Thus be­gan the four hour en­vi­ron­men­tal study on the roil­ing wa­ters of the West Brandy­wine.

The AP stu­dents, a mix of sopho­mores, ju­niors, and se­niors boast­ing a wide range of ca­noe­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from novice to ex­pert, were ac­com­pa­nied by Re­plogle and Ken­nett High School Earth and Space Sci­ence teacher Jess Bew­ley rid­ing shot­gun in their re­spec­tive kayaks. Brandy­wine Red Clay Al­liance en­vi­ron­men­tal in­struc­tors Jen Roth and Vail Ryan also served as chap­er­one guides. Ac­cord­ing to Re­plogle, the group en­joyed clear, nav­i­ga­ble wa­ters with good stream flow that day.

Re­plogle, age 47, has taught sci­ence at Ken­nett for 20 years, but this is his first year teach­ing the new AP En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence Class for which he de­vel­oped the school cur­ricu­lum in ac­cor­dance with Col­lege Board guide­lines. “As­pects of this study as­sessed phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of the

stream,” he noted. “This in­cluded depth, width, wa­ter ve­loc­ity, tem­per­a­ture, tur­bid­ity, and aquatic veg­e­ta­tion.”

The study also con­sid­ered stream chem­istry and eval­u­ated the lev­els of ni­trate, ni­trites, and dis­solved oxy­gen present. But the most fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of the re­search was an in­ven­tory of tiny lit­tle an­i­mals called macroin­ver­te­brates (or macros for short) that the stu­dents cap­tured. These tiny crit­ters serve as a pri­mary in­di­ca­tor of wa­ter qual­ity and are di­vided into three classes which re­flect their re­spec­tive abil­ity to tol­er­ate im­pu­ri­ties and pol­lu­tants in the wa­ter.

Class III macros are most tol­er­ant; an ex­cess of them sug­gests poor wa­ter qual­ity. These in­clude aquatic worms, midge fly larva, black­fly larva, leeches, and a va­ri­ety of snails. The Ken­nett stu­dents col­lected all but black­fly larva. Class II crit­ters are less tol­er­ant and in­clude the cray­fish, crane­fly larva, clams, and bee­tle larva that the Ken­nett stu­dents cap­tured dur­ing their ex­cur­sion. Other Class II macros that were not un­cov­ered by the study in­clude sow­bugs, scuds, dam­sel­fly larva, dragonfly larva, and wa­ter-snipe fly larva.

“All of these macros were cap­tured by stu­dents us­ing some­thing called a kick net,” ex­plained Re­plogle, “and the ab­sence of some of the bugs and larva that weren’t col­lected may be a fac­tor of sea­sonal con­di­tions like wa­ter tem­per­a­tures.”

But a key in­di­ca­tor of good wa­ter qual­ity is the pres­ence of Class I macros, crea­tures that are least tol­er­ant of pol­lu­tion and im­pu­ri­ties. These in­clude stone­fly larva, cad­dis­fly larva, wa­ter penny, rif­fle bee­tle larva, dob­son­fly larva, Mayfly

larva, and gilled snail. The Ken­nett stu­dents col­lected all of these species and recorded high num­bers of most of them.

All of this data was ap­plied to a for­mula that re­sulted in a wa­ter qual­ity in­dex of “Ex­cel­lent.” “The Brandy­wine Red Clay folks were sur­prised that the stu­dents col­lected so many Class I macros,” said Re­plogle. “The stream chem­istry pa­ram­e­ters also all checked out within ac­cept­able ranges for ex­cel­lent wa­ter qual­ity,” he said, “so the grade we would as­sign to that stretch of the West Brandy­wine be­tween Cor­co­ran’s Bridge where we launched and North­brook where we ended is an A plus, a grade that ap­plies only to the sec­tion we stud­ied on that day. The wa­ter qual­ity might or might not be the same up­stream or down­stream from the study seg­ment.”

The Ken­nett AP En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the study en­joyed a great day on the Brandy­wine. “The ca­noe study was a good hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence,” said sopho­more Chris Fer­righetto. “It’s one thing to learn in the class­room, but to ac­tu­ally go out­side and do it helps re­in­force the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Se­nior Luke Bee­son con­curred. “It was nice to get out of the class­room and do some hands-on learn­ing.”

But ju­nior Juan Gon­za­lez ex­pressed some dis­ap­point­ment that the West Brandy­wine’s wa­ter qual­ity was so good. “It would have been more in­ter­est­ing if we ac­tu­ally un­cov­ered pol­lu­tants in the wa­ter,” he frowned, “which we didn’t.”

“...which is a good thing,” in­ter­jected Hor­ten­cia Or­tiz, a se­nior. “It was a nice ex­pe­ri­ence to share with my class­mates, es­pe­cially since my part­ner and I had no prior ca­noe­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. “But with the guid­ance of Mr. Rep and the other chap­er­ones we made

it through okay.”

At the other end of the pad­dling pro­fi­ciency spec­trum was vet­eran ca­noeist Max Judd, a ju­nior. “I think I learned more than I ex­pected to,” he said. “And the bonus was that we got to en­joy a re­laxed day on the wa­ter. Also, the guides from the Brandy­wine Red Clay Al­liance were su­per help­ful.”

But Re­plogle’s stal­wart stu­dents and fu­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tists are not about to rest on their laurels and will soon be ven­tur­ing out­side of the class­room again. “Next week we’re go­ing to tour the New Gar­den Waste­water Treat­ment Plant and find out how waste­water is treated there,” said Re­plogle.

In the mean­time it’s nice to know that ea­ger, en­gag­ing, in­tel­li­gent stu­dents like those at Ken­nett High School guided by con­cerned and car­ing men­tors like Mike Re­plogle and sup­ported by or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Brandy­wine Red Clay Al­liance are keep­ing a close and crit­i­cal eye on the en­vi­ron­men­tal health and wel­fare of our Brandy­wine Creek, one of Ch­ester County’s most trea­sured nat­u­ral re­sources.

Bait­ing Up­date

I checked in with the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Travis Lau for the agency’s ra­tio­nale on deer bait­ing feeder re­stric­tions dis­cussed in last week’s col­umn. “The feeder used must be able to dis­pense feed au­to­mat­i­cally dur­ing hunt­ing hours,” he ex­plained. “It must be ca­pa­ble of timed re­lease, and up to three re­leases a day – all dur­ing hunt­ing hours – are per­mit­ted. The idea is to get deer into the rou­tine of com­ing to ar­eas dur­ing hunt­ing hours, to in­crease the chances they can be har­vested. If food is avail­able round the clock un­til it’s gone, it doesn’t achieve that goal.”


Ken­neett stu­dents, from left, Laure Hen, Kate Doroba, Michael Gor­cyca and Michaela Clark­son col­lect sam­ples for a wa­ter qual­ity study on the Brandy­wine.


Ken­nett AP En­vi­ron­men­tal teacher Mike Re­plogle, left, and stu­dents Max Judd, cen­ter, and Tyler Bow­doin an­a­lyze stream data on the Brandy­wine.

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