Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
EROSION STUDY OF THE RODEO-CHEDISKI FIRE AREA, WHITE MOUNTAINS, ARIZONA—A HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENT BASED RESEARCH PROGRAM
Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on rural communities and a major impact upon the populations of these areas. However, natural disasters can also provide opportunities for the high school students of these areas to understand their local ecology, undertake a hands-on scientific study, and have a potential impact on community policies. For example, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in Arizona, 2002, burned approximately 462,000 acres of ponderosa pine forest in central Arizona. In July 2003, the National Forest Service received permission to harvest the burned logs from this area. One point of concern about this logging was the environmental damage that might ensue, including the increased erosion of soils. Students from Show Low High School are actively investigating the soil erosion caused by the Rodeo-Chediski Wildfire and the subsequent logging of the burned wood. The goal of this project is to give students an opportunity to understand and have an impact on environmental decisions in their community, and to let them experience scientific inquiry first hand. We are challenging them to examine their own and others existing ideas about the ecology of forests and forest management practices and have them explore new ideas about forest management from a scientific perspective. The methods used in the project are relatively simple, with the construction of silt fences to catch sediment being eroded from unburned, burned, and burned/logged areas. This sediment is collected and weighted, and then the erosion rates are calculated and compared between the three different areas. Through this process, students are generating real data on the erosion rates resulting from wildfires and logging that will be of value to the local and scientific communities.