Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
UNIVERSITY LEVEL RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: NEKTON USE OF INVASIVE PHRAGMITES
A central goal of science education is to actively engage students so that they can experience first hand the challenges and rewards of carrying out basic and applied research. This goal can be difficult to attain at the high school level because of limited resources and limited research training of educators. We provide an example of how these limitations can be overcome through collaborations between students, educators, and university faculty. Learning objectives included experimental design (e.g., randomization, replication), site assessment, logistics, water safety, data collection, nekton identification techniques, data entry, introduction to statistical analysis, and development of oral and written communication skills. To achieve these outcomes, we performed a comparative study of nekton use of invasive Phragmites marsh habitat in the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana and Jamaica Bay in New York. Marsh investigation in the Delta included assessment of constructed wetlands in crevasse splays formed by sediment diversion projects. We made collections from multiple sites in each wetland system and stratified samples within each site to test hypotheses about edge effects on habitat use. Phragmites habitat in the Mississippi River delta is less fragmented and maintains substantially more above ground vegetation during the spring than similar habitat in Jamaica Bay. Accordingly, nekton abundance and diversity were much higher in Phragmites habitat in the Mississippi River delta. There was little evidence for an edge effect within the first 10 m of Phragmites habitat. Phragmites is an essential habitat for nekton in the Mississippi River delta during the winter and spring. Sediment diversion projects in the Mississippi River delta are successful in constructing new wetland habitat in areas that were formerly open water.