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Advancing undergraduate learning in aquatic geochemistry

Advancing undergraduate learning in aquatic geochemistry

Program: Water Center U-M Capacity Building Grants
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Photo by Dave Brenner, SEAS


Rose M. Cory, U-M Earth and Environmental Sciences

Project Summary

Beginning in the Winter 2014 semester , the University of Michigan will offer a course on the chemical composition of freshwaters and the role of natural organic matter in freshwater ecosystem processes . This course has not been taught in over ten years and is currently a gap in the U-M water curriculum. Dr. Rose Cory will develop and teach Aquatic Geochemistry  (EARTH 478), which will involve 20-30 students per year and will include lecture and lab components.

Funds from the Water Center will be used to offset the purchase of a cutting-edge instrument, an Aqualog spectrometer, which will be used as a teaching tool to achieve three specific objectives.

  1. Develop and teach new lessons and laboratory activities in Aquatic Geochemistry. Using the Aqualog in the laboratory course will teach students how dissolved organic matter fuels bacterial respiration, acts as sunscreen for aquatic organisms, influences the fate of pollutants, contributes to freshwater acidity, and creates disinfection byproducts during drinking water treatment.  Students will also complete independent projects in the lab using the Aqualog’s analytical capabilities.
  2. Increase undergraduate participation in freshwater research. Through the U-M Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), Cory will mentor 2-4 students per year as they complete independent research projects on the chemistry of local freshwaters including the Huron River and Third Sister Lake. They will use the Aqualog to develop a database of water temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen and dissolved organic material quantity and quality from biweekly samples.
  3. Strengthen outreach capabilities in freshwater science. Cory will build outreach capabilities in freshwater science by providing hands-on experience in water sampling and analysis to youth participating in the ECOGirls and other established programs at U-M, and by working with teachers to modify laboratory modules activities to develop context-appropriate, age-specific freshwater lab modules for K-12 to undergraduate students.