independent field trip summary

I want 2 (1-2 page) summaries of Independent Field Trips, using the questions or guides for observations as the basis.

Choose two out of the following options. write a summary for each of your experiences, including a report on the data or information that you gathered. Each trip report will be worth 50 pts.


Make a trip to your local landfill, with or without a load. Look for evidence of the liner system. Watch how material is maneuvered within the open cell. Notice the shape of the landscape around the site. Before you go, look on Google maps or USGS topographic maps to grasp the topographic context. Where do major surface waterways flow nearby? Why was THIS location chosen to be the site of a landfill?


Visit a river or lake. Bring a thermometer. What is the surface temperature? What is the temperature 3 feet down?

Determine turbidity (the opposite of clarity) of the water. Make a homemade secchi disk: Tie a big knot on the end of a 10 ft. string. Thread it through a white plastic plate. Then thread the string through a small brick or some other weight that will keep plate from floating when placed in the water. On the string, use a sharpie to mark lines at 1, 2, 3, 4…10 ft. intervals. Lower the string/plate/weight combo into the water and, using the measurements on the string, note the depth at which you can no longer see the plate.

From both driving around and from the vantage point of the river or lake, take note of various land use patterns in the watershed feeding the river or lake. Consult a map of the region to determine what series of waterways flows into this body of water that you visited. List them. Are there any sewage treatment plants that drain into this waterway? Landfills? Septic systems? Parking lots and roadways?


Visit a forest on either public-access property (state park, conservation area, national forest or park, etc.) or on private property that you have permission to visit. Walk for at least 1 hour through the woods and observe and measure the following characteristics.

1. Bring a measuring tape. Measure the circumference (at chest height) of 10 trees of typical size for the forest and calculate the mean. If you know the tree species, note which ones dominate, and if the species composition changes in different parts of the forest.

2. Find a dead tree trunk or large branch lying on the ground. Peel back the bark or roll it over to explore the fungal and insect communities inhabiting the decomposing tree. Make note of what you see.

3. Look up. In 10 different spots, note what percentage of the view is sky vs. leafy canopy. Calculate the mean.

4. Describe the layers of vegetation that you see—canopy (tall trees), subcanopy (shorter trees), shrub layer, herbaceous layer, leaf litter.

5. How is this forest used/managed? Who manages it? What is the primary purpose of this land?

4. A farm (not one in your family)

Visit a working farm, interview the farmer, and seek the following observations.

How long have you or your family owned (or worked on) this farm?

How many acres is your farm? How much of it is in production?

Is this farm associated with, a Coop or a particular food company, e.g., Dairy Farmers of America, Tyson, Cargill, ADM? In other words, to whom does the farmer sell his or her crops or animals?

How does the farmer decide what to raise? How does the farm’s soil and the climate influence their ability to raise different plants and animals? Ask to see their soil and for them to describe it.

Does the farmer use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides? Why or why not?

Do the farmer irrigate? Why or why not?

If the farm is raising crops, do they use no-till practices? If so, ask if you can see what that looks like? Do they rotate crops?

If the farm is raising livestock, do they rotate them among different pastures? How often? In what densities do they keep them (# of animals per acre)?

If there is a stream running through the farm’s property, do they have a riparian buffer to minimize run-off into the stream, and to keep cattle out of the stream?

Does the farm income support the farm family, or do members of the family also work elsewhere?

5. A Day at the Beach

If you have an opportunity to be at the beach, take note of several things:

Is this a beach where driving is allowed? If so, pace off 100 m (100 big steps) and count how many cars are parked within 100 m. Is there signage up that indicates cars should not park too close to the dunes to protect sea turtle nesting habitat? If so, are any sea turtle nests marked with stakes that indicate species, date laid, etc.?

What time of day were you at the beach? (From what hour to what hour?) In a 100 m stretch (100 large steps), how many people are sitting/hanging out in that stretch? How many people walked through that stretch in a 15 min. period? How many people were in the water within that stretch? What were they DOING? (reading? playing games? running? bicycling? body surfing? etc.?)

How much garbage did you see lying on the beach within that stretch? Count and note the items. Is it mostly plastic garbage? How much of it is clearly from the beach goers that day vs. older garbage washed in or left behind from previous days?

Provide a visual description of the water: What color is it? How clear is it? Do you see things floating in the water (creatures, chunks of algae/seaweed, garbage)?

If you have a thermometer to bring, measure the temperature. If not, just assess with your body (even just a foot or hand) how warm or cool the water is. (Guess at temp., then, and maybe look it up online later– most county websites post this sort of beach data.)

What beach-dwelling creatures do you see: birds? crabs?

What ocean-dwelling creatures are washed up: jellyfish? sand dollars? dead fish?

Give an overall assessment: how heavily used is this beach, and what do you think are the impacts of human use of this beach on the beach ecosystem itself. How is the ocean water quality impacting the beach experience?

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