Aquatic Ecology -
Grade Level: 5
Time to Complete: 2 hours
of Lesson: Aquatic Ecology
South Carolina State Standards
suitable for generating
Use appropriate tools
(including a timing
device and a 10x
magnifier) safely and
conducting a controlled
Evaluate results of an
formulate a valid
conclusion based on
evidence and communicate
the findings of the
evaluation in oral or
composition of an
both biotic factors
to the level of
communities) and abiotic
oceans, lakes and ponds,
Identify the roles of
organisms as they
interact and depend on
one another through food
chains and food webs in
termites, worms, and
fungi), predators and
prey, and parasites and
Explain how limiting
factors (including food,
water, space, and
“Aquatic Ecologists,” students will conduct field investigations by
collecting, analyzing, comparing, and interpreting data from both a piedmont
stream, and a lake environment. Biotic and abiotic factors, such as
organisms collected, temperature, pH, as well as qualitative observations
will be used to make a hypothesis about the water quality of the specific
Focus Questions for Students:
What are two
abiotic and two biotic factors that influence the type of life found
in the streams and lakes at Paris Mountain State Park?
What does a pH
of 7 tell us?
temperature tell us?
How can humans,
for better or worse, influence water quality?
Based on the
data collected, what hypothesis can you make about the water quality
of Paris Mountain’s streams and lakes?
Students will be
able to name two abiotic and two biotic factors that influence the
type of life found in the streams and lakes at Paris Mountain State
Park (see background information).
Students will be
able to identify pH as a measure of how acidic or basic a substance
is, with a range of 1 – 14 (see the on-site and pre-visit background
information for details).
Students will be
able to state that pollution can cause temperature to rise, as can
clearing of forested areas around lakes and streams. Animals have
ranges of temperature within which they can survive.
Students will be
able to make a hypothesis about the water quality at Paris Mountain
State Park, based on the organisms collected, temperature, pH, as
well as qualitative observations.
|clipboard, sheet and pencil for each
|student collecting nets
||pH strips in containers
background information and be prepared to participate in activities
Paris Mountain is located in the northeastern part of Greenville
County, within the piedmont region of South Carolina. It is the
southernmost extension of the Blue Ridge mountains. The area is a
watershed: a region in a green mountain valley, where water drains into a
common area, often a river or lake. Lake Placid is one of four lakes in the
park, created in the 1890s as a source of drinking water for the people of
Greenville. The park land has been protected since the 1890s, originally to
protect the drinking water. The protection of forests around an aquatic
area prevents muddy run-off, pollution, and flooding, with rainwater being
slowly filtered through the forest soil, into the lakes and streams.
The students will be ‘aquatic ecologists,’ studying water ecology: the
relationship between living aquatic organisms and their environment. The
environment is determined by biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving)
factors. Biotic factors include plants and animals in or around the water.
Leaves that fall into the water, and the park’s beaver populations that dam
up streams, are both biotic factors. Students will collect
macro-invertebrates such as insects, and possibly some vertebrates such as
fish and salamanders. At the stream site, students get in the water
wearing rubber boots! The aquatic animals found live in or on the water for
all or part of their lives. They have various structures that allow them to
survive in particular habitats, and are important members of the food webs
that allow large predators to survive. The animals collected are used as
biological indicators of the quality of the water.
Abiotic factors include temperature, pH, quantity of light, amount of
dissolved oxygen, and soil composition. At a stream and at a lake, students
will measure temperature, and measure pH, and use their data to make a
hypothesis about the water quality at Paris Mountain State Park
Some of the fish and aquatic insects have a very low tolerance for changes
in abiotic conditions. A rise in temperature or a decrease in dissolved
oxygen can stress these organisms to the point of death. The absence or
removal of trees, resulting muddy run-off, a beaver dam that slows down the
water, or pollution which reacts chemically or clouds the water are all
possible reasons for changes in temperature.
The pH is a measure of how acidic or basic a substance is, with a range of 1
– 14, and is related to hydrogen ions (for more detail, see pre-visit
activity background). A pH of 7 is neutral, and generally considered to be
a sign of good water quality. A lower pH number can result from the soil
(normal soil pH in the park area is between 5 and 6), acid in leaves, or
from man-made causes such as acid rain, or other pollution. Some animals
can live in water that is fairly acidic, while others cannot. By testing
pH, temperature, and collecting organisms over time, the water quality can
be assessed. Student data collected will be recorded at the park as part of
ongoing water quality assessment.
introduced to the park and its role as a watershed. Students are
also introduced to their role as aquatic ecologists, and told what
they will be doing: collecting organisms, as well as measuring
temperature and pH in a stream and a lake, to assess the water
quality in the park. Emphasis is on biotic and abiotic factors.
Safety rules for themselves and for the park are discussed. All
students are given a clipboard with an aquatic ecologist data form.
two classes, one class will then go around the lake with a Volunteer
Naturalist, experiencing a Nature Hike that is based on state
science standards. Activities and/or discussion are involved at
each of eight stations. A brochure covering the points of the Nature
Hike is available to the public, and can be used by the teacher if a
volunteer is not available. After lunch, the two classes will
Interpreter, class walks to amphitheatre area. Class is divided into
4 groups. Two groups receive rubber boots. The other 2 groups
receive temperature/pH testing kits. Instructions on use of kits and
boots are given.
Walk to stream
study site, where those with boots sit on benches and put boots on.
Pans of stream water are placed beside the stream for organisms
collected. The groups with temperature/pH kits gather water from the
stream using a bucket, and begin testing (they will have an
instruction sheet).After collecting organisms in the stream, the
group with the boots switches with the temperature/pH groups, so all
have a chance to do all activities.
Class leaves boots
and test kits in order, then carefully carries pans with organisms
back down the trail toward Lake Placid. Students compare the lake
to the stream environment.
The class walks up
to the lab with their pans of organisms. Using a microscope and
video monitor, the class observes the magnified organisms, noting
structures that help them survive in their aquatic environment.
Predator/prey roles are discussed. An identification sheet helps
students identify aquatic invertebrates. The ID sheet categorizes
animals according to pollution tolerance. Temperature and pH data
are recorded on a dry-erase board, and analyzed for meaning.
stream and lake results, then infers biotic and abiotic reasons for
differences. Human actions that affect water quality are explored.
Finally, class makes a hypothesis regarding water quality at the