Preserving the Anacostia River Watershed

Understanding Environmental Preservation and Conservation in the DMV

How can we draw connections between the causes and effects of the growth and degradation of our local terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the DMV? How can we evaluate and define solutions for refuting the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity of the Washington, DC area? These were just two of the questions that 10th-12th grade students in Mary Amaechi's Environmental Science class pursued on a recent field trip to the Anacostia Watershed and Bladensburg Wetlands. This hands-on discovery and exploration trip was the first phase of a much larger project students worked on in the classroom. 

Student teams planned for and conducted scientific fieldwork, taking samples from the Anacostia River Watershed. They tested the samples for specific aspects of watershed health, including numerous variables such as coliform bacteria, temperature, turbidity, pH, phosphate, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, and biochemical oxygen demand. Moreover, the class explored the Anacostia Watershed on a pontoon boat tour and participated in a Mussel Release-Restoration effort. The students then analyzed the derived data, where they looked for patterns and trends across groups to determine the overall watershed health. Finally, this group heard from experts and considered the implications of the data for the general public community of Washington, DC. Their findings and recommendations will eventually be shared with our community and also with the organizations they visited.

“This educational outing was a moving and sobering reminder that our local environment needs the support and care of its inhabitants. As we all walked into the Bladensburg Water Park, we witnessed aquatic and terrestrial pollution that highlighted the effects of runoff from neighboring cities in the DMV area. My goal is that students will grow in the art of analyzing data and evaluating mathematical patterns and trends, which can inform how they implement environmental sustainability and conservation efforts."

Once back in the lab, the students continued their inquiry by assessing water samples that they collected from the Anacostia Watershed. They are testing several different watershed health indicators, including Coliform bacteria, pH, Nitrate, Phosphate, Dissolved Oxygen, and Biochemical Oxygen Demand. The quantitative and qualitative data from these assessments will help them determine the Anacostia Watershed's water quality.

The Environmental Science class at Field is a multidisciplinary course that spans various biological, social, and political systems. This course aims to inform students of the Earth's systems and the complex interactions between the living and the non-living spheres. It is exhilarating and plays an essential role in developing domestic and international environmental policy-making that can help promote environmental sustainability. It draws on concepts from the natural sciences and the social sciences, including but not limited to chemistry, biology, ecology, earth sciences, public policy, economics, international health, energy dependence, and urban planning. It can help students draw connections between the causes and effects of our global ecosystems' growth and degradation.