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Eco-Column Lab Report

A comprehensive analysis on the construction and function of an Eco-Column.

Angelica Loya

on 10 July 2018

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Transcript of Eco-Column Lab Report

Eco-Column Lab Report
The purpose of this eco-column activity was for my group and I to have a more in depth understanding of how biogeochemical cycles and different populations contribute to the health of their habitat in the real world and see how everything is connected. Everything that a basic habitat has can be seen in this eco-column such as plants, water, soil, producers, primary consumers, decomposers, and detritus feeders. All of these organisms, including biogeochemical cycles contribute to the sustainability of their habitat, with the water cycle being the most visible of all of these cycles. This is an excellent tool in understanding ecology because it is a very close, in depth analysis of what can occur in a particular habitat and how it affects other habitats. For example, going back to the water cycle example, water could visibly be seen going through evaporation and condensation. The interior of the soil and decomposition chambers would be humid with water droplets surrounding the plastic, which ensured that water would be recycled. A person would not be able to see this in the real world, as real world habitats are too massive to observe without special equipment.

(Angelica Loya)
Background Information
Some of the basic principles of ecology that my group and I expected to see in this eco-column are the interactions between the organisms and their habitats for sustainability. A prime example of such interactions were seen in our aquatic chamber due to the abundance of organisms in that particular habitat, so they were easily monitored. The snails, fish, worms, and plants all worked together to make sure that the habitat was kept in tact and suitable for life. The plants provided the consumers with purified water, as well as a steady food supply. Unfortunately, one of our fish, Banes, passed on. From this point on, my group and I were able to visibly see how the snails and worms utilized their specialized niche as decomposers and broke down the small fish to release nutrients back into their habitat, ensuring that they would be recycled by the biogeochemical cycles. This chamber essentially showed us how the plants benefit the consumers and how the consumers benefit the plants; a mutualistic relationship.
Such observations represent much of what is seen in the real world, as stable habitats exhibit equal effort from the consumers and producers to maintain their quality of living. Nothing goes to waste in the real world either, as corpses are broken down to be returned to the environment as nutrients. However, unlike the eco-columns, aquatic ecosystems in the real world have more species diversity that what is seen here. Many more species of producers and consumers live in these types of habitats, so what is seen in the eco-column is only a minor representation of what truly exists.
Because of the visible cases of evaporation and condensation, this experiment is an example of an open system, as there was no bottle cap placed at the top of the eco-column. This meant the the daily doses of water put in the eco-column was able to escape into the troposphere. My group and I visibly saw humidity and water droplets surrounding the soil chamber, which only meant that that the water cycle was using energy to recycle the water and sustain the producers. This visual evidence helped us understand how water is distributed throughout habitats, most notably to those who are rich in vegetation.

(Angelica Loya)
AP Environmenal
Mrs. Lujan
Period 2

Created By:
Angelica Loya
Miranda Barajas
Angel Ureño
Crystal Duarte

To make your eco-column, out of the five bottles you must cut the top of two bottle using a exacto knife. With one of those two cut bottles, cut one of the bottles bottom half. The other three existing bottles will have only their bottoms cut off.

With two of your bottle caps, you must punch holes into them to provide a flow of air (oxygen) The first bottle cap is to have small drainage holes around a large hole to insert the straw. (Terestrial chamber) The scecond bottle cap is to have several holes lined with filter paper. (Decompostion chamber)

Your bottom bottle (aquatic chamber) should be filled with aquatic rocks, no more than half the bottle. Take your aquatic plants and carefully bury the plants roots underneath the rocks. Then slowly pour water in about 3/4 of the way up , near the top of this bottle, above the water, cut out 3 sides of a square with the exacto knife, so that is acts as a door to allow for testing.

Attach this second bottle (terrestrial chamber) to the aquatic chamber with tape. Dump some soil into the bottle about half way and add 3 to 4 plant seeds.

Attach this third bottle (dcomposition chamber) to the terrestrial chamber tape. Fill your bottle with a mix of soil and compost ( more compost than soil) next put a few worms as well.

Lastly, attach this fourth bottle (preadator/prey chamber) to the decompostion chamber with tape. Add leave branches into the bottle, then add a cricket as prey, and add a spider as the preadator.

Over the course of two weeks pour 10 cm of water into the bottle at the very top of you eco-column.

Also every time you water it you will need to conduct these following tests: turbidity, temperature, pH, nitrates and dissolved oxygen. Adding all of this data into a journal/organized data table, while also recording new things that you are noticing, such as plant growth in the terrestrial layer or the health of the animals.

(Miranda Barajas)
Before we were able to construct the Ec0-Columns; we were instructed to gather these materials inorder to do so. While constructing our Eco-Column we noticed that our materials were both biotic and abiotic. Biotic being materials that are living things in an ecosystem. While abotic being the non living parts of an ecosystem.

Spider (1x)
Cricket (1x)
Fish (3x)
Earth Worms (2x)
Snails (2x)
Aquatic worms
Leaf branches
Anacharis water plants

20 0z soda bottles (5x)
Razor blades
Duct Tape
Filter paper
(Miranda Barajas)
Niches Of Organisms
In every ecosystem, there exists organisms that serve a particular role, or a specialized niche, that contributes to their habitat. In the predator-prey chamber, the spider's niche was to control the insect population so that it wouln't tip the food web and cause the ecosystem to collapse. As the bottle was open from the top, flies could have entered through there, where the spider would wait and capture its prey. The niche of the cricket was to break down any plant material in the chamber that it could reach, such as fallen leaves or branches as well as insects. By doing this, the cricket would provide the ecosystem with more nutrients to help it survive and control insect populations along with the spider. Earthworms' niche is to both break down dead or rotting substances and create pores in the soil so that water can enter and carbon dioxide can leave. These earthworms are responsible for the rich soil that then aids in the development of lush vegetation. The niche of the plants in both the terrestrial and aquatic chambers was to simply provide oxygen for the rest of the chambers. They were the only source of plant life that were alive, so the organisms depended on them or pure breathing air. The niche of the worms and the snails in the aquatic chamber were that of decomposers. The broke down dead organisms to give nutrients back to their habitat so that other orgainisms could sustain themselves. The fish had very simple niches, as the were simple fish that were meant to be doemesticated. They simply tried to survive on their own without being eaten by other organisms, although they didn't have any predators.

Fish Just Trying To Survive

Earthworms Keeping Soil Moist

(Angelica Loya)
Possible Limiting Factors
In the soil chamber, possible limiting factors include water, temperature, nutrients, sunlight, and most notably air. A lack of water could have hurt the soil and the plants' growth because there wasn't enough added to maintain the range of tolerance for moisture, causing the soil to dry out. Temperature could have been a limiting factor because conditions inside the chamber may have been too warm or too cold for the soil to maintain ideal moisture. Nutrients may have been a limiting factor because they are essential for maintaining healthy soil, so if there wasn't a sufficient amount, it could have limited plant growth. Sunlight may have been a limiting factor because plants need its rays to use photosynthesis and convert chemical energy into glucose to be used later in aerobic respiration. Because the eco columns were inside the entire time, it is possible that there wasn't enough sunlight. Air may have been a limiting factor because the plants need air to be able make glucose and starches that are necessary for food. Because the chamber was enclosed, not much air entered the area.

In the aquatic chamber, possible limiting factors include sunlight, oxygen, temperature, and nutrient availability. Just like the soil chamber, sunlight may have been a limiting facor because the plant need the rays of the sun to produce food for themselves. However, the chamber was never exposed to any real sunlight. Oxygen may have been a limiting factor because there were only two plants that provided oxygen for the fish, which may have been insufficient for the organisms. Temperature may have been a limiting factor because the organisms may have had adaptatins for a specific type of climate, even if it only changes by a small amount. Nutrient availability may have been a limiting factor because of these organisms' adaptations. They should have had a certain amount of nitrogen and other elements, which probably weren't met.

Ecosystems are all about a range of tolerance.
Identification of organisms
found in all three habitats
When constucting our eco-column, we were insructed to add certain orgainisms to each terrestrial chamber. Such as our aquadic chamber which was filled with small fish as the primary producer, snails as detritus feeder and tiny worms as our decomposers. The decompostion chamber consisted of earth worms that slowly break down the mixed dirt compost into a nutrient soil. For the preadator and prey chamber we added a spider and cricket to see how long it would take for them to last together before the cricket was eaten. All of these organisms were to show the positive or negative affects that had occured when living in a controled untouched habitat.
Description Of Food Chain Inside Aquatic Chamber
In the aquatic chamber, the many organisms allowed for a close look at a real life food chain. The plants served the role of producers, which sustained themselves through the process of photosynthesis and aerobic respiration. The fish then followed as primary consumers, as the only food that they ate were the green plants. There were no predators to the fish in the chamber, so there were no secondary or tertiary consumers. The snails served as the detritus feeders because they fed on the corpse of Bames to gain their own nutrients. Finally, the worms served as the decomposers because they broke down whatever was left of Bames after the snails devoured its corpse, releasing nutrients back to the habitat.
Our dead fish
named Bames
Primary Consumer
Detritus Feeder
(Angelica Loya)
Analysis: Connection between the change in abiotic factors and biotic factors in each of the chambers
Lack of water, nutrients, sunlight and rising temperature may have caused the plant to die.
Lack of sunlight, oxygen, nutrient, and rising temperatures may have been too much for Bames.
(Angelica Loya)
Organisms In The Decomposition Chamber
The earthworms inside of the decomposition chamber were the only organisms present, yet they provided an important ecological service. These pink, plump, slithering creatures took on the role of decomosers, hence the name of the chamber. They took the compost that was put into the chamber and broke it down into nutrients for themselves, as well as for their habitat. By burrowing into the soil, they helped loosen it and mixed it to ensure that soil wasn't too compacted and that the nutrients already inside the soil were evenly spread out. In addition to this, the waste or "castings" of the earthworms were nitrogen rich and provided the soil with sufficient nutrients that are ideal for plant growth. The soil was tender and soft at the time that the eco-column was deconstructed, proving that the earthworms were essential to maintaining the health of the soil and the decomposition chamber overall. The earthworms were also in very good health when recovered.
In the first chamber, Predeator/Prey, it consisted of only biotic factors which was a spider, cricket, and a small branch with leaves. It took a few days, 2 or 3, to realize that the spider had either killed the cricket or it died due to lack of resources. In comparison to the plant it completely died off. The leaves began to lose its color and eventually began to fall. We believe this occurred due to lack of sunlight and nutrients needed.
The earthworms were the only biotic organism in the Decomposition chamber. Proving its affectiveness the worms broke down the compost that was placed in this area and helped maintain the soil richness and used the nutrients as resource for themselves as well. The compost, an abiotic factor, had a physical change as you can see the change in color and its form desinigrating little by little, due to the nutrient cyclying of the worms.
Soil and seeds were the factors that mainly created the Terrestrial chamber. This area in our eco-lab had the greatest change, as we were able to see the procedure of plant growth. Of course this was only possible because of the nutrient cyling that occurred in the previous chamber and was transferred/passed through the water that was applied everyday.
The organisms present in this level included fish, snails, and elodea no other materials were added to this level other than the water and rocks. Due to the relationship between the fish and the elodea it helped keep both, the cycle of energy and flow of nutrients, in order and provided assistance of nutrient cycling throughout the Eco-Column from this level.
Causes of Eutrophication
(Angel Ureño)
While our eco-column didn't grow too much algae, there was still enough to spark interest as to how it grew there. Possible causes include adding too much water to the eco-column, which could have washed too much phosphorus and nitrogen into the aquatic chamber. During the course of about one month, 10 mL of water was to be added to the eco-column, however more could have been accidentally added due to human error. This in turn could have caused too much phosphorus and nitrates to wash into the aquatic chamber from the fertilizer in the soil chamber. This could have caused microorganisms such as phytoplankton to absorb the nutrients at an increased rate. This increased rate of absorbtion most likely caused algae to blanket the surface of the chamber. Due to the fact that there wasn't much algae in the chamber, this probably means hat my group and I did not add excessive amounts of water to the eco-column. This also gives an insight as to how humans can disrupt aquatic systems, as fertilizers and add too many nutrients to waters, which are carried there by precipitation.

Analysis of why there were odor changes in the habitats
Examples of predation, parasitism, mutualism, or commensalism
Excess nutrients may have caused europhication.
Intraspecific and Interspecific Competition
(Angelica Loya)
Every chamber has an example of interspecific and intraspecific competition among its organisms. In the predator/prey chamber, spiders and crickets exibit an example of interspecific competition because they are both competing for insects as food. In the decomposition chamber, the earthworms showcase an example of intraspecific competition because they are competing for the same organic material to be able to sustain themselves. In the soil chamber, intraspecific competition can be seen because the plant are of the same species and are competing for the same amount of nutrients and sunlight. In the aquatic chamber, both interspecific competition and intraspecific competition can be seen among the different organisms. Intraspecific competition can be seen among the fish because they are of the same species and are competing for the same food source. Interspecific competition can be seen between the snails and the worms, as they both feed on the corpse of dead organisms. Life is truly all about survival, no matter the species.

(Angelica Loya)
Each chamber has organisms that pertain to either interspecific or intraspecific competition.
In our first chamber, we assumed the spider killed the cricket and used it as a food source, this is an example of
One of the fish died in the aquatic chamber, I believe it was because of the very low oxygen level in the water. Both, snails and decomposers, used the perishing fish as a food source. I would believe this would be an example of
as the fish supplied itself as a food source for other organisms.
(Angel Ureño)
The first chamber, Pretor/Prey, remained the same when it came to odor
However the Decomposition chamber, which consisted of compost, as we poured water in everyday it also left the compost wet. Compost that becomes too wet will not have enough aeration( small holes created in the ground that allows flow of air and nutrients that help plant growth), for some reason this causes the compost to have a putrid smell.
No odor chance in the Terrestrial chamber.
The Aquatic chamber had the biggest odor change of all. Due to having low oxygen levels in the water, I believe this was the leading reason as to why one of our fish had died. The fish was rottening and was eaten by the decomposers, could you imagine what dead fish smells like in an area that was not able to cycle enough clean oxygen to at least air out the chamber? Pretty gross.
At the end of our experimenting it was safe to say that our Eco-Coulumn was a success. All organisms contributed to their habitats and biogeochemical cycles were visible. This enabled a self sustaining and functioning ecosystem within our Eco-Column. This lab has shown how environments of both living and nonliving organisms are both connected through the biogechemical cycles. This not only allows us to visually see what occurs in these environments, but it gives a person a better understanding as to how we could maintain these environments in healthier and more functioning ways in a larger community. The importance of the information we gathered will allow scientists and people expand their research towards limiting impact of humans on ecosystems (pollution, chemical run-off, oil spills, etc). Our Eco-Column allowed us to create and observe how to maintain a sustainable ecosystem, this will result in preserving our earth more efficiently. We will be able to uphold its eminence.
(Angel Ureño)
Change In Temperature
Changes In Nitrate Concentrations
(Angelica Loya)
(Angel Ureño)
(Crystal Duarte)
(Crystal Duarte)
Changes In Nitrite Concentrations
(Crystal Duarte)
Changes In Carbonate Concentration (KH)
(Crystal Duarte)
Changes In Alkalinity
Changes In Acidity (PH)
(Crystal Duarte)
(Crystal Duarte)
All Changes
(Crystal Duarte)
Collected Data
After the first week, the temperature of the water was 20 degrees Celcius. The Nitrate and Nitrite levels were safe, the KH was very hard, and the GH was ideal. The PH was also ideal, and the TRB was clear. Still in the aquatic chamber, we noticed that one of our fish died, and its body was most likely eaten by the snail and the sea worms. Now onto the decomposition chamber, white mold appeared to have grown. Finally, in the soil chamber our plants had sprouted and were very strong. Also, we noticed that our cricket didn't last very long.
After the second week, the temperature of the water rose to 21 degrees Celcius. The Nitrate and Nitrite levels remained safe, the GH and KH levels also remained the same. The PH and TRB also stayed the same. Still in the aquatic chamber, the fish that had died has now completely decomposed. The worms and the snail seemed to have eaten off the corpse. In the decomposition chamber it was very damp and moist. The white mold had become more abundant. In the soil chamber, the air appeared to have been very humid, but that had no effect on the plants because they continued to grow nice and strong, along with the soil that was very healthy.
After the third week the temperature dropped to 19 dregrees Celcius. The Nitrate, Nitrite, KH, GH and TRB levels remained the same, The pH level was the only one that changed to acceptable. Also in the aquatic chamber, two of our fish, the plants, and snails stayed strong anf remained well. The decomposition chamber looked very damp and brown and the soil seemed wet. In the soil chamber the plants looked like they had been watered too much, and we noticed that they were dying. Also, white mold had started to grow on the plants.
After the fourth and final week, the temperature on the water rose again to 20 degrees Celcius. The Nitrate, GH, pH, and TRB levels remained the same. While the Nitrite level changed to caution, and the GH level changed to high. We also noticed that in the aquatic chamber the water seemed to look yello/murky, but the plants, fish, and snails looked well. The decomposition chamber looked dead and dark brown. The plants seemed to be rotten, and milldue grew. Although, the worms were still alive. The soil chamber also looked dead. Our once green plants looked completely dead and brown. Our spider and cricket had also died.
Discussion concerning the life and death of the fish.

On the first day of our eco-columns, we were given healthy fish that lived in a wide spaceous tank with a water filter that cleaned the water on a daily. This of course changed when we had taken them into a more confined space that had the fish live in a self sustaining environment, During the first week of our eco-column, the fish seemed to be in great condition from just having changed environments so quickly. The fish surived on eating the plants that were surrounded all over the container. However as time past, one of our fish died in during week two of our project. Being so dissipointed, we soon realized that this was bound to happen since the world is an imperfect place. This could have happened due to the water turning murky that might have had a impact on the health of the fish. The lack of sunlight, oxygen, nutrients, and rising temperatures may have been too much for our fish Bames. As we contucted tests on the water of the course of a few weeks, we found out that most of the PH compounds were at a high level that was too extreme for the fish to handle.
Discussion on the availability of light affected the habitats in th eco-column.
(Miranda Barajas)
(Miranda Barajas)
Light is the main source of energy for all organisms. It plays an important role, since most plants utilize light for photosynthesis, where light energy is converted into chemical energy for growth, Plants as a food source indirectly transfers the energy to organisms. For animals the intensity of light affects their skin color, sensitivity, sight etc. There are insects that use UV light to distinguish between many plants. Light not only is an energy source but an important factor for maintaining the biological rhythm of life.the plants anf organisms needed the light to live and grow. An example of this would be the aquadic chamber. The light is an important feature of an aquarium that provides benefits for both the fishes and plants. Many fishes are dependent on their coloration during signalling and courtship that light helps to enhance. It also aids the fish to see their surroundings better; which helps them see their food as and other fishes.
(Miranda Barajas)
Crystal Duarte
Reasons behind the changes in each chamber
Changes in the aquatic chamber happened mostly because of lack of being taken care of. One of the fish died within the first week because the fish's capability to adapt to the new living condition was weak, or maybe the fish was just already weak. The two remaining fish, the snails, and the plants stayed healthy throughout the four weeks. The water also remained pretty clear up until the final week when it turned yellowish which could be because the water wasn't frequently cleaned which really polluted our water.
Not many changes appeared in the decomposition chamber besides the growth of mold. The soil was very damp throughout all four weeks which is because we would water the chamber above it which was connected to the decomposition chamber by a straw. The straw also allowed air to be passed along which would explain the mold. The damp soil and the air create humidity.
The plants appeared to be growing strong at first which is because the most air passed on from the other chambers acted as a source to moist the soil. After a while the plants began to rotten and white mold appeared. Which I believe is because since this
Factors that affected the growth of flora in the terrestrial chamber
Factors that could've affected the growth in flora would be the grass or other plant's stabability. The mixture of planter mix and compost with soil. The type of air that was passed on from other chambers. And of course, the lack of sunlight.
Crystal Duarte
Crystal Duarte
Factors that affected the rate of decomposition in the decomposition chamber
The compost is one of the factors which had seemed to have richened the soil in a way. Allowing the worms to remain healthy. The moist air passed on from the other chambers is another factor which I believe moistened the soil. Which later led to white mold forming. Which also could've acted as a factor while rottening the soil making is dark and dry, along with the plants and compost. Although, the worms remained alive which I believe stayed alive which living off of any nutrients the compost released into the soil.
Crystal Duarte
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