BFA juniors Rebekah Larose and Sophie Lee made an oral presentation at the St. Michael’s College Symposium on their research concerning “Microbial Activity and Phosphate in Streams”. The Symposium held at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, VT is a yearly event in which students (graduate, undergraduate and high school) communicate their research through oral and poster presentations. The program is funded by a NSF grant. Based at St. Michael’s College the VT EPSCoR Center for Workforce Development and Diversity works to cultivate and prepare students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Through integrating students and teachers into active research students are inspired to pursue STEM careers. The CWDD helps connect interested students in social science and STEM areas with faculty researchers throughout Vermont at multiple institutions. Their cooperating teacher at BFA-Fairfax is high school science teacher Tom Lane.
As part of their research this year they used decomposition bags to measure microbial activity at five different streams sites in Chittenden and Franklin Counties. They receive training in the deployment and use of this research by Dr. Sue Natali during their visit to Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, MA last spring.
In addition they collected water samples on a bi-weekly basis from their stream sites at Black Creek in E. Fairfield and Mill Brook next to BFA-Fairfax. For the other three sites they used data collected and shared by Colchester HS and Rice HS. Water samples were analyzed for total phosphate and total suspended solids at Johnson State College.
They were surprised to find a negative correlation between microbial activity in the riparian zone and phosphate in the streams. They believe this research may indicate that careful monitoring of phosphate application to soils with regards to microbial activity and plant growth could help in the mitigation of phosphate movement into tributaries to Lake Champlain.