snails & freshmen /8

Two major updates since the last post: first, I’ve successfully given my first two ‘lecture’ presentations to other students! Second, the tank has also become victim to my BIO580 group’s ecology project.

The presentations I gave were to Ms. Milkowski’s Biology 100 classes, and encompassed several different themes. I tried to explore both the science-y side of aquaponics, mostly through discussions about nutrient cycling and other ecological principles, but also did my best to convey the ‘project-y’ part about the system. One thing that I really wanted to emphasize was that this was a project that any student could conceivably undertake, and that the entire process was driven by my own interests. The Abbot Academy Association and Abbot Independent Scholars Program are clearly the two centerpiece enablers of the aquaponics project, but equally important (in my opinion at least) was the encouragement from my peers and mentors and support from the community in general.

Tomorrow I’ll be giving another presentation to a different class: Science 420 – Food and Agriculture. It’s to a slightly more mature audience, so the focus of the presentation will be aquaponics and permaculture as a potential solution to the global food challenge.

Other big presentations coming up include the talk at the Science symposium our school hosts for the Bio 600 students (May 22nd), and also a possible presentation to the board of the Abbot Academy Association.


Fish interacting with newly introduced albino myster snails; Image courtesy of Olivia Xiong

My Biology 580 class is wrapping up the year with group ecology projects; my group is studying the effect of increased snail populations on a controlled ecosystem. We found it very convenient that there happened to be such a system already set up available for us to use 🙂

Our hypothesis is that the increase in snail population will ultimately cause an increased amount of free floating algal spores because the snails would consume competitive algal species. We ordered mystery snails through the stock room and have been steadily adding them to the tank – so far, they seem pretty happy. Our data so far loosely matches up with the hypothesis; we’re taking measurements of algae levels with a spectrophotometer – it’s pretty simplistic but  effective.

Ecology projects and presentations aside, this year is almost over! There are only a few more things to worry about, which I’ll explore more fully soon – succession (what happens to the tank at the end of the year), video, final reflection, etc.




presentations /7

Picture of the arugula and cilantro taken on 4/29/16

Not much in terms of the physical development of the tank has been happening recently – lots of maintenance and cleaning etc. Current fatalities consist of two neon tetra and an albino bristlenose pleco, which is certainly unfortunate, but  understandable.
After the ~two week period of cloudiness and haze that usually comes with a new tank, it seems as though the system has stabilized.
The reason the physical system has been at somewhat of a standstill has a lot to do with the focus of the project this term; Spring term is all about community outreach – taking the system and using it to engage with (mostly) students and faculty members. This ranges from giving presentations about the project to various student groups and dedicated audiences (like the NEST presentation) to using the system as a learning tool in various classes.

Another thing I’ve been focusing on recently has been the issue of succession, albeit somewhat lazily. While I’ve yet to meet with Mr. Holley about the issue, I would really love it if the system could survive the summer and return next year as an established part of the Gelb learning toolkit. I spoke with Max Davis about the possibility of not just taking care of it, but using it as a platform for future IPs and other projects, and the overall outlook seemed quite hopeful.

This has been somewhat of a short post, but there hasn’t been much in the way of noteworthy events. Coming up are the first of the class presentations, so expect more information coming soon about how those go.