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Sewage Plant Study

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During this 2.5 hour program aboard R/V Envirolab, students will collect water and sediment samples inside and outside the effluent plume of a wastewater treatment plant. They will use oceanographic equipment to measure water chemistry, including temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, pH, and nutrient levels (phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonium, etc).  Additional measurements are also possible (fecal coliform, total carbon content, sediment size analysis, chlorophyll, etc).  Discussion will focus on human impacts, nutrient cycles in ecosystems, algal blooms, and other related topics.  Grades 9-12

*Additional Resources for Teachers: 
​Before you go, prepare your students by having them watch our video tutorials on how to use some our oceanography equipment!  
​This 12 minute video available from provides an excellent overview of the chemistry of sewage treatment, including both nitrification and denitrification. 
​Before the trip, introduce the idea of nutrient cycles by having your students play Jennifer Ceven’s Carbon Cycle Game. Next, have your students work through our Nutrient Cycle Activities. They will work in small groups to research and illustrate models explaining how carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and/or other nutrients cycle through the environment.  After the trip, follow up by having them re-evaluate their nutrient cycle models based on their own nutrient data.  Students can add human impacts to the models, and then explain their revised models to the group.  For a deeper extension of knowledge, students can design their own games illustrating other nutrient cycles.  
​Students will enter their data into an excel spreadsheet, design graphs, and present those graphs to their peers.  Discussion questions (homework, or for discussion in small groups in class) will prompt students to use the class dataset to compare water chemistry inside and outside the plume, and to discuss the environmental impact and effectiveness of the sewage treatment plant.

*These are supplementary activities that can be used before or after Project Oceanology programs, designed to help teachers integrate their Project Oceanology experiences into the curriculum.

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