Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental InvestigationsVolume 18, Number 3 - February 1972

Environmental Investigations


Published by: The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

Prepared and Issued by: The Department of Biology,
with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Editor: Robert J. Boles

Editorial Committee: James S. Wilson, Robert F. Clarke, Gilbert A. Leisman, Harold Durst

Exofficio: Dr. Edwin B. Kurtz, Head, Dept. of Biology

Online edition by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers, school board members and administrators, librarians, conservationists, youth leaders, and other adults interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as supply lasts, except Vol. 5, No.3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas, 66801.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers College, 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. Second-class postage paid at Emporia, Kansas.

"Statement required by the Act of October, 1962: Section 4369, Title 39, United States Code, showing Ownership, Management and Circulation." The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April. Editorial Office and Publication Office at 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. The Naturalist is edited and published by the Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas. Editor, Robert J. Boles, Department of Biology.

Dr. Durst, of the KSTC Biology Staff, is a specialist in Science Education. He is interested in the improvemcnt of science instruction, and the development of new and innovative teaching techniques.

Environmental Investigations

by Dr. Harold Durst

This issue of the Naturalist consists of several investigations selected from approximately 70 that were developed and tried out by participants in an institute in environmental biology and human ecology at the Kansas State Teachers College during the summer, 1970, under the direction of Dr.s. Thomas Eddy, John Ransom, Dwight Spencer, and Harold Durst. Since that time, the investigations have been used by a number of teachers and students. Suggestions for minor changes and modifications of the original materials were received and considered during the rewriting of those investigations selected for this issue of the Naturalist.

The names and addresses of the participants having the major responsibility for developing the original studies will be given at the end of each investigation. To be sure, the ideas for the investigations came from a variety of sources, but do represent studies that these persons considered appropriate for gaining a better understanding of the environment.



After completing this investigation you should be able to:

  1. Construct a model showing a plant and the various types of arthropods associated with that plant. The bases for determining types may be such things as what the organisms do in relation to the plant and each other, methods of feeding, or means of locomotion.

  2. Identify some of the organisms associated with the plant being studied.

  3. Predict how certain arthropods obtain their food when shown the mouthparts of representative individuals.


  1. A relatively undisturbed area containing the plant you wish to use in the study.

  2. Notebook for recording field observations.

  3. Pieces of colored ribbon or other materials to designate the plants to be observed.

  4. Killing jar (see illustration at end of investigation).

  5. Insect pins or other thin straight pins.

  6. Insect net (see illustration at end of investigation).

  7. References for identification of organisms.

  8. Container such as a cigar box for holding specimens.

  9. Forceps or tweezers.

  10. Hand lens or dissecting microscope.

  11. Cards 1 cm squared for labeling organisms collected and killed.
Kind of Organism

Day 1

Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Total Part of Plant Activity


  1. Study a variety of nearby areas that could be visited daily for your study.

  2. Select a particular kind of plant to study. (Example: dandelion, plantain, a shrub, or a tree). If possible, select a type of plant that is in bloom sometime during the study. It is best that you find several different plants of the same kind for observing so that you will not have to rely on a single plant for your data. Mark the plants selected for study in some manner so that they can be easily located each visit.

  3. Construct a chart similar to the one that follows for recording data. You may wish to construct a separate chart for each plant observed.

  4. You should collect one of each kind of organism found on the plant. Obviously you should not collect organisms such as birds in the event that a tree has been chosen for study. Start your collection on the first day and collect only newly observed types thereafter. However, you will observe and record data each day.

  5. Remove organisms from the killing jar as soon as possible, identify, pin, and label. You may want to restrict your observations and collections to insects and spiders. In the event that you do choose to collect other animals you will need to use other means for preservation and display.

  6. Repeat the observations for four to five days and remember to record only organisms found on the plant.

  7. At the end of the observation period, four to five days, collect one of the plants or parts of one, press, glue to a sheet of paper, and place with your collection of animals.

  8. At this point determine the number of different kinds of of organisms observed; the kind that was observed most frequently, the kind that was most numerous, and the part of the plant where the greatest number of organisms were observed.

Studying the Data:

  1. Construct a table for placing the organisms into different groups according to what they were doing on the plant. Examples are resting, feeding, etc., and if feeding, were they feeding on plants or upon. other animals? What types were most numerous, and, is this what you expected?

  2. Determine which organisms were permanent residents on the plants and which were visitors. Describe any differences between these two groups of organisms with respect to what they were doing while on the plants.

  3. Construct either a food chain or a food web that includes the plant and the organisms found on the plant. This could be done by arranging a display of the organisms, plant and animals, that were collected.

  4. Describe at least one additional investigation that could be done using techniques and organisms similar to the ones you used for this investigation.
KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations


An insect-killing jar may be made from a wide-mouthed jar, some absorbent cotton, and a piece of perforated cardboard. Do not use carbon tetrachloride as a killing agent, as the fumes are harmful if inhaled. Alcohol for saturating the cotton is much safer. The insects may also be killed or immobilized by placing them in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator.


A satisfactory net for collecting insects may be made from an old broom stick, a piece of wire, and a triangular-shaped piece of cloth. The top part of old nylon hose may be used to make a collecting net of a smaller diameter.

Kenneth Bishop, Garnett, Kansas
Alva Van Etten, Haysville, Kansas



Upon completing this investigation, the student should be able to:

  1. Construct an apparatus for demonstrating temperature inversion in air.

  2. Demonstrate temperature stratification in air and water.

  3. Relate some of the effects of temperature changes in fluids to gross organismic behavior.

  4. Describe the conditions necessary for the occurrence of temperature inversions under natural conditions.


Metal can, 15 cm diameter x 7 1/2 cm high

Metal can, 10 cm diameter x 15 cm high

Sheet clear plastic, 60 cm x 33 cm.

Scotch tape

2 pieces plastic tubing (7 mm I.D.), 50 cm long

Meter stick

2 thermometers

Stiff wire, 20 cm long

Tray of ice cubes

Congo red

Wire gauge

Meter stick


Tin snips


Vacuum pump

600 ml beaker

Bunsen burner

Ring stand



KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations


A. Temperature Inversion

1. Assembling the apparatus

a. Cut a ring about 2.5 cm wide from the top of the can that is 15 cm in height. Then, cut off the remainder of the can to a height of 7 1/2 cm.

b. Tightly fit a 60 cm long cylinder of clear plastic into the 7 1/2 cm tall can and tape the cylinder to the can rim.

c. Tape the seam of the plastic cylinder.

d. Place the previously cut can ring over the top of the cylinder and tape in place flush with the top of the cylinder.

e. Cut a hole in the cylinder large enough to receive the plastic tubing 25 cm from the bottom.

f. Insert the plastic tubing, letting it drop to about 2.5 cm from the bottom of the cylinder.

g. Reaching down through the cylinder, tape the tubing in place.

h. Tape around the tubing entrance through the hole in the cylinder to make it airtight.

g. Tape two thermometers to the meter stick so that the bulb of one thermometer will be at the 5 cm mark and the other will be at the 50 cm mark.

h. Insert the meter stick so that the thermometers are in the center of the cross section of the cylinder.

i. hold the meter stick in place by looping with wire and bending the wire ends over the top rim of the cylinder. Leave the wire ends loose so that the meter stick and thermometers can be lifted out as necessary.

2. The Demonstration

a. Center the cylinder in the large ( 15 cm diameter) can. Fill the outer can with ice up to the tape on the cylinder. Record the temperatures until there is a 15° C difference between the upper and lower thermometers.

b. Gently blow smoke into the cylinder until it is 1/8 to 1/4 full.

c. Gently remove the ice and allow to stand undisturbed. Record the temperatures for
five minutes.

d. Record any changes in the height and movements of the smoke layer.

3. Studying the data

1. What kind of temperature stratification has been produced?

2. Is this a stable or unstable condition?

3. Where could such conditions exist in nature?

4. Why have temperature inversions become objects of much concern to man?

B. Temperature Stratification in Water

1. Demonstration with dyes. Fill an aquarium 2/3 full with tap water and let settle. Siphon dyed water that has been cooled with ice into the aquarium and observe.

2. Demonstration without dyes. Proceed as above but hang two thermometers in the aquarium, one with bulb at the bottom and another with bulb in water near the air-water interface, and observe. A variation would be to use fish as indicators of temperature stratification as cold water was added.

3. You might want to determine if temperature inversions can be produced in water.

Oscar Brubaker, Westland, Michigan



After completing this investigation the student should be able to:

  1. Design at least one investigation in order to determine the efficiency of automobile usage.

  2. Construct tables for recording data and record data in tabular form.

  3. Demonstrate an improved proficiency in basic mathematical operations.

  4. Propose a more efficient mass transit system than the one presently used in the community.


Pencil and paper for recording observation.

Date Time Location
1 Passenger 2 Passengers 3 Passengers 4 Passengers 5 Passengers

6 Passengers


  1. Prepare a table similar to the one lower to the left for recording observations.

  2. Choose several locations for observing and recording the number of passengers in each passing car. A busy street corner, a road leading to an industrial plant, and the entrance to the school parking lot are locations that could be used.

  3. Using a check and tally system, record the number of cars passing the location in the appropriate column for a predetermined period of time, at least 15-30 minutes in length.

  4. Depending on the sites chosen, you may want to repeat the observations at other times of the day. Also, repeat the observations for a given time for several days. Many variations in this experimental design can be developed. Let students help design a study.

Studying the Data:

  1. Construct bar graphs to show (a) the total number of cars passing each check point and (b) the average number of passengers per auto at each location for the different times of the day.

  2. If an automobile may emit about 2400 lbs. of CO, 185 lbs of nitrogen oxides, 132 lbs. of hydrocarbons, and 11 lbs. of particulates per 1000 gallons of gasoline used, calculate the amounts of these emissions for a certain distance, (eg. one mile), along the areas observed during the investigation.

  3. Develop a priority system that might be used for assigning a limited number parking spaces in places as your school, downtown, and near a factory.

  4. Design a transportation system that would be effective but reduce pollution and the utilization of resources.

John Eckert, Hutchinson, Kansas
Steve Morris, Wellsville, Kansas
Douglas Everett, Phoenix, Oregon



Upon completing this investigation the student should be able to:

  1. Calculate the amounts of solutes and solvents needed to prepare given concentrations of pesticides.

  2. Identify the controlled, responding, and manipulated variables in an investigation.

  3. Observe the effect of the manipulated variable and record the observations in a manner that aids in testing the hypothesis.

  4. Formulate a hypothesis concerning the expected outcome of the investigation.

  5. Analyze the data in order to accept or reject the hypothesis.

  6. And state some of the limitations of the investigation in attempting to generalize the influence of pesticides upon natural populations.


  1. Six to eight uniform-sized aquaria (wide-mouthed jars are satisfactory).

  2. Seine, dip nets, or either equipment suitable for collecting freshwater organisms.

  3. Any of the insecticides or herbicides.

  4. Freshwater organisms (tadpoles, minnows, crayfish, or Daphnia).

  5. Aquarium dipnet.

  6. Balance, sensitive to hundredths of a gram.

KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations


  1. Fill aquaria with equal measured amounts of water.

  2. Allow to stand for 24 hours. This will permit chlorine to escape if using chlorinated water and provide time for water to adjust to room temperature.

  3. Mix measured amounts of the pesticide into the aquaria. Vary the amounts so that the ppm of pesticide range from a few to several hundred, depending on your balances and the size of aquaria.

    Determine ppm as follows:

  4. Label aquaria with the parts per million (ppm) of pesticide being used and one aquarium as a control.

  5. State what you think will happen to the organisms when introduced to the aquaria. This is your hypothesis.

  6. Prepare a table for recording data, introduce animals, note the time, and record observations.

  7. Continue observing frequently during the first 30-45 minutes and at longer intervals thereafter. Remove any dead animals and dispose of as you would discard preserved specimens.

KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations

Studying the Data:

  1. Construct a graph similar to the example to the upper right.

  2. From the data obtained try to determine more than one kind of relationship between concentrations of the pesticide and behavior of the organisms used.

  3. Design an investigation to determine the length of time that the pesticide retains its effectiveness upon being mixed into water.

  4. Do the data support your hypothesis? If you were conducting the same type of investigation using another pesticide, how might you a state a more precise hypothesis?

  5. Which variables did you control in conducting this investigation? Were there variables which, if controlled, would have improved the investigation?

  6. Were your concentrations in ppm of the active ingredients in the pesticide or for the total which would include solvents? You may want to study the label on the pesticide container.

  7. How might you account for the fact that some organisms within a single aquarium were affected more or less than others?

Robert Engel, Mankato, Kansas
James Overmyer, 2012 Edith Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Glena Watt, Frontenac, Kansas



Upon completing this investigation the student should be able to:

  1. Design a controlled experiment to determine the influence of certain chemicals on the numbers and kinds of organisms in a terrestrial environment.

  2. Demonstrate the use of a classification system or the development and use of a classification system to categorize the organisms found in a study plot.

  3. Demonstrate a proficiency in the skills required to conduct the studies - preparing the various concentrations, site selection and measuring, sampling, observing, data collection and recording, and data analysis.


This investigation is divided into three sub-investigations. The materials listed below are required to establish the treated plots for any or all of these studies.

  1. Four 1 m x 1 m plots. Each plot should have similar vegetation, sunlight, and drainage.

  2. Giant size box of detergent.

  3. Several buckets. at least one gallon capacity.

  4. Water (5 liters per plots per treatment).

  5. Sprinkling can or bucket with holes punched in bottom.

  6. 16 stakes (4 per plot) 15 cm long.

  7. Rod for stirring.

  8. Meter stick.

  9. Optional - camera and film to take pre- and post-treatment pictures.
Plot A Plot B Plot C Plot D
Plant type


After Before After Before After Before After


  1. Four separate plots 1 m x 1 m are measured and marked by driving stakes at each of the four corners of each plot.

  2. Label the plots A, B, C, and D. Plot A serves as the control and plots B, C, and D receive increasing
    concentrations of the detergent.

  3. To arrive at an amount of detergent to use, you may want to use the manufacturer's suggested amount for washing a load of clothing to plot C, one-half that amount to plot B, and double the recommended amount for plot C.

    Plot A - Control
    Plot B - Half strength
    Plot C - Full strength
    Plot D - Double strength

    5 liters of water only.
    5 liters of water + 1/2 detergent for C.
    5 liters of water + recommended amount of detergent.
    5 liters of water + 2 times detergent for C.

  4. The rate of treatment may vary because of the ability of the soil to absorb water as determined by soil texture and drainfall, but one treatment each week should be a minimum. Apply water evenly to the control, plot A, first and then apply detergent solutions to plots B, C, and D in that order. Rinse equipment when finished.

Investigation A. The Effects of Detergents on Plant Life.


  1. Two meter sticks.

  2. String.

  3. Paper and pencil.


  1. Four separate plots 1 m x 1 m are measured and marked by driving stakes at each of the four corners of each plot.

  2. String should be placed next to the ground and around the stakes to define the boundary for each plot.

  3. The number of each kind of plant in each plot is counted. If the determination of plant names on the site is too difficult, assign unknown plants either a letter or number and collect a like kind plant from outside the plot, attach the letter or number designation, take to the classroom and identify using available reference materials.

  4. Construct a table with headings as shown for recording data.

  5. The counting of plants is facilitated if small segments of each plot are counted. One method is to divide the plot into small strips by placing the meter sticks across the plot, count, and move across the plot until completed.

  6. Determination of numbers of plant types should be done for all plots before and after the treatments. You may wish to record the condition of the plants, too.

Studying the Data:

  1. How might you account for any changes in the total number and kinds of plants in the plot?

  2. In case some kinds of plants have a better survival rate, where do we commonly find those used in the experiment?

  3. Among those plants which were damaged, describe the various signs of damage to the plants.

  4. Where in our environment might plants be exposed to treatments similar to those used in the experiment?

Investigation B. Effect of Detergents on Below-Ground Organisms

KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations


A goose-necked reading lamp may be substituted for the source of heat and light to drive the arthropods down into the killing fluid.


  1. Four small metal cans of same size and with top removed.

  2. Small spade or garden trowel.

  3. Four plastic bags, each large enough to hold contents of one can.

  4. One, 2.5 cm thick board.

  5. One hammer.

  6. Four Berlese funnels (see diagram).

  7. Isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol.

  8. Hand lens or stereomicroscope.

  9. Masking tape.

  10. Four small pieces of screen wire or steel wool.

  11. Cake pan or sheets of white paper.

  12. Saucer or petri dish.

  13. Medicine dropper or forceps.


  1. The numbers of organisms in the litter and in the soil to a depth of 2 cm is determined before the first and after the last treatment. One sample per plot is hardly indicative of the number of kinds of organisms present. Assuming that you are identifying organisms to the order level, a sample is taken and the number recorded in tabular form, and the total number of orders recorded on a graph. Sampling is repeated until a stabilization in the total number of orders is attained as shown by a plateau on the graph below. So long as new orders are found, sampling should continue.

  2. The sample is collected by plac ing the open end of the can over the litter, placing a block of wood on top the can, and hammering 2 cm into the soil. Slide the spade or trowel under the can cutting the soil as you do so. Transfer the contents of the can to a plastic bag, tie shut, and label.

    KSN - Vol 18, No 3 - Environmental Investigations

  3. Upon returning to the class room, the contents of each bag is placed in separate Berlese funnels.

  4. Fill each vial about 1/4 full with alcohol. Attach the vial with masking tape to the lower end of the funnel spout. After putting the sample into the funnel turn on the light. In about 24 hours the heat and the drying will drive most organisms down into the alcohol.

  5. To count the organisms collect ed in the alcohol, pour the contents of the vial into a saucer or petri dish. Observe with hand lens or stereomicroscope. Place the organisms in groups or categories and name according to the amount of time and reference materials availables to vou for determining a classification
    system and record in a table for later use.

Plot A Plot B Plot C Plot D
Insect Larve
Sucking Insect
Before After Before After Before After Before After

Studying the Data:

  1. What evidence was obtained that would help you decide if the organisms were killed or if they were driven from the area because of disturbances?

  2. What animals seemed to show the greatest tolerance of the addition of detergents to the areas? Was there any indication of a relationship between tolerance to detergents and the kinds of food the organisms consume?

  3. Would the substitution of other detergents and soaps produce the same results?

  4. Design an investigation to determine the amount of time required for a return to the normal number and kinds of below ground organisms.

Investigation C. Determination of the Effect of a Detergent on Above-Ground Organisms.


  1. Insect net.

  2. Four small jars or vials with lids.

  3. Paper and pencil for recording observations.


  1. Using the insect net, make ten sweeps over each plot. Sweeps are made alternately to your left and to your right across all the area in each plot. Transfer the organisms to the collecting jars, identify and record results in a table similar to that for investigation B.

  2. This procedure should be carried out before detergents are applied and again following the last application.

Studying the Data:

  1. Do your data show any relation between the amounts of detergents applied and the numbers and kinds of above-ground organisms? How might you improve upon the investigation in order to make either more positive statements or an inference of greater validity?

  2. How might you account for any increases in the number of kinds of insects in any of the experimental plots? the control plot?

  3. What factors other than the addition of detergents might be responsible for fluctuations in the number and kinds of insects?

Further investigations:

  1. If soil testing materials are available, you might compare the pH, phosphates, and nitrates for the plots.

  2. Other treatments that may be used either singly or in combinations are detergents and soaps, pesticides and fertilizers.

  3. Study the effects of detergents or other substances on a aquatic environment. This can be done by adding varying concentrations of the substance to a series of aquaria such as wide-mouthed jars.

Wayne Drayer, Fairbury, Illinois
Robert Moorhead, Ponca City, Okla.

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