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Senior Capstone Project: Monitoring Saltmarsh Restoration as a bio-regional community service. (see attachment from


  • Project TitleSenior Capstone Project: Monitoring Saltmarsh Restoration as a bio-regional community service.
    (see attachment from
  •  /project264_5674/Slide1.JPG/project264_5674/Slide2.JPG/project264_5674/Slide3.JPG

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Environmental systems and societies aims.doc

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Senior Capstone Project Background Preparation.doc

  • ThemeStudents work to monitor changes in estuaries to increase awareness of the public and encourage their participation in conservation. The project specifically addresses Comparing/ contrasting hydrological, biological and chemical parameters of a diked, proposed mitigation site with a free flowing tidal saltmarsh. Involvement encourages understanding of the importance of estuaries to human health, economy and the ecology of Cape Cod.
  • Submitted ByRobert Byrnes
  • OrganizationHarwich High School
  • Brief DescriptionStudents work toward a holistic understanding of the dynamics of saltmarsh restoration by studying planning documents, interacting with scientists and conducting various field studies to determine the impact of tidal restriction of a saltmarsh ecosystem. The project follows changes in hydrology, biology and water chemistry before and after the mitigation process begins. After mastering the basics of systems thinking and saltmarsh ecology, students work on field studies on the estuary and then design their own study.
  • Materials / ResourcesGPS, GIS, Identification keys and field guides, chemical test kits, System dynamic software (STELLA).
    APPC, NOAA (Waquoit Bay), Friends of Herring River (Welfleet)
  • Team membersRobert Byrnes,
  • Pre-requisite knowledgeGeneral Biology, Ecology and Chemistry

Key Questions

  • Key Questions1. What is the ecological and human value of a salt marsh estuarine system?
    2. What are the physical, biological, hydrological features of a healthy salt marsh?
    3. What are the indicators of salt marsh health?
    4. What methods may be used to mitigate a degraded salt marsh system?
    5. What are the dynamics of salt marsh restoration including ecological, human and public policy concerns?
  • Connections: How or why was this topic identified? Why is it meaningful?Wetlands have many values. The stems and leaves of wetland plants trap eroded soil washing from the land and absorb the energy of storm waters. Nutrients that might over enrich the waterways are trapped and used by wetland plants for growth. When these plants die, they enrich the waterways with decaying matter called detritus, a vital food source for microscopic organisms near the base of the food chain. Countless aquatic animals find food and shelter in wetlands including juveniles of many commercially valuable fishes, such as striped bass, and crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters. An array of wading birds, song birds, waterfowl and birds of prey are attracted to wetlands for food and nest sites. Salt marshes are among the most productive natural plant communities on earth. Numerous saltmarshes throughout the east coast have been degraded and will require monitoring and restoration in order to restore their ecological integrity. Students involved in the project increase public awareness of these ecosystems to the quality of life and the economy of Cape Cod.
    New England
  • Background Research: What resources were used to find background information for this project?Herring River Restoration Project Update (Town of Wellfleet MA)

    Safe Harbor Environmental

    A Protocol for the Long-term Coastal Ecosystem Monitoring Program
    at Cape Cod National Seashore, J.Roman

    Estuaries 101 curriculum, NOAA, NERR, TERC
  • Outcomes: What was the outcome? How was it shared or applied in the community?The project is in its third year. Data sets have been developed for use by future classes. Students are encouraged to photographically document their involvement. Individual classes have seen presentations through Environmental Studies and the HHS environmental club. A video and school wide display are planned for the upcoming academic year.

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Herring River Project2.ppt

Units / Activities

  • System characteristics (3-4 weeks)Basic system characteristics are explored through working with models of natural systems and their behavior. Concepts addressed include system structure, stability, change, complex systems, and tipping points. Computer simulations, work with models and assigned reading are employed to explore concepts Problem Based Learning: Environmental Science on Chesapeake Bay, School Science Review, March 1997, 78(284)

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Intro to systems thinking.doc

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/OverviewSTarticle.pdf

  • Ecological dynamics and modeling (2-4 weeks) -a series of computer based labs on the structure and function of estuaries.
  • project design (2-3 weeks)After some background reading and visits to the study sites, student researchers develop projects that relate to saltmarsh ecology, policy, public opinion, computer modeling, interconnections and others. Projects must be approached from a "systems thinking" perspective and demonstrate connections to community service and sustainability. See project proposal attachments.

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/ES Proposal summary.doc

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/senior_capstoneproj2011-12.doc

  • Instrumentation and fieldwork (open ended, times vary with project focus.Work may be conducted in the field or lab. or interacting with environmental professionals. See project proposal attachments.
  •  /project264_5674/Slide8.JPG/project264_5674/Slide10.JPG/project264_5674/Slide15.JPG

Instructional Techniques

  • Systems diagrams and mappingA perceived set of relationships showing multiple causal loops (including feedback loops)are sketched out and the tweaked as they are discussed. The concept of scale is explored so that variables can be "weighted" depending on the magnitude of their impact on the model. While differences in salinity may have an effect on dissolved oxygen, temperature is a more significant impact.
  • Field studiesSite overview as well as various chemical water and soil tests, transects and quadrat studies over elevations and time are conducted by students.

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Rapid transect.doc

  • Readings, presentations and activities like system dynamic modelingSTELLA software can be purchased from the Creative Learning Exchange. Various tools can be used to run system configurations over time. Variables in the models may be tweaked to investigate cause and effect relationships based on the assumptions inherent in the model.
    Readings and presentations explore both systems such as "the mystery of Mahenjo Daro" and the dynamics of "the parachuting Cats of Borneo" and research on estuaries (attached).

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/Saltmarsh Ecology ch2.pdf

    View/Download File: /project264_5674/saltmarshguide.pdf

  • Problem Based LearningThe central focus of the project involves simultaneously understanding problems at hand, developing strategies and extending or deepening them into related studies .

Assessment Techniques

Tags = environment | service-learning | community | salt-marsh | wetlands | Subject = ELA, Mathematics, Science, History, Arts, Technology, CVTE, Service_Learning | Grade Level = HS | Time Period = School Year | Program/Funding = |
Direct website link to this project: