This study, Impact, is an exploration into the scientific, social, and cultural aspect of the Collins Run watershed, in Oxford, Ohio. Collins Run is located on the outskirts of Oxford, Ohio, and within its watershed there are housing developments, parks, and even a Wal-Mart. What we hope to accomplish in our research is an interdisciplinary approach to looking at a system. We have therefore focused on integrating the three disciplines mentioned above into a unique and comprehensive view of the way humans and water interact.
The first step in our process was simply asking some questions. The questions for us that were used to do our investigations were as follows: Will scientific data show a difference in ph, nitrate levels, etc. between areas that look disturbed and areas that look undisturbed? How will this information relate to the other watersheds? Are visible signs of disturbance an accurate way to determine biological disturbance? What is the social history of our area? What is the current social use of our area? What cultural significance can we see in this system and in river systems in general? These questions, all to be explored in depth in the following sections, guided us through our research and discovery process.
The next step in our process was to look at some of the work that has already been done. Because of the diversity of ideas inherent in our project we found useful materials from a variety of sources. Alan Levere inspired our exploration of the natural sciences when he said, "a river is the report card of its watershed." This idea, also discussed in class, is the rationale behind our testing of the creek. Also of interest to us was the riparian corridor, an issue also discussed in class, and its degree of variance in our system. In parts of the system we found a full and diverse corridor, in other parts simply concrete embankments. In investigating the importance of the corridor we found many scientists support riparian restoration, perhaps most directly illustrated by this quote, "The purity of water in our lakes and streams can be protected from the effects of nonpoint source pollution by the presence of forested buffer strips along them."<2Fp>
Also in our research we looked at the field of ecology, where the study between environmental interactions is paramount. In this field we used the work of Brian Moss as a way to look at the connection between all aspects of a watershed. He writes, "There is no longer a pure ecology and an applied ecology. There is simply an ecology which accommodates the role of man no less than it does of algae, snails, fish, or crocodiles.” He goes on to say that these natural resources are linked to communities and regulation. This idea of interconnectivity was insightful and inspiring to our interdisciplinary approach.
A provocative 1970's piece titled The Enemy is Us was also important in the way we looked at land use and impact on Collins Run. The book, deeply ecological at its best and alarmist and unfounded at its worst, nevertheless served as food for thought as we looked at human influence on the ecosystem. One quote, mind you taken from 1973, has a particularly striking effect:
As you can see we drew on a variety of resources for inspiration and contemplation before, during, and concluding our fieldwork and research. What follows is a detailed analysis of those thoughts, processes and procedures that make up our project.
Part II: Natural Impact
We hypothesized that Collins Run is a fairly disturbed area that flows through a mosaic of human land uses. For this reason we believed that comparisons of data from Harker's Run and the Western Pond would show that Harker's Run is less disturbed and more natural than Collins Run but that Collins would still have more integrity than the Western Pond watershed. We also sought to compare the disturbed and undisturbed areas within Collins Run to see the differences that we would assume would exist.
To test the water quality of the stream we took samples on two separate days totaling thirty days. The first day we sampled we took seven samples from undisturbed areas and eight from disturbed, on the second day we took eight undisturbed and seven disturbed. We defined disturbed and undisturbed by looking at the land use of the area, human interaction levels and the amount of riparian corridor present where the samples were taken. The undisturbed samples were all taken within the area around Peffer Park that adhered to these aforementioned standards; the samples were either taken within Collins Run itself or from the tributaries that ran directly into the stream. The disturbed samples were obtained from where a tributary of Collins Run runs through a more developed area in Oxford where Wal-mart and Moonshine are located, the creek is restricted to a cement canal contraption while running through the Wal-mart parking lot and is quite obviously affected by human disturbance. The day before the first samples were taken it rained about one and a half inches through the day and we collected samples the next afternoon while the water was still at a slightly elevated level. The second day samples were collected within an hour after the end of a freak thunderstorm, which dropped about three inches of precipitation in less than an hour, greatly increasing the velocity and flow of the creek. With these 15 samples of disturbed versus 15 undisturbed samples we expected to find a difference, namely that the undisturbed samples would prove to have more integrity than the disturbed samples.
We ran four different tests on all thirty samples, testing for the presence of ortho phosphates, alkalinity (presence of CaCO3), ammonia nitrogen and sulfates. Of these tests, there was not a traceable presence of ammonia nitrogen and sulfate within the samples. On the first day we also collected the pH of the samples, but could not do so for the second day due to the pH meter being broken. Of the pH values collected there was a significant difference between disturbed and undisturbed, a p-value of <. 0001 shows that there is a difference between the pH values that is not due to chance alone. The pH values only ranged from 7.012 to 7.061, so the while the values are not very different from each other it shows that this difference is significant, even if it means that the disturbed areas are only slightly more basic than the undisturbed areas.
Our purpose of testing for phosphates and ammonia nitrogen (due to the lack of supplies within the nitrate kit, which would have been the ideal test) is that phosphorous and nitrogen are the limiting factors for life. The range of phosphorous in the samples was from three milligrams a liter to 35. The p-value of these samples was .9652, but after removing the two highest and erratic values (35 and 19), the p-value changed to .1893, which means that the values could still be attributed to chance and were not significant. As was noted earlier there were no discernable traces of ammonia nitrogen in any of the samples. Nitrates are released into the stream from natural sources such as fallen leaves that can eventually be broken down by bacteria in the process of denitrification or absorbed by plant roots in the riparian corridor. Phosphates are normally found within a stream, but human disruption increases this in the form of erosion, fertilizer runoff or discharge from industry. In a healthy or undisturbed watershed these amounts should be quite low, because riparian plants, micro- and macro-invertebrates would be breaking down these elements down to a form that could be absorbed or used within the watershed. High levels of phosphates or nitrates could be a sign of negative human impact; meaning that there is either a high influx of these elements into the stream through runoff of industrial waste, or that there is not enough diversity within the stream to use up these resources. Organisms that would partake in the breaking down of organic matter into forms that other organisms could utilize are; macro invertebrates that break down leaves and such into smaller quantities, these smaller quantities can be broken down by micro invertebrates and then bacteria, which put phosphorous and nitrogen into a state that plants and animals can use. A study by "Nancy Grim" (1988) showed that aquatic macro invertebrtes significantly increase the rate of nitrogen cycling in Sycamore Creek, Arizona. ”Healthier streams can cycle these nutrients faster due to the presence of such micro and macro invertebrates. As can be seen in other seasons of the year, namely late spring, summer and early fall, there are excessive amounts of both of these elements within the Collins Run, which can be seen by the algae that covers every available solid surface within the creek. One of the many possible explanations of this is runoff from fertilizer from the housing and business developments found upstream. This algae is a sign of eutrophication and in large quantities is quite dangerous for the other organisms within the stream because of the alteration of dissolved oxygen content in the water that is decreased by the algae's photosynthesis process.
Calcium carbonate is released into the stream through the weathering of rocks, such as limestone and shale, which are the main components of bedrock in the Southwestern Ohio region. Our values for calcium carbonate in the samples ranged from 34 to 272 milligrams a liter. This test is the only one that produced a significant difference between disturbed and undisturbed sample sites, with a p-value of <.0001. A strange anomaly that occurred in our samples is that the samples from the first day, the day after a rainfall, were higher than those that were taken immediately after a heavy rainfall. Weathering should increase with the velocity and flow of the stream, but in this case it did not appear to do so, we do not know the real reasons for this.
We also took an additional 10 samples to get a glimpse of the variety in sediment load between the previously defined disturbed and undisturbed areas. While we did not calculate the sediment load of the entire stream because we only took one day of samples, we did look to see if there were differences between the two samples sites in the amount of sediment the water was carrying. Analysis showed that the sediment load of both areas was nearly the same but that these differences could have been due to mere chance because of lack of more samples or sampling days, the p-value comparing the two sites was .6075 between disturbed and undisturbed.
We concluded from these scientific results that our perceptions of disturbed and undisturbed were quite misguided. Using what looks 'disturbed' by humans and what looks 'undisturbed' obviously was not a helpful tactic in this case. Negative human impact has permeated through this watershed and left a lasting mark upon its integrity that it cannot overcome. One simple thing that could be done to improve this watershed is to allow a suitable and healthy riparian corridor to grow, even if it could only be a few feet on either side would be a great improvement over cement canals and the honeysuckle choked riparian corridors found within the Peffer Park area.
Part III: Social Impact
The Collins Run watershed is rich with social history and social interactions. For this section of our analysis we focused on what we called the Peffer Park area, which geographically includes Peffer Park, the overpass of route 27, the bluffs, and the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary. What we found in this analysis was a high degree of human and environmental interaction, and evidence of the ways these interactions impact both parties involved. First we will look at the history of the lands in Peffer Park and the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary. Next we will look at our visual observations and see how what we saw fits in with some of the other work that has been done on watersheds. Then we will look at some modern interactions between humans and this watershed.
The path of Collins Run travels through mostly developed land here in Oxford, Ohio. It begins its way toward Four Mile Creek in a housing development and then makes its way through the outskirts of Oxford, eventually passing through University-owned lands, underneath route 27 at Patterson Avenue, and on its way. In this time it passes through the Peffer Park area, and area that has been preserved as parklands with a neighboring biological preserve. These areas are around the location we perceived as less disturbed for our tests.
Peffer Park was once used for grazing lands. Miami University then purchased this land in two increments, the first in 1955 and the second in 1966. It was named Peffer Park in honor of G. Maurice Peffer, who was the nephew of Fred C. Yager. Yager stipulated that the park be named in honor of his nephew after donating the money to develop the land as a park. The park as we observed it has a large pavilion and swings on the field, hiking and mountain biking trails, and is connected to the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary.
The Silvoor Biological Sanctuary is 2.5 acres of land donated by Dr. Robert A. Hefner and Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Fitton. According to the Miami University Zoology department website, this area used to be the town dump until Dr. Hefner and his first wife began planting flowers and developing the land themselves. Dr. Hefner named the land the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary and donated it to the university under the stipulation that it be preserved. In 1980, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Fitton donated some of their lands, which lied in and around the preserve, so that they would be maintained.
When we walked through this area of the watershed, we noticed relatively intact riparian zones, especially when considered with the site that we used as our disturbed site during data collection, which was near Wal-Mart. However, we did notice, in the park, the isolation of the riparian zone, the import of pollutants, and removal of original vegetation. The consequences for these actions are outlined and discussed in other research. Moss states "perhaps the greatest impact of human use of the land is the removal of the original vegetation cover and the upsetting of mechanisms which seem often to have conserved nitrogen and phosphorus in the land ecosystem." The text Methods in Stream Ecology outlines that isolation of the riparian zone; removal of woody debris, water pollution, and waterborne waste materials can "uncouple important ecological processes linking ecosystem components in large river basins”. What this tells us, and is evident in the scientific data presented earlier, is that humans are clearly impacting this system. In the creation of parks we see a trend to deforest, in the Silvoor area also we see a concentrated effort to maintain flowers as opposed to trees. Along with a park comes picnickers and others who are bound to leave traces of their time spent here, whether in the form of footprints or litter. But, as we have hypothesized before, isn't the opposite also possible? Can't the area itself leave a mark on those who have come? As we can see from the history and will see in the next sections on human activity, the answer is yes.
Looking back at the history mentioned above, it is clear that this area means something to those who live in it and around it. For Mr. Yager that impact manifested itself in terms of donating funds; for Dr. Hefner that impact was desire to transform a former landfill into useful space. During our social investigations, we saw that impact in several ways.
The first was in the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary, where walking paths had benches, and a sign showed that on Sunday afternoons there are guided wildflower walks. We also witnessed people with picnic lunches and a woman walking her dog. We also have heard of Miami University students that will go to the bluffs seeking recreation opportunities. One sunny Friday morning we also came across the Peffer Western Environmental Education Program (PWEEP), conducting one of their day-long educational field trips for local third graders. We thought that this was an excellent example of how the watershed impacted humans, and looked into the program and its goals.
PWEEP is a student-run organization devoted to educating local children on issues related to the environment. During the first semester of each academic year they meet to do training, develop the curriculum, and mail proposals out to local educators. Then, in the second semester, the students come on scheduled days for one-day field trips. This field trip occurs in Peffer Park and the surrounding area. During the trip, students are broken into small groups and guided through various lessons that are designed to teach environmental responsibility.
In an interview with sophomore Western major and PWEEP member Greg Dutton, I asked him about the goals of the program and the location. Here is a transcript:
From this interview, we can see that the watershed itself, in this specific park and in an educational setting, can have an impact on the lives of children. It is our assumption that of the over 100 children who participated in this years program, several will go away with a deepened sense of environmental responsibilities. These impacts, on a personal and cultural level, will be explored further as we move to the next section of our analysis.
Part IV: Creative and Cultural Impact
Artists, writers, and enthusiasts reconstruct the reality of nature, including rivers, in the creative process in which they create their art. For example, Henry David Thoreau, a well-known nature writer, as well as an ecologist, looked at nature in many of his works. In his essay "Walking", Thoreau describes nature by saying that "In wilderness is the preservation of the world". (Weiss) Another way to preserve wilderness is through the essays, artwork, poetry, and other creative pursuits that are inspired by the outside world. Thoreau masters his reasons for writing about ecological pursuits by the following statement, which is also taken from the essay "Walking":
There are many writers and artists that choose to speak for nature, using nature and wilderness as an inspiration for their works. By looking at different writings and works that come from the inspiration of rivers, one can see the diversity of thought processes and the different interpretations of nature that have been assimilated and disseminated through creative works.
One such work that explores a creative way of explaining the importance of rivers is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahme. At one point in this novel, there is a dialogue that serves to present a vision of a river as being both a necessary and wonderful object with which others can have a meaningful relationship:
The character of the Rat in this work explains the necessity of rivers in the larger framework of life. To the Rat, the river is not only a naturally occurring land structure; it is also the source of friendship, food, water, and sustenance. Incorporating a theme such as this into the body of a work that will be widely read shows that nature and rivers have such an impact on some writers that they are willing to dedicate a large part of their narratives, poems, and other works creatively explaining the importance of rivers.
Also, the creative works of painters such Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, Pissarro, Turner, Sisley, Renoir, and others also represent the vitality of nature and rivers. Often paintings by these artists were done "en plein air", or outdoors. This allowed the artists to have a closer relationship with nature. They often used quick brushstrokes and unadultered color in order "to capture the most transient natural effects" (a href=http://www.van-gogh-art.co.uk/artist/cezanne.htm> http://www.van-gogh-art.co.uk/artist/cezanne.htm). Thus, the willingness of these artists to fully experience the richness and spontaneity of the natural environment, often times the riparian areas of rivers, allows one to see the extent that these artists and others respect the natural beauty and the creative richness allowed by rivers.
The beauty of the rivers and the riparian area surrounding the rivers are brilliantly brought to life in these paintings. However, in one of the paintings above, there is evidence of great human impact on rivers and the riparian area surrounding them. In the painting Footbridge at Argenteuil by Sisley, there is great human impact with the presence of a bridge and a surrounding urban area. This can be further felt by the use of dark, heavy colors that bring about a sense of the tragedy of the commons.
Every watershed has the potential to inspire writers, painters, and other creative enthusiasts to create a work representing a view about nature and the culture that utilizes and lives with the rivers in their area. There are works of art and pieces of writing that are not just about the Seine, or the Nile, or the Amazon. Even the smallest watershed can inspire great works of literature and art. There are also other ways that people use rivers as a creative outlet. For example, on Collins Run, there is a grouping of stones on the bank of the watershed that always spells out words that can be viewed from the heights of the Bluffs. Though the words may not always have a deep meaning, this is still a way that the watershed area has been used creatively to express an idea or thought.
Another creative interpretation of rivers can be seen in a former Western Alma Mater:
Though this alma mater may not make specific use of the Collins Run watershed, its local historical value makes it an important indicator of the local culture and how they interpreted the importance of rivers in the past. In reading this alma mater, one can discern the culture of the Western College Program in the past. The metaphor of college life being a river allows one to gain a vivid understanding of the nature of college: there will be smooth points in the pools, and there will be rough points in the riffle zones. The fact that a former Western Alma mater chose to incorporate rivers as the main theme speaks volumes to the importance of rivers at the time. One can see by this choice to make rivers the major theme of the alma mater of our college that rivers held importance in the culture of this area.
One other way that the Collins Run watershed in particular has sparked creative energy is through the poems and videos that our group created during the course of our semester long project. The video captures our experience with the watershed: our reactions, thoughts, and sometimes humorous activities regarding the watershed. The backdrop of the entire video is the Collins Run watershed. It is uncut and unedited, so it captures the true essence of our movie making and our true experience with the watershed. The poems are also extensions of our experience on Collins Run. They capture our thoughts and feelings regarding the watershed and the disrepair into which it has fallen. The following poems are written by members of our group, and they all explain our experiences with the Collins Run watershed.
I saw a shopping cart in the river today
And it looked sad, full of sediment and mud
And the remnants of plastic shopping madness
Lost in the torment of once proud waters
I looked at it for a moment while walking up the stony beach
And then I had to look away to avoid tripping on a beer can.
I never thought I'd see a river flow pink
But I did
When I went to the riverbank
No clear waters
The river is dead.
The actuality of this reality is that I feel subhuman and substandard
Every time I look at the water flow and the watershed and the watermarks
Made high above my head
The impact and the riprap and the lack of plants besides honeysuckle
Makes me wonder why I even bother to come here anymore.
Overall, Collins Run heralds great cultural and creative significance due to its very existence. By giving the creatively inclined one more experience from which they can draw upon, Collins Run gains great creative importance. From our group's short time on the Collins Run watershed, we gained a myriad of creative experiences, which we will each interpret in our own way. This semester long project has allowed each of us the valuable experience of gaining creative knowledge of the Collins Run watershed.
Part V: Synthesis of Ideas
From this project, we were able to realize that the science of a watershed is a direct result of the culture and the society in which the watershed is located. The Collins Run watershed is located within a suburban college area; it flows past an abandoned trash dump and residential areas. It also flows under a two-lane highway. The society that created the dump, the houses, and the highway that abut the Collins Run watershed is obviously a society that does not hold a high enough opinion of the watershed to leave its riparian area undisturbed. By running scientific tests on the watershed and analyzing the data, we were able to come to the conclusion that the watershed has been so greatly impacted by the society that surrounds it that there is no longer any significant difference between the supposedly "disturbed" areas and the "undisturbed" areas.
Our group came out of this project looking at the interactions of the science, culture, and society as a dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect changed, the others were forced to react and change accordingly. It is impossible to completely separate the different aspects of the watershed because they are all part of the larger whole. The state of the river and its riparian area both is affected by and will affect the science of the river, the culture that is inspired by the watershed, and the society that surrounds the watershed. There is no way to look at the river in one discipline without acknowledging the ways that other disciplines affect the watershed.
Overall, our group came out of this project with a greater understanding of the human impact on the watershed as a whole. We were able to look at the Collins Run watershed through the scope of many lenses; when we put these views together, we were able to discover the interdisciplinarity of the Collins Run watershed. The views of the society directly affect the maintenance of Collins Run and its surrounding riparian area. This, in turn, affects the health of the river. The change in the river health affects the scientific data that is drawn from the watershed. Also, both the cultural and scientific uses of the watershed lend themselves to different cultural representations of the river. Thus, there is no way to look at Collins Run or any other watershed through the lens of one isolated discipline. Though there may be one discipline that is the focal point of the study, it is necessary to take into the account the impact other disciplines have on the watershed. The interaction of the different disciplines allows the river to maintain its dynamic equilibrium in the realm of science, creativity, and society.
The final conclusion our group came up with is that this project is not necessarily even about Collins Run, or even about Rivers for that matter. It is an exercise in interdisciplinarity. It is a learning experience by which we were able to clumsily feel our way through different disciplines until we came up with a synthesis of our findings. This semester long project allowed us to find out the importance of interdisciplinarity on our own. It was not always fun; it was not always easy. However, we feel that our final project is indicative of our success in finding the way to interdisciplinary thinking.
Don't forget to look at our powerpoint presentation
Ecology: Concepts and Applications
Molles, Manuel C., Jr.
McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002, second edition.
Ohio's Streamside Forests
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Columbus Ohio, 1998
Northword Press: Wisconsin, 1995
The Enemy is Us
ed. deVilleneuve, Robert
Winston Press, Minneapolis, 1973
Ecology of Fresh Waters: Man and Medium
Blackwell Scientific Publications: Oxford, 1988
Habitat Creation and Repair
Oliver L. Gilbert and Penny Anderson
Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998
Methods in Stream Ecology
ed. Hauer, F. Richard and Lamberti, Gary A.
Academic Press: New York, 1996
Restoration Ecology: A synthetic approach to Ecological Research
ed. Jordon III, William; Gilpin, Michael E., and Aber, John D.
Cambridge University Press, New York, 1987
Ecological Restoration and Watershed Management
Minamyer, Kenneth Scott
Miami University: 2001
Damaged Ecosystems and Restoration
World Scientific Publishing Company, Singapore, 1998
Repairing Damaged Wildlands: A Process Oriented, Landscape-Scale Approach
Steven G. Whisenant
Cambridge University Press, New York 1999
Ecology Hall of Fame
Updated July 12, 1999
Post Cultural Blues-Extremist Statements
Accessed April 28, 2002
"Helping People Understand, Protect, and Restore Rivers and their Watersheds."
Monet Lilly Pond, 1926, at Giverny
Renoir The Skiff, (The Seine at Answers) 1879, National Gallery, London
Sisley Footbridge at Argenteuil, 1872, Musée D'Orsay
For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site: http://www.savetheriver.org/ .
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