This report describes the results of the second education and bird-monitoring program conducted by sixth grade students, teachers, and volunteers at Portsmouth Middle School. The program combined classroom lessons with field trips to monitor bird populations in South Mill Pond, a tidal pond-like estuary in front of the school. The Pond has suffered over the years from a variety of environmental problems as the City of Portsmouth developed, including major watershed changes, combined sewer overflows, runoff from city streets and parking lots, and fill projects. Several years ago, the City initiated a long-term project to re-direct sewage away from the Pond to the City's wastewater treatment plant. In 2001, scientists from the University of New Hampshire joined with the City, eighth grade students and teachers from Portsmouth Middle School, and local volunteers to construct experimental shellfish reefs and salt marsh habitat in the Pond. Our project was designed to allow sixth grade students to participate in the overall community-wide program of restoring South Mill Pond. It had the dual goal of education and monitoring an ongoing habitat restoration project, and it involved approximately 175 students during Spring 2004 and 162 students during Fall 2004. The education component consisted of teaching lessons on the ecology of coastal waters, how scientists study nature, and several biology topics, including identification and ecology of birds. The bird-monitoring component of the project involved observing, identifying and recording data on birds in and around the Pond. Each observation team consisted of four to six students and one or two adult volunteers, who in most cases were parents of students in the classes. The data collected in 2004 were compared to the 2003 (year of the first bird monitoring project) data, and represented the beginning of what is anticipated as a long-term monitoring project for South Mill Pond. Similar numbers of birds and major bird types were observed in Spring 2004 compared to Spring 2003. However, during Fall 2004 many more ducks were observed compared to the Spring monitoring periods, perhaps reflecting waterfowl migratory patterns in general. This suggests that South Mill Pond may be an important feeding area for migratory ducks. The observation site that included restored shellfish reefs had the highest numbers of birds during Fall 2004. Otherwise, similar numbers and types of birds were observed in all four observation sites of the Pond both years. Future bird monitoring efforts will be able to use these data to assess long-term recovery of South Mill Pond. Both goals of the project were accomplished in substantial ways. Sixth grade students participated in an extraordinary, hands-on science project and were given the opportunity to work with professionals. The unique curriculum and lesson plans included a student handbook on the ecology of the Pond. For nearly all of the science topics covered – including photosynthesis, food webs, pollution, habitats, and others - the focus was on how they related to South Mill Pond. This made all of the lessons much more interesting and relevant.
Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership
New Hampshire Estuaries Project
Grizzle, Terri W., "2004 Student Estuarine Research Project" (2005). PREP Reports & Publications. 184.