Ohio River Running: Dr. Lorentz and his team survey the river’s ecosystem

  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.*
  • MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Lab_Erosion and Deposition

The Ohio River is one of the greatest natural resources in the Midwest, providing fresh water and a transportation route for millions of people and industries. Dr. Chris Lorentz of Thomas More College and his bioassessment team keeps track of the health of the river’s ecosystem as it has bounced back from years of neglect. The team ventures out on the river each morning to do water quality tests, monitoring dissolved oxygen levels, pH, and turbidity, all of which are indicators of the conditions of the river. They also check nets for fish, taking data on number of fish species, their size, and their health.

Since the 1970’s, the Ohio River ecosystem has come back strong, with over 160 species of fish and dozens of species of birds, reptiles and mammals. In the decades before, lack of regulation lead to factories and cities dumping waste and pollution into the water without consequences. As trees were cleared for houses and roads, the river valley’s ecosystem deteriorated considerably. The Environmental Protection Agency was founded, enforcing restrictions and helping clean up the water. However, there are still challenges that remain. Runoff from both cities and farms bring in excess nitrogen and phosphorus into the water, which can cause algae blooms. These blooms cause fish kills and give off toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans.


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