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1) Cover Page

2) Project Abstract

Earlham College requests $358,877 to develop multidisciplinary science curriculum modules and student/faculty research projects focusing on a common core problem: metals in the environment. This project will emphasize collaboration among our natural science departments, including biology, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics, and environmental science. Scientific research is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary, collaborative, and computational. Therefore, it is essential to train our students to develop multi-faceted approaches to problem solving that use both traditional laboratory techniques and computational methods. This project will introduce an important scientific problem (metals in the environment), ask students to collect and analyze data, and to make interpretations using different disciplinary perspectives. This idea of collaborative multidisciplinary learning will transform our undergraduate curriculum in the sciences and provide a model for programs among the sciences at other liberal arts colleges.

3) Project Narrative

Statement of the work to be undertaken and expected significance.

Objectives/goals for the proposed work.

Project timeline keyed to the objectives/goals.

Relation of the objectives to:

Concise description of methods and procedures for implementation and experimentation.

Curriculum modules will be incorporated into 6 introductory courses and at least 7 upper level courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, geosciences and mathematics. During the academic year, students taking courses that include these modules will be strongly encouraged to participate in a weekly, faculty facilitated seminar in which they will discuss their course experiences. At the end of each semester, students participating in courses that have these modules will be required to attend and present their group projects at a locally hosted poster session. Initially, the summer research component will involve developing and testing curriculum modules. In summers two and three, students will have the opportunity to conduct more advanced research related to metals in the environment including analyses of metals in a variety of environmental matrices, descriptions and quantifications of food chains and computational modeling of rates of biomagnification of metals at higher trophic levels, performance of whole-soil hydraulic conductivity tests and determination of soil mineral reactivities, and computer modeling of biochemical and groundwater processes. All students participating in summer research will have two opportunities each week to discuss the multidisciplinary perspectives related to their projects: faculty from all departments will facilitate a weekly seminar and students will discuss their research projects in a student-led seminar.


NOTE: Corinne and I are both working on this right now, so it will change some, but I wanted to post what we had so far.

Throughout our projects, site-specific data will be collected and models will be used to assess the fate and transport of metal contaminants.

We propose to incorporate a new environmental chemistry component in our general chemistry class (CHEM 111, typical enrollment of 90). This unit will introduce students to fate and transport modeling by measuring the distribution coefficient, Kd, which is a common parameter used to estimate the concentration and movement of metal pollutants in ground water. Kd is a measure of the extent of interactions between a pollutant and the soil matrix. A distribution coefficient for copper has previously been measured in a standardized soil material1, and the procedure can be adapted to soils collected from our study sites. The module will be conducted over two laboratory periods. The first week will consist of a spectroscopy lab, where the students will be introduced to atomic and molecular absorption spectroscopy for the determination of the metal concentration in water, and to infrared spectroscopy for the characterization of the soil. In the second week, students will use atomic spectroscopy to determine Kd of a metal (copper in year 1, and additional metals in subsequent years) in both standard soils, as well as soils collected from both our field and test sites. The distribution coefficient for metal contaminants varies greatly with experimental conditions, both of the soil and the aqueous system (pH, ionic strength, concentrations of pollutants, etc.). This variability will be illustrated by looking at the effect of pH on Kd for the soils investigated. The results will be used to discuss such environmental issues as acid rain and metal mobilization. The soil Kd results will be integrated in a database for use in transport modeling, and could be further studied by groups of student as a part of the research projects in the Equilibrium and Analysis class (CHEM 331).

Equilibrium and Analysis (CHEM 331) is a sophomore level course with an approximate enrollment of 25 students per year. The Kd concept will be further explored by the entire class through the use of a new laboratory module. There, the students will use diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) and diffusive equilibrium in thin films (DET) to calculate the distribution coefficient for labile metal (Kdl) as well as the kinetic values. These values will be used in the DIFS.

DET is a technique where metals are accumulated on an ion exchange resin which is covered with a thin layer of an agarose polymer. The purpose of the ion exchange resin is to concentrate the trace metals present in the water, while the agarose polymer (which has fairly large pores) is used to prevent contamination of the resin with soil or other materials. The metals are then eluted from the resin using a nitric acid solution and analyzed using either graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy (GFAAS) or inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) depending on the metal.

DGT is a similar technique but the ion exchange resin is covered with a thin layer of polyacrylamide. This polymer has smaller pores than agarose and serves as a size discriminator. Thus only “free” metals and metals in small molecular weight complexes are able to penetrate this polymer and reach the ion exchange resin. As a result, the DGT bound metals are known as the “labile” metals and represent more closely the bioavailable metals.

These two methods will be utilized to test three different systems: a laboratory system with known soil samples, our field site soil/water, and soil/water from our remote site (Springwood Lake). These soil/water systems can be tested both for endogenous metals as well as spiked laboratory samples.

This experiment will be done over three lab periods. During the first lab period, the students will set up the soil/water system with the DGT and DET devices and allow to incubate for two different time periods. The first set will be removed at the end of the lab period (three hour incubation), the second set will be removed during the second lab period (72 hour incubation). Also during this first lab period, students will be introduced to the trace metal analysis equipment (GFAAS and ICP-AES) and will prepare and analyze standards. During the second lab period, students will elute the devices and analyze them using the appropriate method. During the third lab period, the students will utilize the DIFS modeling program to look at the data. The different soil samples will be compared.

The results of these tests will be used to build a DIFS model that will fit the data. This can then be .......

These Kdl values will also be compared to the simple Kd values obtained in the Principles of Chemistry course. This will demonstrate the power both of these sophisticated methods as well as the computational modeling......

The environmental chemistry and toxicology course is a new course that will be introduced in the spring of 2007. This course will be an upper level chemistry course with a prerequisite of equilibrium and analysis. The expected enrollment will be 10-15 students.

There will be two modules developed for this course. This first module involves the use of ORCHESTRA to construct a model for metal transport in both our field and remote sampling sites. A model similar to that of Lumsdon (2004) will be constructed that utilizes both humic acid binding and as well as mineral processes. In order to build this model, students will need to determine several important parameters including pH and the concentrations of humic and fulvic acids, hydrous ferric oxide, and reactive Al.

A second module will involve the use of both microbiological specimens and model organisms to construct a biotic ligand model. As with the Equilibrium and Analysis course, there will be three test systems for these tests. The use of microbiological samples to test for metal bioavailability has recently become more common. In our experiment, we will utilize the bacteria Vibrio Fisheri, which is a bioluminescent bacteria. In the simplest form of this assay, bacteria are placed in a soil/water mixture to incubate for a short period of time (30 minutes). The amount of light (indicative of cellular respiration in these bacteria) is measure before and after incubation. The decrease in light emissions represents the toxicity. Toxicity curves can be constructed and LC50 values obtained. This is a good test for acute toxicity due to high concentrations of toxic metals. Several modifications of this test will allow for the measurement of chronic metal exposure using lower metal concentrations (more relevant to typical environmental concentrations) and to direct solid soil exposure.

A second bioassay will involve the use of a model organism, Daphnia Magna. Daphnia Magna, also called water fleas, are crustaceans that have been used in many studies of environmental toxicity. These are easy to handle and grow as well as being inexpensive. Using these organisms, students will first construct toxicity curves for known metals as well as metal mixtures. These studies will then be repeated using water/soil mixtures from the three systems described above. These will be used to build a biotic ligand model for our systems and Daphnia and could predict the toxicity at various levels. In addition to the toxicity data above, it will be necessary to measure temperature, pH, dissolved organic carbon, alkalinity, as well as major cations (Ca, Mg, Na and K), major anions (SO42- and Cl-), , and sulfide concentrations.

Biotic ligand modeling will be done using.............

The results of these bioassays will be compared to the results from the DGT studies done by the Equilibrium and Analysis students. Students will be able to see if the DGT accurately predicts the bioavailability (and thus toxicity) of metals in the soil/water mixtures.


Sample the aquatic biota (macropthytes and animals) of Springwood Park Lake in order to 1) describe and quantify the food chains; 2) evaluate the extent of bioaccumulation of metals by those organisms; and 3) assess the rates of biomagnification occuring in higher trophic levels.

Methods: We plan a full inventory of the biota of Springwood Park Lake: Plants will be sampled manually; invertebrates by plankton tows, nets, and dredges; and vertebrates by seine or fyke nets. We will use mark-recapture studies (using injection of passive integrated transponders [PIT tags]) to estimate population sizes and standing crop biomass of macrovertebrates (fish and turtles). Gut content analysis (by dissection for invertebrates, and non-destructive stomach flushing of vertebrates) will be used to determine food chains. Tissue samples (non-destructive whenever possible) will be analyzed in the laboratory for metal concentrations and these values will be related to the trophic ecology of individual species. We would also do sampling of tissues of these same organisms in other county lakes as reference values for these general region.


Course Module-GEOS211 Physical Geology (this is approximately one page of single-spaced text in MS Word)

Physical Geology at Earlham is an introductory-level course that is taken by both science and non-science majors. Students in this course who are non-science majors generally lack confidence in their ability to “do” science and have had little to no exposure to an inquiry-based science classroom. In this course module, students will apply basic geologic methods of analysis to an environmental project. By the end of this module, students will be able to:

Use web-based GIS to display and organize data relevant to the characterization of the project site. Use field and laboratory observations to describe the geology of the project site. Organize and analyze geochemical data to make interpretations about the heavy metal concentrations in the region of the project site. Create a scientific report synthesizing the results of the project and suggesting areas for further study. Upon completion of the project, selected students will present results to other introductory-level students participating in courses with applied modules. All students will then be required to write a report describing the different approaches and results each of these courses takes in studying this environmental problem. (may be revised based on how we decide to structure our multidisciplinary efforts)

This module will use the final four laboratory sessions in Physical Geology. Students will have a basic background in geology and will be able to apply that knowledge to the local area. Each laboratory section has a maximum of twenty-two students, with one professor and one upper-level undergraduate teaching assistant.

Week One: Readings and worksheets will focus on the general problem of metals in the environment. This will be keyed to discussions of the hydrologic cycle with an emphasis placed on the connection between groundwater flow and subsurface geology. Students will begin to learn how to use web-based GIS to create displays of the study area.

Week Two: Field trip to the project site. Students will examine the geology of the project site (Springwood Lake) and participate in a demonstration of sampling a sediment core from the lake.

Week Three: Students will, in teams, describe a suite of sediment cores, in terms of sediment texture, color, sorting, or other sedimentological differences.

Week Four: Students will be given geochemical data keyed to the cores described in Week Three (geochemical data will have been collected by upper-level geochemistry students or will have been collected as part of a summer research project). Students will be required to plot and analyze this data and make interpretations about the concentrations of heavy metals in Springwood Lake over time as a result of their analysis. Students will then write a full scientific report of this project and share the results with other introductory-level science students working on different aspects of this project.

computer science


Technical problems that may be encountered and how they will be addressed.

Roles of all key project personnel.

Organization chart of key project personnel.

Description of facilities, equipment and resources available for the project.

Equipment requests should:

Plans for this project beyond the proposed time period, including financial support.

Describe how the success of the project will be evaluated in terms of the goals proposed. Include information regarding outside review committees, if appropriate.

The project evaluators might also help to conceptualize key issues or problems that would keep our program from meeting our stated objectives and specify particular criteria for success as well as identify particular data needed to determine how well the components of the program are meeting their objectives.

Delineating project goals will assist us in developing both qualitative and quantitative measures for determining how well our goals are being met during both the formative and summative evaluation phase. Possible qualitative evaluations include:

Quantitative evaluations might include:

Final reports summarizing both the quantitative and qualitative data will be produced. They will asses which and to what degree goals have been met for affected students, faculty, and the institution as a whole as well as provide recommendations for further implantation and dissemination.

4) Project Budget Form

5) Budget Narrative

Personnel – Salary & Fringe Benefits (Total 3 year budget $ 227,613 : $201,777 grant funded, $25,836 institutional funding) 48 Faculty weeks per year(total 144 faculty weeks) @ $600 per week + .0765 FICA and Medicare for summer research and curricula work (e.g. 6 faculty x 8 weeks per year) 96 student weeks per year (total 288 student weeks) @ $400 per week +.0765 FICA and Medicare for collaboration with faculty in research and curricula work (e.g. 12 students x 8 weeks per year) Grant support @ $3,000 + .0765 FICA and Medicare + 10% TIAA/CREF as staff for, reporting, purchasing supplies, budget monitoring, etc. Equipment (Total 3 year budget $100,000 - $80,800 grant funded, $19,200 institutional funding) Large freezer dryer @ $22,500 – drying of biological and soil samples in preparation for digestion and analysis.

Acid digestion system @$25,000 – dissolution of biological and soil samples prior to analysis by GFAAS or ICP-AES

Atomic Absorption Spectrometer – college funded ($19,200) – analysis of low levels of toxic metals such as lead and arsenic

DGPS @$2250 – will be used to precisely locate sampling sites in our remote sampling location (Springwood Lake)

Field monitoring equipment – 4 sets @ $3,000 will include electronic and computer components necessary for the construction of field monitoring stations that will be used to continuously monitor temperature, pH (digital), conductivity, redox potential, pressure, and nitrate levels at our on-campus field site

Field sampling equipment @ $15,000 – will be used to construct our on-campus and remote field sites including construction of a monitoring well and equipment for obtaining sediment and soil cores.

Biology sampling gear @ 3800 – will include equipment such as nets and electronic identification tags that will be used to capture and/or monitor biological samples such as fish and turtles.

Operations (Total 3 year budget $198,313 - $76,300 grant funded, $122,013 institutional funding

Consumable supplies @ $25,333 per year - will include lab supplies necessary for sample processing and atomic analysis for both academic year and summer, which will impact X students per year (e.g. clean acids, consumables for atomic spectroscopy (graphite tubes, Ar gas), pipet tips)

Travel/symposiums @$11,100 per year – will fund faculty and student travel to regional and national meetings to present the results of this research as well as the costs of poster.

Facilities Overhead – All institutional funded

Evaluation – @$3000 per year – construction and analysis of surveys........

Library Acquisitions @ $2000 per year – will fund purchase of relevant texts as well as interlibrary loans.

6) Recognition Statement

Earlham College science faculty and public information staff will work closely with the W.M. Keck Foundation to publicize grant funding. Upon approval of text, Earlham's public information staff will distribute news releases to local, regional and national media, and to educational publications such as the Chronicle on Higher Education to announce receipt of a Keck grant.

In addition, a feature article for the Spring 2007 Earlhamite, Earlham's alumni magazine, will be prepared and submitted to the Foundation for approval. The Keck award will be highlighted on the Earlham College web page with links to news coverage and the Earlhamite article. Keck will also be acknowledged on our Natural Sciences web page, and on each participating discipline web page.

Faculty and student written and oral presentations on the multidisciplinary curriculum development and/or research projects will acknowledge Keck support. These presentations could include journal articles, and papers and poster sessions at regional and national conferences, as well as in publications in organizations such as the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR).

7) Project Documents

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