Have you ever thought about the level of toxicity within the bodies of water around your neighborhood? Ever gone so far as to carefully test a few of them by conducting a thorough investigation?
Well, Russell Ramsay and Eddie Ulbricht have, and these two Dallas International School eighth-graders say that they’ve just scratched the surface of what they want to do to raise awareness about the importance of clean water in the Dallas area.
It all started out as a DIS science fair project that Ramsay began last year.
“I did a project at last year’s fair on the oxygen content in water,” Ramsay said. “I only tested the oxygen in the water, but this year we tested way more parameters.”
That’s where Ulbricht, Ramsay’s longtime friend, came in.
“I’m a fly fisherman, so I do a lot of fishing,” Ramsay said. “Eddie does too. I’ve been to Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas to fish and he’s been to Montana and other places. We always go to these really pretty places to fish for trout, and we realized that fish just don’t live in ugly places. We wanted to find out why.”
The duo cooked up a plan to test the toxin levels in local bodies of water around north Dallas. They selected three locations to test: Twin Lakes, Cottonwood Park and another north Dallas park near a Frisbee golf course.
“We ended up conducting experiments by using a living organism to detect toxins,” Ramsay said. “In this case, we were using daphnia magna, or water fleas.”
What they found out surprised them.
“We found that our local bodies of water are pretty toxic,” Ulbricht said. “They couldn’t really support a steady population of water fleas. We also found that bodies of water closer to golf courses or runoff from the street had higher toxicity because of the phosphate found in fertilizers.”
Under the direction of their teacher, Florence Delleniaux, they entered their findings into the school and regional science fairs. It was the first time that DIS eighth-graders had ever participated in the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair (DRSEF). The pair took home a junior division first place award for their work.
So what’s next for these two budding scientists?
“Next year, we want to further our research,” Ulbricht said. “We really want to expand our area and do both urban areas and rural areas and do our tests over the course of an entire year.”
For now, both young men are dedicated to sharing their findings with the community to help raise awareness.
“There are a lot of people that eat the fish in those waters,” Ramsay said. “They’ll go fishing, they’ll eat it and it’s potentially harmful because of the toxins. People just need to be careful what kind of fertilizers they use and what stuff they put down the drain.”