Isabella’s GEMS head to state fair

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A team of young scientists at Isabella High School has been watching Mulberry Creek closely. The Isabella Water Watchers, as they call themselves, are collecting data for use in the real world of science.

On Friday, the students will present their project at the state science fair in Birmingham as part of the Alabama Department of Education’s Girls Engaged in Math & Science (GEMS) program.

Isabella’s group is among just under 100 teams selected from around 500 applications submitted. Needless to say, these girls know their stuff.

“The different types of life forms that can live in water from bacteria to small fish — it all has a system,” sophomore Kayla Kotke said. “While doing this, you learn exactly how the systems work and how the ecosystem is affected.”

The team is using Henry’s law to measure oxygen levels in Mulberry Creek. Henry’s law, formulated by William Henry in 1803, basically says that at a constant temperature, the amount of gas dissolved in a liquid is proportional to atmospheric pressure.

Students are also testing for E. coli in the creek.

“What we’re looking for is something called non-point source pollution,” science instructor Jay LeCroy said. “All these tests are indicators that there might be a problem in the creek.”

Non-point source pollution, as opposed to point source pollution, is not confined to a particular point, such as a pipe from an industry; it comes from many different places.

Data collected at Isabella is sent to Auburn University as part of the Alabama Water Watch Program, a joint project between AU and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

“This project introduces a student to real-world science,” LeCroy said. “We want to showcase the scientific minds out here.”

This is the school’s second year in the GEMS program. Much of the lab equipment was obtained through grants administered by people like Rep. Jimmy Martin and Sen. Hank Erwin. LeCroy stressed the need for future donations.

“I think the experience will help us in the future,” freshman Cari Fondren said.