Public Lab Research note

Challenges and Solutions doing Fieldwork

by bhamster | March 02, 2023 22:06 02 Mar 22:06 | #38736 | #38736

A version of this story by high school student Laila is published in Public Lab's Community Science Forum, Issue 18. Read more from this issue here.

Our soil is contaminated with mercury! Mercury contamination in soil, water, and air has been linked to human and ecosystem toxicity. Mercury pollution in various environmental media has risen as a result of industrial activity such as coal burning. This contamination is putting lives in danger. For example, my school recently started a garden of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables. And whatever is in the soil we are using will end up in the garden, and when we consume these fruits and vegetables, we are consuming mercury, which has the chance of us getting extremely sick and even dying. So, as you can see, this is a serious problem and we have decided to take tests and observations on our campus.

Considering the fact that this was my first time doing this, I actually had a lot of fun. A few days ago, my classmates and I participated in an activity for soil sampling and balloon mapping with a woman from Public Lab named Purl. During this activity, we ran into a small issue with the balloon. I was in charge of tying the balloon shut. And, turns out I needed to tie the black strap tighter and use another strap. At first, I was nervous because Purl said that if we didn't tie this balloon tight, all the air would get out and we would have to start all over again, and I didn't want to be the cause of that. So, one of my classmates decided to come to my aid. While this was happening, she asked us whether we should bring it up 500 feet or 1,000 feet. At first, we chose 1,000 feet because there would be more to see than at 500 feet. But, my teacher, Mrs. Darville, asked a question that made us all rethink our decision. "Yes, we would be able to see more, but do you think the quality would be better if it was higher?" So, in the end, we picked 500 feet.

Soil sampling was way more challenging than the balloon mapping. One of the conflicts we faced was time. We had a limited amount of time since it was our last class period. But, not only digging up the soil was hard. It was hard for me because it was thick and somewhat damp, causing it to be heavy since it had rained a few hours before. So far, we are waiting for our results to come in.


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