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Investigating human impacts on stream ecology: Scaling up from Local to National with a focus on the Southeast

Author(s): Emily Weigel

Georgia Institute of Technology

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Adaptation of the "TIEE Module- How does nutrient pollution impact stream ecosystems locally and nationally?" specifically to include information on the SE (particularly Atlanta, GA).

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 31 May 2020 doi:10.25334/66FP-9M34 - cite this

Adapted from: Investigating human impacts on stream ecology: locally and nationally v 1.0



Organic nutrients, land cover, biological indicators, macroinvertebrate index, stream ecosystem structure and function


  • Recall specific chemical, physical, and biological indicators of stream health
  • Calculate stream health using a biotic index
  • Compare local sites in terms of stream health
  • Plot stream health from different EPA regions using R
  • Compare, contrast, and summarize patterns of stream health locally and nationally


What did you change and why?

o I added this activity as a capstone to an existing 2-week sampling module to get students to connect hyper-local happenings to national trends. In this way, it functions more as a mini-module (3 weeks of 3-hour labs) vs. a single class/lab activity.

o I also moved data collection and reflection to week 3’s activities as part of an in-class exercise, to allow students to complete all work in-class rather than on the students’ own time (which may be limited due to their own schedules/demands)  

o I changed the activity to use open-source coding in base R, which is free, opensource, and works with screen-readers to encourage my diverse students to learn the tools that are in active use in the field. 

o I also developed the human impacts portion of the lesson a bit more by including videos of the clean-up/restoration process on our local creek and historical documents spanning the last 60 years so that students can understand the spatial, social, and temporal scales of the problem. In particular, students were asked to look over and organize the documents to tell the story of the problem and on a map, understand how campus connects to the neighborhoods in our shared watershed.


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