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RHS students test pH levels in Boom Lake RHS students test pH levels in Boom Lake

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Rhinelander high school students help put Boom Lake on the map after the data they collected from a class experiment joined a global stage.

The United Nations designated 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), and in celebration, the American Chemical Society (ACS) asked science teachers from elementary students to seniors in high school, to participate in a global study of the worlds lakes.

RHS chemistry teacher Dan Jesse received an email asking if he and his students would like to participate and he thought letting his students be a part of such a large project would be a unique experience for them.

"I found out about it from the American Chemical Society, who sent out an email asking teachers of all grades if they would like to participate in the project and the explanation of how to participate," he said. "It just happened that we were able to take part in it during our water chemistry unit, so it fit well."

Jesse's students measured the pH, or level of acidity, and other properties of Boom Lake and posted them to the IYC global water map. 

Organizers, including the ACS, hope this will become the world's biggest chemistry experiment ever, as students, scouts, and community groups from many nations study their local water sources and post the data to the interactive, global map.

Jesse said it was a wonderful experience for his students because it allowed them to not only look at the importance of keeping their lake healthy but to learn about the importance of clean water to people everywhere.

"I though it was interesting and putting the results on the web, worldwide, gives those doing research is a nice broad base of results from around the world to track changes of acid rain and to see trends," he said. "If there are researchers looking at the effect of pH levels, they'd have a starting point and it's partly with research from my students."

Though the global contribution is unique, Jesse's students enjoyed being able to study something on a local level.

"I live on Boom Lake so its cool that I can know the pH level of my lake and seeing that it affects the biology of the lake and the wild life," senior Bobby Montgomery said. "It's really neat that we get to do this kind of stuff because instead of using random water samples we got to test on our own lakes so it brings it closer to home."

The students worked in pairs and tested the level of acidity in water samples Jesse brought in from Boom Lake.

Through their tests using dye indicators, the students discovered the lake is only slightly acidic, averaging about a six on the pH scale.

"We found out the lake is only slightly acidic, which is not bad for a lake, especially with the river running through it. It's pretty normal," Montgomery said.

Senior Bridgette Brekke said she was really interested in the experiment because she wants to become a biologist and has a specific interest in local lakes and their ecosystems.

"It was especially interesting because it was local and it's important to know about your local lakes and know about factors that could cause the pH levels go up or down, like not polluting and controlling invasive species," she said. "It was a lot of fun doing the experiment and I like being a part of an experiment that could help others in the future." 

Results from RHS and other schools across the U.S. and the globe can be viewed at water.chemistry2011.org/web/iyc and the Boom Lake results will be under experiment one, pH.

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