Students Go Boggin'

As a high school chemistry teacher, you don’t often hear the word “awesome” applied to your class.  But this past week, we took a field trip which some of the students said was just that.  Last Tuesday, all twenty high school students, along with five chaperones and a baby, braved the heat and mosquitoes to take a tour of the Philbrick Cricenti Bog in New London.  A bog is one of the three varieties of wetlands, and is a unique sanctuary for certain plants and animals that thrive in conditions particular to a bog.  The Cricenti bog formed from an ancient lake, which existed during the glacial period.  The plants and mosses that grew on the banks of the lake began to grow out over the water, trapping the water underneath it.   We were all surprised to pull a long stick out of the quaking mat, as it’s called, and find that it was about twenty feet deep in some of the places we walked over!   The “ground” of the bog is actually just a thin cover of mosses, flowers and grasses which used to grow along the lake shore of the ancient lake.  Even some small trees grow on the bog, but their growth has been stunted by the lack of nutrients and support from the ground.  The thin boardwalks have been built up and replaced over time to allow people to walk through the bog.

Because the water underneath the moss and grass doesn’t flow, there is very low oxygen and pH in the water.  Bacteria cannot be supported in these conditions and plant and animal material does not decay.  The map points out that in some locations of the bog, large animals have dies and the moss has grown right over their non-decayed bodies!  We talked about how in the bogs of Ireland and Northern Europe, where they mine and burn the rich bog material for fuel, miners have actually found remains of humans from as early as 6 B.C. that are very well preserved.

The object of the bog trip was to collect samples of the groundwater, which seeps up through the mat, for analysis.  Each group took up to ten samples at different places of the bog, which they kept track of on their maps.  Back at the lab, we have been testing pH and looking at samples through our microscopes to see what sort of small organisms thrive in low pH conditions.  We will compare this information to our maps in order to determine where in the bog the pH is the lowest, and what is living there.  It will be interesting to see what we come up with!

- Mrs. Kelly Ouelette, Teacher and Parent