RF: â€œPeople have little test kits for their pools, they put water in, and they put in drops of things, and shake it up and it turns color. This is a flow injection analyzer, costs a lot more money, looks fancier, but it does exactly the same thing.â€
Rob Franks is the laboratory manager at the UC Santa Cruz Institute of Marine Sciences. Today heâ€™s giving a tutorial to a young protg. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. When third-grader Claire Dworsky proposed testing water runoff from San Franciscoâ€™s soccer fields, her entry won the water quality category of the Kidsâ€™ Science Challenge, our nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders. Well now a number of scientists are working with Claire supplying her with all the necessary collection gear and lab time. And after collecting more than 100 samples from grass and artificial turf fields, Claire brought the samples to the UC Santa Cruz lab for testing.
RF â€œIt takes a little bit of your sample and it adds to it different chemicals that turn color depending on how much nitrate or phosphate or ammonia or other things are in there.â€
Nutrients like phosphates and nitrates are used as fertilizers in grass fields, and too much fertilizer can be damaging to the surrounding environment. So why not just test each field manually, one at a time, just like youâ€™d test the water in a swimming pool?
RF: â€œIf you only have five or ten samples, thatâ€™s a really good way to do it, itâ€™s pretty quick. But youâ€™ve gotâ€
CD: â€œA hundred and ten.â€
RF: â€œA hundred and ten samples, so with 110 samples, pouring 110 times, adding 110 times, shaking 110 times, and then reading the color 110 times, itâ€™s a lot of work. So this does that all for you automatically. Thatâ€™s what youâ€™re going to be doing today.â€
Claire Dworsky and the scientists will be testing for a number of other potential contaminants. And learn more, visit kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Kidsâ€™ Science Challenge is made possible by the National Science Foundation.