The authors collecting samples at their research site in Petoskey, MI.

Last spring, Haley Divis, Mikaela Bradley, Ashley Mark, and Erin Rodewald ventured up to the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) to take their field Chemistry Lab. A year later, as sophomores, they are officially published researchers.

“Sediment Pond Efficacy: Case Study in Petoskey, MI” recently appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of the University of Michigan Undergraduate Research Journal. In the paper, the authors investigate whether or not a sediment drainage pond is an effective management tool for filtering heavy metals and gasoline pollutants from storm water flowing into Lake Michigan. Instructor Steve Bertman oversaw the project, and all analyses took place in UMBS’ on-site chemistry lab.

“We had an instructor with us but we got to use waders and actually get in the pond to collect samples,” said Divis. “It was so much fun because we did everything ourselves and it was a great hands on experience!”

The creation of man-made retention ponds is common practice for extracting pollutants from storm water flowing into larger bodies. This particular sediment pond in Petoskey, MI, about a half-hour southwest of the Biological Station campus, mediated water flow between Bear River and Little Traverse Bay. Turbidity, heavy metal levels, and anion concentration were measured in water flowing into the pond, water in the pond, and water flowing out of the pond. In this way, the authors were able to evaluate water quality vis-à-vis the efficacy of sediment ponds.

Chemistry 125/126 at UMBS is a field based course and part of the Authentic Research Connections (ARC) program. Students learn the same analytical techniques as their on-campus counterparts, but enjoy the opportunity to sample plants, animals, water, and sediment in the natural areas surrounding the Station. As a class project, students undertake an analysis of personal care products and pharmaceutical residue in the waters of Northern Michigan. The class serves as a mock contract lab for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council to get a better understanding for how this kind of analytical work operates in the real world.

Read the full case study in the Physical Sciences section of the University of Michigan Undergraduate Research Journal.