Practical of aquatic ecology
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course is offered to students of the Master degree and aims to transfer them cultural and operational instruments for analysis of the main abiotic and biological components of aquatic environments (waters, sediments, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fishes). At the end of the course, students are able to work in the field and in a chemical laboratory and for biological analysis, to identify representative sites, to properly draw, to treat harvested samples, to apply different indexes of chemical and biological quality and to interpret them critically.
Five main training objectives are proposed.
1) Plan a sampling drawing of different environmental matrices correctly.
2) Learn to use field tools for direct measurements in the environment, and for sampling and pre-treatment.
3) Operate in a chemical laboratory through the learning of safety standards, reagent management, application of simple spectrophotometric methods.
4) To independently calculate chemical and biological quality indices with their own data or literature data.
5) Critically interpret the returns of an index.
Course contents summary
The course aims to teach the student the correct application of official indices of chemical and biological quality in inland water environments. The course teaches the official techniques of sampling and analysis of water, sediments, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish, and the formulation of chemical, biological and ecological indexes, and their meaning. The student must have as reference the basics of the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the multiple relationships between environment and organisms.
The course has a strong practical / experimental character, and is organized in 5 modules.
Module 1. (7h) Elements for Sampling, Treatment and Analysis of Water.
Module 2. (6h) Elements for Sampling, Treatment and Sediment Analysis.
Module 3. (6h) Elements for sampling and analysis and indexing of macroinvertebrates
Module 4. (6h) Elements for sampling and analysis and indexing of macrophytes.
Module 5. (6h) Elements for the sampling and analysis and indexing of fish communities.
Module 1. Criteria for choosing the water sampling sites; sampling tools, multiparameter probes, sample retention, particle separation. Analysis of dissolved gases, major anions and cations, phytoplanktonic chlorophyll and suspended solids. Water quality indices: calculation, meaning and application.
Module 2. Criteria for sediment sampling; sampling tools, sample conservation, sediment macrodescriptors analysis (color, horizons, density, porosity, organic matter). Role of sediments in shallow aquatic environments: measurement of mineralization processes (oxygen demand, total respiration, denitrification) and recycling of nutrients.
Module 3. Criteria for sampling macroinvertebrates: definition of representative sites, sizing of sampling effort, sorting and preservation. Reading and recognition keys in the field and in the lab. Macroinvertebrates and biomonitoring, water quality indexes, limits and perspectives. Macro-vertebrate and facilitation: nutrition cyclization and implications for primary producers
Form 4. Criteria for sampling macrophytes: definition of representative transepts, sizing of sampling effort, sample retention, and readout recognition. Macrophytes and eutrophication, the structural role of macrophytes in aquatic environments: biogeochemical implications, chemical quality of water and sediments, and macroinvertebrate and fish communities.
Module 5. Criteria for fish sampling: definition of representative transepts, shedding effort, recognition of collected organisms and field measurements for the analysis of the structure of the community. Ittiofauna and biomonitoring, quality indices of aquatic environments based on fish communities, importance of exotic species in the functioning of aquatic environments.
The course closes with a summary lesson in which the limits of each index are discussed.
There are 5 deliveries per student, one for each module, in addition to official IRSA-CNR manuals for water analysis methods and guidelines for bioindication by macrofauna, macrophytes and fish. The material will be provided by the teacher in electronic format during the first lesson.
The organization of the teaching consists of a frontal lesson in which the course is introduced, and the didactic material is distributed. The contents and the methods of field exits, a module in the chemical laboratory and three field modules for sampling matrices and environmental measurements with portable instrumentation are presented.
Assessment methods and criteria
The participation in field and laboratory activities is a prerequisite for being admitted to the final exam as the level of participation in the activities and the compilation of field and laboratory cards are evaluated by the teacher. A maximum of 25% absences (about 1 form) is allowed only for serious reasons that the student will have to justify. Evaluation of participation in the activities is 30% of the final vote. At the end of the course the student must support a test (30 questions) for multiple answers. The test vote compares to 70% of the final vote
The final vote is out of thirty; the minimum vote is 18, the maximum of 30, the praise is given only to students who during the course are actively participating in the labs and field activities.