Building Ecosystems: The Creation of an Artificial Indoor Stream
Pagorek, Anthony P.
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If humans are going to continue to destroy and alter natural ecosystems, it is important that models of complex living systems can be recreated. This senior independent project examined the creation of an Aquaculture Demonstration Project by the Lake County Solid Waste Management District (LCSWMD) at the Environmental Education Center located in Hammond, IN, in order to act as an education tool, but more importantly as a freshwater stream habitat that could effectively support a monoculture fish population of Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow Trout). This model is intended to be as closely related as possible to its wild counterparts; with the use of human engineering expertise, along with biological and ecological raw materials, to recreate the dynamic processes that are vital to the survival of species and the ecosystem as a whole. The purpose of this study was to provide conclusive evidence that the stream could support the creation of an ecosystem. In order to obtain this evidence, testing of the effectiveness of the artificial stream's mechanical components, which regulate water quality and biological processes, specifically that of O. mykiss, were completed. In order to properly monitor and test the sustainability of the stream, several water tests for parameters of pH, total chlorine concentration, ammonia concentration, dissolved oxygen, and temperature were taken on a consistent schedule. The stream, over the course of a three month period, was able to provide evidence that a stable environment suitable for the survival of O. mykiss could exist with the help of these mechanical components. The mechanical components were able to provide a stable range of parameter values, which directly affects the survival of O. mykiss. Another discovery revealed that despite a lack of the biological relationships and correlations seen between parameters in nature the stream continued to support the survival of O. mykiss. This project will serve as a step to understanding how to recreate watershed ecosystems as well as provide an educational tool to future visitors that wish to learn more about the complexity and fragile nature of ecosystems.