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Learn What Purple Cabbage Can Tell You about Your World

Adirondack program focuses on students

A program called "The Power of Purple Cabbage: What a Garden Vegetable Can Tell You about Acid Rain," to be held this summer at the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC), will help middle and high school students learn about the environmental impacts of acid deposition.

The program at the AIC in Newcomb, N.Y., consists of hands-on activities including testing for pH with purple cabbage juice. The targeted group for the project is middle school to early high school students but anyone who wishes to participate is welcome.

Of the 1,469 Adirondack lakes tested by the Adirondack Lake Survey, a third were found to have a pH below 5.6, 25 times more acidic than drinking water, which has a pH of 7. The survey also found that a third of the lakes tested were fishless. Analyzing lakes furthers the understanding of how acid rain influences terrestrial ecosystems where it can cause calcium to be depleted from soils. Calcium is necessary for plant growth, which in turn affects populations of other terrestrial animals.

"Purple Cabbage" sessions will be held 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. July 23 through 27 and July 30 through Aug. 3 at the AIC facility operated in Newcomb by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

The program is the work of Melissa Santos, a fourth-year ESF chemistry student who is assessing the impact of a learning environment on the effectiveness of educational models. Santos is working in cooperation with The Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education and Leadership Training.

Santos is a scholar in ESF's Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) research program. UMEB is a two-year program funded by the National Science Foundation with a theme of "Science and Stewardship in the Adirondacks" in which students complete a research project with the help of faculty and stewardship mentors.

For more about her research or the program, contact Santos at masant01@syr.edu or call the Adirondack Interpretive Center at 518-582-2000.