1. "Pre-Trip" Assignments
  2. "Trip" Journal Assignment
  3. "Trip" Field-based Research Assignment
  4. "Post-Trip" Assignment

I. Pre-Trip Assignments

- to be completed before departure, questions will be sent to you via e-mail



Books (please purchase):

The Rivers Run Black: The Environmental Challenge of China's Future, Elizabeth Economy, Cornell University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8014-4220-6

The Future Of Life, Edward O. Wilson, Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-679-45078-5

Download Pre-Trip Assignment #1

Download Pre-Trip Assignment #2

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II. "Trip" Journal Assignment

   - to be completed by all participants throughout the trip component and upon return to the mainland

Trip JournalYou will be given a trip journal to keep notes on your trip. For example, you should keep a daily journal of things you did, things you saw and things you learned. You might also want to keep track of the people you met and anything else you wish to remember, such as your first impressions, your surprises, etc.

A "structured journal" is a journaling technique in which the writer employs a question to help him/her capture information. Your professors will be utilizing this technique while in China. On a daily basis, they will come together to define a "Question of the Day?" which you will use as a template question. This question will be given to you each morning throughout your travels. You will be asked to answer this question in your journal as completely as possible, reflecting on your experiences, knowledge, emotions, and feelings. Beyond text, you may also include drawings, doodles, scribbles, poetry, dialogs, graphs, charts, images, symbols, etc. After your trip you will be required to submit part of your journal responses to your professors. It is suggested that you try to keep up with your journal questions throughout your travels in China. Your entries may also be quoted in various newspaper, magazine, and journal publications given your permission.

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III. "Trip" Field-based Research Assignment

- to be completed by all participants throughout the trip component

Evaluating the Link Between Watershed Nutrient Loadings and In-Lake Water Quality
in Lake Taihu, China

Hunter Carrick, Ph.D.
School of Forest Resources
Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA

Xiaoying Cheng, Ph.D.
School of Environmental and Civil Engineering
Jiangnan University
Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, CHINA

Rachel Brennan, Ph.D.
College of Engineering
Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA

Lake EcosystemBackground:
Understanding the relationship between watershed nutrient loadings and in-lake water quality is critical information required to guide effective management of lake ecosystems (e.g., Steinman et al. 2000). This is particularly true for large lake ecosystems that are imbedded in complex watersheds with multiple land uses that serve a spectrum of human needs (Wetzel 2001). Previous research that identifies the key limiting nutrients to planktonic algal growth is generally used as a cornerstone to guide effective lake ecosystem management (e.g., Carrick et al. 1993).

Lake Taihu is the third largest lake in China located in the Changjiang River delta (Qin et al. 2007). The lake currently experiences nuisance levels of planktonic algae in many regions of the lake (e.g., Xu et al. 2010). The levels (concentrations) of planktonic algae are a concern given the importance of the lake as a natural resource to the region in China (Qin et al. 2010). Moreover, the species of planktonic algae (cyanobacteria, Microcystis sp.) that bloom in the lake have the capability of producing deleterious toxins that could further impair the lake as a natural resource (Chen et al. 2003). Previous research points to the notion that both N and P affect phytoplankton growth (Xu et al. 2010), and thus the dual management of both N and P is recommended to improve water quality conditions in the lake (Pearl et al. 2011).

We will lead a class of 30 students to conduct a 4 day field/laboratory course to evaluate the affect nutrients have on occurrence of nuisance levels of planktonic algae in Lake Taihu. The course is designed to address the question - “What is the relationship between the nutrient concentration of common plant nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) and the abundance and growth of plankton algae in Lake Taihu?” Data will be collected from two locations in the bay that are exposed to different watershed nutrient loadings. This portion of the course will take a case study approach to:

  1. Evaluate the current knowledge base for the lake
  2. Collect and both experimental and survey data collected directly by the students
  3. Interpret the results relative to previous findings for Lake Taihu and other large, shallow lake ecosystems (e.g., Lake Apopka and Lake Okeechobee, USA).
Study algal growth

The logistics for the class case study are outlined below:

  1. The class of 30 students will be divided all students in 5 groups, each being composted of 6 students (3 Chinese + 3 American).
  2. Each group will be responsible for collecting data from 1 of 5 field sites in the lake. Sampling sites will include the following:
    1. NORTH: Mouth of the Liangxi River, Offshore Meiliang Bay
    2. EAST: Mouth of Wangyu River, Offshore East Taihu Lake
    3. MID-LAKE: Open water of main lake
  3. At each site, we will collect a series of samples to characterize the following in lake conditions:
    1. Physics - Light penetration, temperature
    2. Chemistry - Conductivity, oxygen, nutrient concentrations
    3. Biology - Algal biomass, algal taxonomic composition and abundance
    4. Nutrient Limitation - Bioassays will be carried out to determine the key, limiting nutrients
    5. Watershed - Land use (% cover), nutrient loading estimates
  4. Each group will be responsible for summarizing results from our data collections, and presenting their findings to the group.

Carrick, H.J., C.L. Schelske, F.J. Aldridge, and M.J. Coveney. 1993. Phytoplankton nutrient limitation in productive waters: Application of dilution bioassays. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 50: 2208-2221.

Chen, Y., B. Qin, K. Teubner, and M.T. Dokulil. 2003. Long-term dynamics of phytoplankton assemblages: Microcystis-domination in Lake Taihu, a large shallow lake in China. J. Plankton Res. 25: 445-453.

Paerl, H.W., H. Xu, M.J. McCarthy, G. Zhu, B. Qin, Y. Li, and W.S. Gardner. 2011. Conrtolling harmful cyanobacterial blooms in a hypereutrophic lake (Lake Taihu, China): The need for a dual nutrient (N & P) management strategy. Water Res. In press.

Qin, B., P. Xu, Q. Wu, L. Luo, and Y. Zhang. 2007. Environmental issues of Lake Taihu, China. Hydrobiologia 581: 13-14.

Qin, B. G. Zhu, G. Gao, Y. Zhang, W. Li, H.W. Paerl, and W.W. Carmichael. 2010. A drinking water crisis in Lake Taihu, China: Linkage to climatic variability and lake management. Environ. Manag. 45: 105-112.

Steinman, A.D., K.E. Havens, H.J. Carrick, R. VanZee. 2000. The past, present, and future hydrology and ecology of Lake Okeechobee and its watersheds. In: K. Porter and J. Porter (eds.), Linkages between ecosystems in the South Florida hydroscape. CRC Publications, Boca Raton, FL

Wetzel, R.G. 2001. Limnology: Lake and river ecosystems. 3rd Ed., Springer-Verlag Press, New York, NY. 429 p.

Xu, H. H. W. Paerl, B. Qin, G. Zhu, and G. Gao. 2010. Nitrogen and phosphorus inputs control phytoplankton growth in eutrophic Lake Taihu, China. Limnol. Oceanogr. 55: 420-432.

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IV. "Post-Trip" Assignment

- to be completed throughout the trip component and upon return to the mainland

After your trip to china you will be required to answer the following questions. It is suggested that you start thinking about some of your answers throughout your travels in China and take notes in your journal as need be.

  • In general, what impressed you the most about China?
  • Overall, what were your best and worst experiences in China?
  • What was the most challenging (physical and/or emotional) experience that you accomplished in China?
  • Any surprises or disappointments throughout the trip?
  • What was the most significant thing that you learned about water throughout your adventures in China?
  • How have human activities impacted the natural habitats of China? Be specific.
  • What are your opinions on the future of China’s fresh water supply?
  • What are your opinions on the future of water in the United States?
  • What problems concerning water conservation biology on a global scale did you uncover while in China? And are there solutions?
  • From what you have experienced either directly or indirectly in the field, and through your extraneous use of textbooks and other resources to understand basic environmental science and ecology concepts, elaborate on three of the following items being as thorough as possible:
    (a) TBA
    (b) TBA
    (c) TBA
    (d) A summary of your field work at Jiangnan University, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • You have acquired a substantial amount of knowledge and you have been exposed to a variety of points of view. How has this changed your opinion of conservation efforts world-wide and the importance of “global environmental sustainability.” (re-read Wilson’s last chapter entitled, The Solution, and reference).

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Evaluation Methods

  • Pre-trip reading and Web-based assignment #1 = 100 points
  • Pre-trip reading and Web-based assignment #2 = 100 points
  • Trip group research project on Lake Taihu = 300 points
  • Trip group research project presentation** = 300 points
  • Trip journal assignment = 100 points
  • Post-trip questions and reflections = 100 points
  • TOTAL = 1,000 points

**includes submission of PowerPoint upon return to the USA

Class grades will be determined by a percentage scale based upon the total number of points available (1,000 points). Penn State University letter grade equivalents:

  • 95-100 = A
  • 90-94 = A-
  • 87-89 = B+
  • 84-86 = B
  • 80-83 = B-
  • 75-79 = C+
  • 70-74 = C
  • 60-69 = D
  • 0-59 = F