Ecosystems Research

On this page you will find the research projects under the "Sustainable Ecosystems" course. Scroll below to see the different projects. Under each title heading you will find the abstract to each research project and links to the final presentation as well as links to the researcher's page and/or final report.

The Benefits of Sustainability Practice in Healthcare

posted Mar 14, 2013, 9:10 PM by Unknown user

By: Nikita Kowal and John Caviness


The purpose of our experiment was to research how sustainability is being applied to the healthcare industry.  Our hypothesis stated that if large health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic adopt sustainable practices, then the percentage of money they save would be superior to other hospitals, because the amount of supplies being recycled and/or reprocessed is greater.  To test this hypothesis we took three hospitals, two with sustainability programs and one without.  The Mayo Clinic and Banner Health were the two with sustainability programs, and St. Joseph’s Hospital lacked any sort of program or organization pertaining to sustainability. Results showed that Banner Health and Mayo Clinic saved greater amounts of supplies and money with their reprocessing programs, compared to St. Joseph’s Hospital.  However, our hypothesis was inconclusive because we were not able to design a way to compare the hospitals sizes.  In other words, we were not able to find a percentage of the amount of money/supplies saved per capita from each hospital.  

Phoenix Mountain Preserve and the Urban Heat Island Effect

posted Feb 13, 2013, 3:29 PM by Unknown user

Abstract:The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is one of the largest in the world. The vast expanses of concrete and asphalt that make up the city absorb massive amounts of heat each day and release them at night, surrounding the city in a cloud of warmth. This cloud is called the Urban Heat Island and it is responsible for a dramatic temperature difference between the city and the surrounding countryside. How does this heat affect the organisms within it and nearby? Experiments were conducted comparing the heat of Phoenix, the preserve, and a nearby desert.

Final Paper

The Interference of a Paved Road With Nutrient Flow Through a Wash

posted Feb 13, 2013, 3:16 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 13, 2013, 3:22 PM ]

By: Emily PowellAustin Morse , and Ben Tashnic 

Abstract: One of the major concerns of urban sprawl and desert development in Phoenix is the effects of our construction on the surrounding environment. In particular, runoff and pollutants from asphalt roads can, when absorbed by the soil, possibly affect its composition and impair its ability to support a desert ecosystem. For this experiment, soil in a desert wash that intersects an asphalt road was chosen for testing. This wash guided water through the desert, over an interrupting road, and continued it into the wash on the other side. This demonstration of nutrient flow interrupted by the road would magnify the affliction on the soil, making whatever effect present obvious in the testing. To test for any effect the road may have, soil samples were taken before and after the road. In the lab, water was run through these samples and tested for pH and conductivity. The readings from the samples before the road would serve as the control, to be compared with the readings from the samples after the road. These results would show any effect the road had on the alkalinity and conductivity of the soil, which are identified as two important properties of adequate soil.

CREST Garden Species and The Sonoran Desert

posted Feb 13, 2013, 3:06 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 13, 2013, 3:21 PM ]

Abstract: Sustainable ecosystems provided an opportunity to commence a semester  research project relating towards the ecosystem and a relationship with it and sustainability ; which is exactly what this project illustrates.   Flora provides nutrients that are essential in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem does not merely affect the flora and fauna but the people around that ecosystem; which is why great interest and attention should be directed towards the relationship between the plant species and its ecosystem.The ecosystem in which the species is found determines the amount of nutrients produced, which surrounding organisms use to flourish in this ecosystem.Illustrated is the following data which reveals how Creosote bush and Palo Verde plant species found in two ecosystems, Sonoran Desert Preserve and CREST garden, obtain varying amounts of nutrients.  

Final Paper

Soil Color and Pertinent Nutrition Levels

posted Feb 13, 2013, 2:59 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 13, 2013, 3:19 PM ]

Abstract: The problem that was selected to be addressed was that of how soil color related to nutrient and mineral content. This project was decided upon after it was observed that  lush plants grew in well-maintained dark potting soil, and smaller, scrawnier plants grew in soil that was lighter. Radish seeds were used to see how plants grew in each soil, and a Rapitest soil test kit to test the soil for Potash, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and pH levels. The plant growth was recorded over time, and test kits were utilized appropriately. The researchers are finished collecting, and are in the final stages of the data analyzing. Data from a little over three weeks’ worth of plant growth data has been collected, and the data for the kit’s tests from 6 different locations has been recorded. The researchers  have found that the darkest to lightest hypothesis is holding true, with the Potting soil producing the tallest plants, followed by the sand and CREST Basin plants. There is an anomaly in the compost, but this will be addressed.  The hypothesis was “If soils of different tones are tested for nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus levels, then soils that are darker in color will be found to be more nutrient rich in these aspects than lighter toned soils. Also, If soil is darker in color, then it will allow plants to reach maturity more quickly because it is more rich in these aspects.” This hypothesis was developed from the initial question: “How does soil color relate to nutrient levels?”

Final Paper

Avian Diversity in the Phoenix Urban Ecology

posted Jun 21, 2012, 1:02 PM by Unknown user

By: Nicholas Montiel
(Image from
Abstract: With increasing urbanization, life has had to adapt to changes that humans are creating. This paper examines how urbanization has affected bird species in Phoenix. It takes a look at the diversity of bird populations in three different zones or levels of urbanization: the desert preserves throughout the city, suburbia, and the downtown areas. The results suggest that Phoenix has a more diverse bird population than previously thought, though it is highly recommended that there be more observations preformed under different circumstances with more rigor.

Avian Diversity in the Phoenix Urban Ecology Final Report

Human Impact on Public Parks

posted Jun 6, 2012, 12:29 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 21, 2012, 10:41 AM ]

By: Courtney Miller, Bethany Ortiz, and Alex PrescottHansen
(Image from
Abstract: An increase in pollution can affect the wildlife in many areas, including community parks. This project was aimed to determine what type of human pollution had the greatest affect on parks' native species. Petri dishes were adapted to use as filters to measure air pollution. The ground pollution was counted and recorded into separate categories according to its type. Not much air pollution was found. Although, their was much ground pollution. The data showed that the ground pollution presented the worst impact on the land.

Courtney Miller's Research Page

Bethany Ortiz's Research Page

Alex PrescottHansen's Research Page

The Presence of Urbanization in Community Parks

posted Jun 6, 2012, 12:25 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 21, 2012, 10:42 AM ]

By: Jessica Lindenberg and Alexandra Turley
Abstract: Community parks are a large part of suburban life and are located in various places within a city. The amount of pollution these parks receives can vary with their locations. The objective of this project was to determine which parks have the most pollution. Ground pollution was measured with the use of transect lines placed randomly in the parks. The collected data showed that more pollution was present in parks surrounded by commercial buildings than by housing. 

Presence of Urbanization in Community Parks Final Report

Jessica Lindenberg's Research Page

Alexandra Turley's Research Page

Pollution of Arizona Lake Ecosystems

posted Jun 6, 2012, 12:22 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 21, 2012, 12:40 PM ]

By: Alexander Klug
(Image from
Abstract: The focus of this project was on how polluted are Arizona's lakes. The experiment was conducted at both Cortez and Bartlett lake.

Alexander Klug's Research Page

Biodiversity of Mountain Locations

posted Jun 6, 2012, 12:17 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 25, 2012, 10:32 AM ]

By: Pamela Cota
(Image from
Abstract: Hiking is very popular in Arizona and there are many mountains for people to visit. However, this high amount of traffic can have interesting affects on the environment. This project was aimed to determine the affects human traffic had on the biodiversity of mountain ecosystems. Transact lines were used to record the amount of plant and animal life at two mountain locations. Biodiversity was more affected by the type of trail than the amount of traffic.

Pamela Cota's Research Page

1-10 of 14