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Rio Loa Water Chemistry

An activity to use in a study abroad course

Curricular materials created for the 2013 SAIL seminar:

Mediterranean Trivium: Earth, Sea, & Culture in Italy

This activity was created for a January Term study abroad course, titled The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile. Students will learn to interpret water chemistry data collected from along a river gradient. They will use the data from a previous study to ask whether a copper mine located part way down the river is the primary source of arsenic in the river.  The primary goal is for students to practice skills needed for scientific literacy and to build confidence interpreting and discussing chemical data. Key terms: water chemistry, arsenic, river basin.

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Overview

Context of the Activity

This activity is one of several that students will be asked to complete during a three- to five-week-long January Term course, Paideia 450: The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment of Northern Chile, that I will teach in 2015 with Anita Carrasco, Anthropology, Luther College.


Goals

Updated May 03, 2016

Learning Goals

After completing this assignment students should be able to:

  • Interpret maps, graphs, and data tables from a scientific journal article.  (skills: interpretation of scientific data in various formats)
  • Convert units used to report water chemistry measurements. (skills: converting units necessary to compare water quality measures to standards)
  • Understand the source(s) of heavy metals and other contaminants in the Rio Loa. (concepts: hydrology, concentration, salinity)

Activities

Updated May 03, 2016

Activity Description

In June, 2014, we will visit San Pedro de Atacama (in my case for the first time in 35 years) and we will not teach the course until January, 2015.  These teaching materials will be updated including teaching notes after we teach the class.

Prior to beginning the assignment students will be introduced to the hydrology of the Rio Loa and to the health impacts of arsenic in drinking water. At some point during the course (before or after the assignment) they will visit heavy metal rich thermal springs near the river’s source, see irrigated fields for vegetable production, see drinking water sources for communities in the basin, and learn about the health impacts of arsenic consumption.

The assignment begins with a lecture to provide some context for the study and to remind students why scientific literacy is an important skill for many careers and life situations. Students will break into small groups (2-3 students) to complete the assignment.  An attempt will be made to pair students with strong quantitative skills with those who are less experienced.

After completing the assignment, the students will come together for a discussion to share what they learned about the impacts of the Chuquicamata copper mine on water quality and to clarify any confusion students may have about the data.

Key references
  • Romero, L., H. Alonso, P. Campano, L. Fanfani, R. Cidu, C. Dadea, T. Keegan, I. Thornton, and M. Farago. 2003. Arsenic enrichment in waters and sediments of the Rio Loa (Second Region, Chile).  Applied Geochemistry 18:1399-1416. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0883-2927(03)00059-3
  • Rudolph, W. E. 1927. The Rio Loa of Northern Chile. Geographical Review 17:553-585.

Assessment

Students will turn in the completed assignment.  We will assess how well their understanding of the data and their ability to use the data to answer the questions.


Resources and Materials

Resources

  • Romero, L., H. Alonso, P. Campano, L. Fanfani, R. Cidu, C. Dadea, T. Keegan, I. Thornton, and M. Farago. 2003. Arsenic enrichment in waters and sediments of the Rio Loa (Second Region, Chile).  Applied Geochemistry 18:1399-1416. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0883-2927(03)00059-3
  • Rudolph, W. E. 1927. The Rio Loa of Northern Chile. Geographical Review 17:553-585.
  • Ng, J. C., J. Wang, and A. Shraim. 2003. A global health problem caused by arsenic from natural sources. Chemosphere 52:1353-1359.
  • Oyarzun, R., J. Lillo, P. Higueras, J. Oyarzún, and H. Maturana. 2004. Strong arsenic enrichment in sediments from the Elqui watershed, Northern Chile: industrial (gold mining at El Indio–Tambo district) vs. geologic processes. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 84:53-64.

Lead Partner
Beth Lynch
Associate Professor of Biology, Luther College
lynchbet@luther.edu
ACM Program Funding
SAIL
Award
-
Funding Cycle
2013-2014
Project Duration
Keywords
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