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Kiki Contreras

Unit development to study and track the ecological impact of Elwha River Dam presence/removal on Washington's Olympic Peninsula

2017 STEM Scholar
Shoreline, WA The Evergreen School

Kiki’s Big Idea: Following a week-long 7th grade camp trip to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Kiki’s students had the opportunity to examine the far-reaching effects of anthropogenic changes on aquatic ecosystems. They specifically looked at the ecological impacts of both the presence and removal of the Elwha River Dam.

Students hypothesized about what would happen in three different experimental treatments (substrate, presence of predators, and nutrient levels) that derive from scenarios they experienced at the dam site. Over the course of 3-4 weeks, students made observations, both qualitative and quantitative, of the tanks and ultimately drew conclusions on how each treatment affected the health of the system.

Interesting Facts: “I am a plant nerd and I’ve always loved the sorts of questions that fossils bring up, as well as those they answer about the way prehistoric organisms lived. I also wear a lot of hats: I’m a 7th grade advisor, the faculty mentor for the middle school garden club, go-to dissection expert, and a member of the math and sexual health curriculum committees. I even taught a workshop on taxidermy for our annual “Adventure Days” – a two-day opportunity for middle schoolers to pursue any passion project of their choice. Before teaching, I worked as a seasonal research assistant in ecological field studies. I’ve worked in the Alaskan Arctic studying the effects of arthropod predator density on soil decomposition rates, and in western Montana studying the impacts of grasshopper herbivory on prairie ecosystems. I try to bring these experiences into my classroom as much as possible.”

In her own words: "I taught a workshop on taxidermy for our annual "Adventure Days"