Nutrients are an essential component for life. Though, sometimes nutrient loading (an excess of nutrients within an ecosystem in a period of time) occurs due to animal fecal excrements, fertilizer runoff, and other anthropogenic factors. An increase in nutrients are harmful and toxic to our ecosystems. When soil and water cycles are not able to keep-up and maintain the natural filtration of nutrients, it can be detrimental to all living organisms in the area (including humans).
The EPCHC routinely collects samples around the Tampa Bay to ensure the levels of nutrients are within appropriate levels. When the samples are brought in, they are acidified in order to preserve the nutrient contents. As seen in the images, about 5-10mL of sample are filtered through a small circular attachment on the syringe. They are placed into the corresponding glass tube and covered with parafilm to place into storage until the analyst is ready to run the samples.
The acidity (pH) must be around 1.6-1.9pH in order to run the analysis accurately on the machine. Before filtration, each sample must be tested for the pH levels and if they are out of range (usually higher than 2.0pH), then one drop of hydrochloric acid is added to the sample, shaken, and the pH is tested again. Usually, one drop does the trick to bring the pH back down to 1.9pH, which is the ideal level.
Laboratory analysis of our environment is crucial to quantifying the sustainability of our ecosystems. This scientific approach provides quantified evidence on the levels of our ecosystem’s health. If the levels are out of range within specific analyses, then the area where the sample was retrieved is targeted to be recovered. Thus, providing guidance where our ecosystems need assistance to ensure the sustainability of our environments.