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Plants and animal life in a creek

Plants and animal life in a creek

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

A creek and its surrounding area is the natural habitat for many different plants and animals.

The health and life of plants and animals around a creek are depended on each other and on their non-living physical environment. Any change or harm to any of such elements can potentially harm the stability of their entire ecosystem.

Human activities and structures such as roads, houses, and factories can negatively affect the ecosystem of a stream and destroy its health. A beautiful stream with surrounding vegetation and fresh air may change to a waste dump with no vegetation and harmful fumes of dead animals and chemical waste.

Fortunately with development of biology and environmental science, we can prevent such unpleasant conditions and restore partially damaged ecosystems.

In this project you will research plants and animal life in a creek or stream near where you live. You will also identify some of the human activities that can harm the ecosystem of the stream and suggest ways it can be prevented or corrected.

What you see above is just an example of initial observation or information that leads to choosing a subject for research.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.  

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

In order to find information about the ecosystem of a stream or creek, search the internet or a library with the exact keyword of “stream ecosystem” or “Creek ecosystem“. your search will give you some valuable information and possibly two other related keywords that are “echo system” and “homeostasis“. Search about these two new keywords and you will find more details.

Homeostasis in Ecosystem

When living things interact, each organism contributes its own special properties to another. These organisms work together to benefit the environment in which they are a part of. You can make observations to see how homeostasis is achieved in your local creek.

What is an Ecosystem?

Ecosystems are dynamic interactions between plants, animals, and microorganisms and their environment working together as a functional unit. Ecosystems will fail if they do not remain in balance. No community can carry more organisms than its food, water, and shelter can accommodate. Food and territory are often balanced by natural phenomena such as fire, disease, and the number of predators. Each organism has its own niche, or role, to play.

How have humans affected the ecosystems?

We have affected ecosystems in almost every way imaginable! Every time we walk out in the wilderness or bulldoze land for a new parking lot we are drastically altering an ecosystem. We have disrupted the  food chain, the  carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the water cycle. Mining minerals also takes its toll on an ecosystem. We need to do our best to not interfere in these ecosystems and let nature take its toll.

Can we repair damages to the ecosystem?

Different ecosystem services may be used to correct a damaged or disabled ecosystem.

Ecosystem services  are “fundamental life-support services upon which human civilization depends,” and can be direct or indirect. Example of direct ecosystem services are: pollination, pest control, erosion prevention etc. Indirect services could be considered climate moderation, nutrient cycles, detoxifying natural substances and many more.

What is homeostasis?

Following are two definitions for homeostasis:


Any self-regulating process by which a biological or mechanical system maintains stability while adjusting to changing conditions. Systems in dynamic equilibrium reach a balance in which internal change continuously compensates for external change in a feedback control process to keep conditions relatively uniform. An example is temperature regulation–mechanically in a room by a thermostat or biologically in the body by a complex system controlled by the hypothalamus, which adjusts breathing and metabolic rates, blood-vessel dilation, and blood-sugar level in response to changes caused by factors incl. ambient temperature, hormones, and disease.


A built-in, automated property of a system that executes and monitors events essential to the existence of the system, such as animal breathing and instinct. It is a self-regulating mechanism that allows a system to avoid paying detailed attention to its most basic functions thereby helping keep it in a steady state.

Question/ Purpose:

The purpose of this project is to study plant and animal life in and around a creek. We will try to find out how do the plants and animals in a creek affect each other and are affected by human activities.


What are the plants and animals associated with a creek?

Benefits you gain: (for young students grades 5 to 7)

An understanding of creek life and the inter-relationships of organisms that live within and surrounding the creek.

Benefits you gain: (for high school and college students)

By completion of this project you will be able to

  • Visualize the elements which make up an ecosystem and discuss how various organisms interact in a functioning ecosystem versus a malfunctioning ecosystem.
  • Develop an appreciation for the complexities of the creek’s varied ecosystems, as well as an understanding of how biodiversity (or a lack of) affects the health of an ecosystem.
  • Understand the various relationships and roles of organisms in a food chain and how these relationships can become unbalanced.
  • Realize the important role each of us plays in preserving and maintaining the health and biodiversity of the ecosystems of the creek.
  • List several threatened and endangered species in the creek bank.
  • Understand the status and roles of threatened, endangered and introduced species in the creek bank.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

This is how you may define variables for experiment/ observation 1:

Independent variable is the animals living near a creek.

Dependent variable is the number of such animals you observed during your limited observation period.


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

This is a sample hypothesis for experiment/ observation 1:

My hypothesis is that only birds and frogs live near the creek.

Experiment Design:

To learn what plants and animals live near a creek you can visit the creek and make records of your observations. Depending on your grade and suggestions of your teacher, you may want to try one or more of the following studies.

Experiment/ Observation 1: Living animals near water

In the late afternoon, sit very still on a rock in the creek. Record your location and the time in your notebook. Also describe your location as good as possible. Take pictures if possible. Make a list of the animals who live near the creek or animals who come down to the creek to drink (birds, deer, kangaroos, insects, others). If you cannot identify them, just write a general description of them. For example you may write small birds, large birds, other birds. Count and record the number of animals you see. Your observation must last at least 1 hour.

Record your observations in a table like this:

Animals living in the xxx creek bank (xxx is the name of the creek)

Animal How many observed

You can use the above data table to draw a bar graph. Use one vertical bar for each animal you have included in your observations. The height of each bar will represent the number of animals you have observed. (Do not include animals that live in water).

Experiment/ Observation 2: Living animals in water

Select your observation site. Record your location and the time in your notebook. Also describe your location as good as possible. Lie very still on a rock with your eyes fixed a few inches above the water. Watch very closely where the water is fairly still. Make a list of all the living things that you see. For example; free moving – water beetles, tadpoles; clinging to stones – small worms, snails. Take pictures if possible. Count and record the number of animals you see. Pictures may help you to identify unknown creatures. Your observations may take a few minutes up to 1 hour.

Record your observations in a table like this:

Animals living in the xxx creek (xxx is the name of the creek)

Animal How many observed

You can use the above data table to draw a bar graph. Use one vertical bar for each animal you have included in your observations. The height of each bar will represent the number of animals you have observed. (Do not include animals that live in water).

Experiment/ Observation 3: Living plants in and near the water

Compare the stems of plants which live in or near the creek with stems of plants which live higher up the hill. Answer the following questions:
• Where do most plants with hard woody stems grow?
• Are there mosses and liverworts high up on the hill?
• Where do you find plants with soft green leaves?
• Where do the plants with stiff spiky leaves grow?
• Can you suggest why these plants grow in these areas?

Experiment/ Observation 4: Effect of human activities on a creek ecosystem

To see how different factors or conditions affect plant or animal life, we may either perform experiments or just observe existing conditions. For example if you want to know how does oil contamination affect plant and marine animals, you may either experiment it yourself by exposing some plants and animals to oil contamination or you may just make an observation of the condition of plants and animals where such contaminations exist. In this project you will only make observation of existing conditions. You may try an of the following experiments/ observations as your project. You may also try more than one experiment/ observation. Finally you can get an idea from the following experiments/ observations and come up with a similar idea of your own. Make sure you are studying on a factor that affects plants or animals.

Search the creek and its bank in order to find conditions that somehow have affected the plants and animals of the creek. List them in your report. Write how they can hurt the plants or animals. Propose how such conditions may be corrected and prevented .

Following are some of the conditions you may watch for:

  • Find areas that are free from plants and try to identify the cause.
  • Find areas that soil is eroded (washed away) and identify the cause.
  • Find areas with dead or decomposed animals (fish, frog, snake, birds, ..) and try to identify the cause.
  • Find areas where the runoff of a house or business enters. Observe how contaminated runoff water has affected the surrounding plants and animals.
  • Make a list of garbage items dumped in or near the creek. How do you think they can hurt the life of plants and animals of a creek?

Materials and Equipment:

While visiting wildlife and natural environment such as a creek, you must have protective gears and appropriate clothing to protect you against insects, harmful plants and injuries. Adult supervision, assistance and presence is required. To make and to document your observations you may also need:

  1. A notebook and a pen
  2. A magnifying glass
  3. Binocular
  4. Camera
  5. Flashlight
  6. Field instructions or field details
  7. Paint, Paintbrush, art board (if you want to make paintings of what you see)
  8. Cardboard Window

Results of Experiment (Observation):

The completed table from the experiment section is the result of your observation. You will also include your other observations in the form of a report.


If you do any calculation related to this project, write them here for your report.

Summary of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments/ observations. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

1. What do snails use for food?
2. Why are plants important to this environment?
3. What do fish provide to the environment?
4. Describe the interaction of the plants, guppies and snails
5. Why is indirect sunlight important?

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


List your references in this section of your report. References include books and websites.