The Environmental Science Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide in 2020


The Environmental Science merit badge will teach you how to conserve humanity’s most precious resource — our own planet! To earn this Eagle-required badge, you’ll need to learn a plethora of environmental terms, conduct your own experiments, and create a timeline of historical environmental events. Sounds easy, right?

Plot twist, it’s not! However, don’t let the badge’s difficulty get you down. When I was a scout, I really enjoyed earning the Environmental Science merit badge and learning interesting information about our planet. Plus, this badge even helped me to plan my Eagle project! It might do the same for you once you check out requirement 5 down below. 🙂

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. Environmental Science is a pretty advanced badge, so if you’d like to see my recommended Eagle-required badges for scouts who are just starting out, click on that link above!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

Keep in mind, the Environmental Science merit badge is heavy on both action and knowledge requirements. Be prepared to work hard and learn a lot! Before we jump into learning though, take the time to read through each of the following requirements and fully understand what we’ll be covering in this badge. Remember, preparation is the key to success!

What Are The Environmental Science Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Make a timeline of the history of environmental science in America. Identify the contribution made by the Boy Scouts of America to environmental science. Include dates, names of people or organizations, and important events.
  2. Define the following terms: population, community, ecosystem, biosphere, symbiosis, niche, habitat, conservation, threatened species, endangered species, extinction, pollution prevention, brownfield, ozone, watershed, airshed, nonpoint source, hybrid vehicle, fuel cell.
  3. Do ONE activity from seven of the following categories (using the activities in the merit badge pamphlet as the basis for planning and projects):
    • 3a. Ecology
      • Option 1: Conduct an experiment to find out how living things respond to changes in their environments. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
      • Option 2: Conduct an experiment illustrating the greenhouse effect. Keep a journal of your data and observations. Discuss your conclusions with your counselor.
      • Option 3: Discuss what is an ecosystem. Tell how it is maintained in nature and how it survives.
    • 3b. Air Pollution
      • Option 1: Perform an experiment to test for particulates that contribute to air pollution. Discuss your findings with your counselor.
      • Option 2: Record the trips taken, mileage, and fuel consumption of a family car for seven days, and calculate how many miles per gallon the car gets. Determine whether any trips could have been combined (“chained”) rather than taken out and back. Using the idea of trip chaining, determine how many miles and gallons of gas could have been saved in those seven days.
      • Option 3: Explain what is acid rain. In your explanation, tell how it affects plants and the environment and the steps society can take to help reduce its effects.
    • 3c. Water Pollution
      • Option 1: Conduct an experiment to show how living things react to thermal pollution. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
      • Option 2: Conduct an experiment to identify the methods that could be used to mediate (reduce) the effects of an oil spill on waterfowl. Discuss your results with your counselor.
      • Option 3: Describe the impact of a waterborne pollutant on an aquatic community. Write a 100-word report on how that pollutant affected aquatic life, what the effect was, and whether the effect is linked to biomagnification.
    • 3d. Land Pollution
      • Option 1: Conduct an experiment to illustrate soil erosion by water. Take photographs or make a drawing of the soil before and after your experiment, and make a poster showing your results. Present your poster to your counselor.
      • Option 2: Perform an experiment to determine the effect of an oil spill on land. Discuss your conclusions with your counselor.
      • Option 3: Photograph an area affected by erosion. Share your photographs with your counselor and discuss why the area has eroded and what might be done to help alleviate the erosion.
    • 3e. Endangered Species
      • Option 1: Do research on one endangered species found in your state. Find out what its natural habitat is, why it is endangered, what is being done to preserve it, and how many individual organisms are left in the wild. Prepare a 100-word report about the organism, including a drawing. Present your report to your patrol or troop.
      • Option 2: Do research on one species that was endangered or threatened but which has now recovered. Find out how the organism recovered, and what its new status is. Write a 100-word report on the species and discuss it with your counselor.
      • Option 3: With your parent’s and counselor’s approval, work with a natural resource professional to identify two projects that have been approved to improve the habitat for a threatened or endangered species in your area. Visit the site of one of these projects and report on what you saw.
    • 3f. Pollution Prevention, Resource Recovery, and Conservation
      • Option 1: Look around your home and determine 10 ways your family can help reduce pollution. Practice at least two of these methods for seven days and discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
      • Option 2: Determine 10 ways to conserve resources or use resources more efficiently in your home, at school, or at camp. Practice at least two of these methods for seven days and discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
      • Option 3: Perform an experiment on packaging materials to find out which ones are biodegradable. Discuss your conclusion with your counselor.
    • 3g. Pollination
      • Option 1: Using photographs or illustrations, point out the differences between a drone and a worker bee. Discuss the stages of bee development (eggs, larvae, pupae). Explain the pollination process, and what propolis is and how it is used by honey bees. Tell how bees make honey and beeswax, and how both are harvested. Explain the part played in the life of the hive by the queen, the drones, and the workers.
      • Option 2: Present to your counselor a one-page report on how and why honey bees are used in pollinating food crops. In your report, discuss the problems faced by the bee population today, and the impact to humanity if there were no pollinators. Share your report with your troop or patrol, your class at school, or another group approved by you
      • Option 3: Hive a swarm OR divide at least one colony of honey bees. Explain how a hive is constructed.*
    • 3h. Invasive Species
      • Option 1: Learn to identify the major invasive plant species in your community or camp and explain to your counselor what can be done to either eradicate or control their spread.
      • Option 2: Do research on two invasive plant or animal species in your community or camp. Find out where the species originated, how they were transported to the United States, their life history, how they are spread, and the recommended means to eradicate or control their spread. Report your research orally or in writing to your counselor.
      • Option 3: Take part in a project of at least one hour to eradicate or control the spread of an invasive plant species in your community or camp.
  4. Choose two outdoor study areas that are very different from one another (e.g., hilltop vs. bottom of a hill; field vs. forest; swamp vs. dry land). For BOTH study areas, do ONE of the following:
    • Option 1: Mark off a plot of 4 square yards in each study area, and count the number of species found there. Estimate how much space is occupied by each plant species and the type and number of nonplant species you find. Report to your counselor orally or in writing the biodiversity and population density of these study areas.
    • Option 2: Make at least three visits to each of the two study areas (for a total of six visits), staying for at least 20 minutes each time, to observe the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. Space each visit far enough apart that there are readily apparent differences in the observations. Keep a journal that includes the differences you observe. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
  5. Using the construction project provided or a plan you create on your own, identify the items that would need to be included in an environmental impact statement for the project planned.
  6. Find out about three career opportunities in environmental science. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.

    *Before you choose requirement 3g(3), you will need to first find out whether you are allergic to bee stings. Visit an allergist or your family physician to find out. If you are allergic to bee stings, you should choose another option within requirement 3. In completing requirement 3g(3), your counselor can help you find an established beekeeper to meet with you and your buddy. Ask whether you can help hive a swarm or divide a colony of honey bees. Before your visit, be sure your buddy is not allergic to bee stings. For help with locating a beekeeper in your state, visit www.beeculture.com and click on “Resources,” then select “Find Help” and “Find a Local Beekeeper.”
1) Make a timeline of the history of environmental science in America. Identify the contribution made by the Boy Scouts of America to environmental science. Include dates, names of people or organizations, and important events.

The United States of America has been around for a looong while. Many environmental policies have been created, changed, and then been done away in that timespan. If all of this sounds like it’ll be confusing, don’t worry! Below I’ve created a timeline documenting some of the most important events in Scouting and environmental history.

However, if videos (3:17) are more your style, I’d suggest you watch this history briefer for a better visual understanding of the US environmental events:

Awesome! Now you should know about John Muir, the Dust Bowl, and many other icons in our country’s environmental history. In my timeline below, I’ve added these events and more. Plus, I’ve underlined all of the events that relate to Scouting. Hope this helps you out!

A Timeline of the History of Environmental Science in America

Date RangeEnvironmental MilestonesDetails
12,000 BC-1600’sAmerican Indians in the AmericasAmerican Indians used natural resources like timber, rivers, and prairies to live sustainably. When resources became scarce within an area, they would often migrate elsewhere to let the land replenish itself.
1620’s-1690’sPlymouth Colony EstablishedPlymouth Colony became the first established English colony in Massachusetts. In 1626, Plymouth leaders passed a law that controlled the harvesting and sale of timber on colony lands.
1680’s-1720’sColony GrowthFur trapping gained in popularity as settlers expanded westward. In 1681, William Penn, founder of the colony that became modern-day Pennsylvania, passed a decree that stated: 1 acre of land must remain forested for every 5 acres that are cut.
1750’s-1850’sFirst Industrial RevolutionNew innovations like industrialization and the steam engine created a demand for nonrenewable resources such as metals, fossil fuels, and coal. Carbon pollution began to increase from a baseline of 280 PPM (parts per million).
1840’s-1900Government Starts Environmental Protection ProgramsIn 1849, the US Department Of Interior, responsible for the conservation and management of most federal lands, was created. At the time, Thomas Ewing, the secretary heading the department, was selected. In 1892, John Muir founded the Siera Club.
1900’s-1910Scouting Is Founded in AmericaIn 1910, Scouts BSA was founded in the US as the ‘Boy Scouts of America’ by William D. Boyce. Prior to this, on Feb 1, 1905, the US Forestry service was founded by Gifford Pinchot, an early advocate of forestry, and then-President, Theodore Roosevelt.
1910’s-1920National Parks Are Designated And ProtectedIn 1911, the Forestry merit badge was created. In 1916, Congress established the National Parks Service to maintain protected park land. At this point, atmospheric carbon pollution was around 300 PPM.
1920’s-1930Great Depression Starts? Not much else happened.In 1921, Pioneering regional planner, Benton MacKaye, created the first plans for a 2000-mile long trail along the east coast of the USA. Today, this legendary stretch is called the Appalachian trail!
1930’s-1940Dust Bowl EraUnsustainable farming methods caused droughts and severe dust storms (the ‘Dust Bowl’) that damaged the ecology of American and Canadian prairies. The world population reached 2 billion in 1930. Fish and Wildlife act was passed in 1934. Philmont Scout Ranch was founded in 1938 by Waite Phillips.
1940’s-1950WWII Era
(It’s tricky to define decades by environmental milestones after this point)
In 1948, The World Conservation Union, previously called The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, was founded. The Defenders Of Wildlife nonprofit was also founded around that time.
1950’s-1960Early Cold WarThe Nature and Soil&Water Conservation merit badge were both released by the BSA in 1952. In 1954, Nuclear power was first used to generate electricity for civilians within the USSR. In 1955, the US Air Pollution Control Act was passed.
1960’s-1970Mid Cold WarIn 1960, the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act was established. In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book explaining the dangers that chemical pesticides (DDT) pose to the environment. Lots of other environmental acts were passed. The world population reached 3 billion.
1970’s-1980Late Cold WarThe first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. In that same year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also established. In 1972 the BSA created the Environmental Science merit badge, and in 1976 they created the World Conservation Award.
1980’s-1990Collapse of USSRIn 1980, Superfund, an environmental clean-up program specializing in the removal of contamination and hazardous substances, was created. Chernobyl, the meltdown of one of the USSR’s largest nuclear reactors, occurred in 1986. The world population reached 5 billion in 1987.
1990’s-2000The Turn Of The CenturyThe National Environmental Education Act was passed in 1990. In 1992, the first Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a huge success! Also, the First GMO crops hit the market in 1994.
2000’s-2010The Rise of The InternetIn 2002, Scouting released their Leave No Trace Front-country Guidelines and Leave No Trace Award. In 2001, President Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to reduce each of the participating country’s carbon emissions. In 2010, atmospheric carbon pollution was around 400PPM! 🙁 (Click the link for a deep dive by climate.gov if you’d like to understand what the whole PPM thing means)
2010’s-2020The Era Of InformationThis is around when I started Scouting! In 2013, Scouting created the Sustainability merit badge. In 2015, the Paris sustainability agreement was signed and agreed upon. In 2017 President Trump announced that America would no longer follow the international environmental agreements from the Paris Accords. In 2020, an unprecedented global pandemic occurred.

Now, the rest of this timeline, our planet’s future, is yours to create! Make it count 🙂

I hope this timeline was useful to you because it took me FOOORREEEVVERRRR to research and write everything. Give yourself a pat on the back for learning all of that info! Well, I’m gonna go take a nap now. See you over on requirement 2!

2) Define the following terms: population, community, ecosystem, biosphere, symbiosis, niche, habitat, conservation, threatened species, endangered species, extinction, pollution prevention, brownfield, ozone, watershed, airshed, nonpoint source, hybrid vehicle, fuel cell.

Population

In biological terms, a population is a group of organisms that live in a particular geographical area and are capable of interbreeding. This means that all of the people living in your city make up a population. Likewise, all of the ants in your backyard are also considered a population!

FYI, you’ll be using this knowledge of populations to complete requirement 4, so pay attention. Essentially, a population fulfills two criteria:

  • All of the organisms belong to the same group or species.
  • There is a said geographical area that each member of the population falls within.

Community

Communities are groups of living things that share commonalities such as culture, values, nationality, species, identity, or religions. Within a community, one’s relationships extend beyond their immediate family to other members of the group.

Within society and in nature, communities are formed as a way to help protect the individuals within the group. However, the ecological definition of a community is different — it just refers to how different species interact with each other.

Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a system consisting of living organisms within a community, interacting with the nonliving parts of their environment. Ecosystems are characterized by nutrient cycles and energy flows. Here’s an example of a nutrient cycle: plants (living) grow using sunlight and soil (nonliving) and are eaten by animals which are then later eaten by larger animals (living).

For example, imagine a flourishing coral reef. There are living organisms like fish, seaweed, and coral, but also nonliving components like rocks, sand, and water. Each of these living and nonliving things interact together to create a vibrant ocean habitat. All of these components working together is defined as an ecosystem.

Biosphere

A biosphere is basically the sum of all of the ecosystems in the world. This means that different aspects of our planet such as the atmosphere, the lithosphere, all living beings, and all other organisms are what make up earth’s biosphere.

The original concept of a biosphere, coined by geologist Edward Suess in 1875, was defined as the place on the earth’s surface where life dwells. Basically, our earth is the only biosphere that we currently know of in the entire universe. That’s why we must protect our planet!

Symbiosis

Symbiosis is any type of close and long-term relationship between two different biological organisms. There are three types of symbiosis:

  • Mutualism: A relationship where both organisms benefit. For example, cleaner fish that eat detritus growing on whales and whales.
  • Commensalism: A relationship where one organism benefits while the other is neither helped nor harmed. An example of commensalism is birds and the trees whose branches they live in.
  • Parasitism: A relationship where one organism benefits while the other is harmed. Ticks are a great example of this. They attach to animals or humans and feed off of them, harming them in the process.

Have you ever watched the movie, Finding Nemo? Nemo, the clownfish, lives within a sea anemone in a mutualistic relationship.

This is an example of mutualism because the anemone can sting other fish and protects Nemo from predators, while Nemo emits a high-pitched sound that deters butterflyfish that are capable of eating the anemone. These kinds of symbiotic relationships exist everywhere in nature!

Niche

An ecological ‘niche’ is the role that an organism or population plays in its environment. For instance, dung beetles eat the waste of other larger animals and help to promote decomposition within their area. No other organisms fulfill this need, so the dung beetle is the only creature occupying the ecological niche of using animal droppings as a food source.

Habitat

A habitat is a type of environment in which a particular species lives. To be considered a suitable habitat, an area must provide food, reproductive mates, and protection for an organism

Habitats do not need to be constrained to a geographic area. Types of habitats can include coral reefs, clumps of moss, and even the human body (for parasites). Basically, a habitat is anywhere that a group of organisms live.

Conservation

Conservation is the deliberate preservation of a resource. A few examples of resources that we should work to conserve include:

  • Earth’s tropical forests
  • The habitats of threatened species
  • Natural resources like coal and oil
  • Our planet’s biological diversity
  • The health of our oceans

Although it isn’t easy for most businesses and individuals to make conservation a part of their regular practices, it’s something that we all must commit to. The following definitions will describe some of the consequences we’ll face if we continue to fail in conserving our planet’s resources.

Threatened species

Threatened species are any organisms (animals, plants, aquatic lifeforms, etc) that have the potential to die out in the near future. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organism is considered ‘threatened’ if it falls under three categories:

  • Vulnerable: If an organism’s habitat is being constrained, its population falls below 10,000, or there is at least a 10% possibility of the species’ extinction in the next 100 years, then it is considered ‘vulnerable’.
  • Endangered: A species is considered ‘endangered’ if it is likely to go extinct in the near future.
  • Critically Endangered: A species is considered ‘critically endangered’ if it has an extremely high chance of going extinct in the wild. The vast majority of critically endangered species have never recovered their populations, and have gone extinct.

Because ‘Threatened’ is an umbrella term for three categories, some organisms that are considered threatened are much more at risk than others.

For example, while black rhinos and African elephants are both considered ‘threatened,’ black rhinos are critically endangered (estimated pop. 5500) whereas African elephants are considered vulnerable (estimated pop. 415,000). Population size plays a large role in a species’ categorization.

Endangered species

A category of threatened species, an ‘endangered’ species refers to an organism that’s very likely to become extinct in the near future. Green sea turtles and Siberian tigers are both examples of endangered species.

Many nations create laws that protect endangered species from hunting and land development. Conservation organizations also work to breed and restore the habitats of endangered species to increase their numbers. Through these actions, we are sometimes able to save endangered species from extinction.

Extinction

Extinction occurs when a species’ last organism dies. This usually occurs when a species is unable to breed or adapt within a new environment. Examples of extinct species include woolly mammoths and dodo birds. In modern times, an enormous problem is that countless species are going extinct every year due to human actions.

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention refers to any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents a source of pollution. Pollution is harmful to humans, as well as many other living organisms. By reducing or preventing pollution, we can increase the health and well-being of ourselves and our planet.

Examples of pollution prevention include: 

  • Legislation that limits the amount of toxins factories can release into the atmosphere
  • Environmentally friendly manufacturing processes
  • Individual efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle household goods.
  • The community service and cleanup projects that you do in Scouting! 🙂

Pollution is one of the largest problems the world is tackling today, so keep these issues at the forefront of your mind. Maybe one day, you’ll be the one to solve them!

Brownfield

Brownfield land is any land that was once used (for factories, housing, etc), but is now unoccupied and may potentially be contaminated. The issue with brownfields is that they’re often unsafe to redevelop upon until they’ve been cleaned and revitalized.

The Brownfields revitalization act, started in 2002, helps fund local governments in cleaning and restoring brownfields. To date, over 60,000 acres of brownfield land have been prepared for reuse!

Ozone

Ozone is a molecule that forms an important layer of protection in the earth’s atmosphere. The sun produces harmful ultraviolet radiation, and the ozone layer protects the earth by absorbing these dangerous rays before they can reach the surface of the earth.

In 1976, atmospheric researchers discovered that the ozone was being depleted by industry-produced chemicals such as CFCs. Don’t worry though! After numerous regulatory reforms, current research shows that ozone layer depletion has slowed dramatically.

Watershed

A watershed is an area of land that catches and collects freshwater. For instance, streams that collect rainfall and flow into reservoirs would be considered examples of a watershed.

Oftentimes, the water within a natural watershed soaks into the ground and can be pumped out in the form of fresh, drinkable water. This is what wells were used for back in the olden days!

Airshed

An airshed refers to a geographic area that circulates the same flow of air. For instance, imagine a cave system; most of the air would not escape, and would just be circulated around and around. 

An airshed is like that cave example but on a global level. In some cities and regions, fresh air does not come in, so the air pollution from that area is circulated around and around the same location. Pollution-capturing airsheds could lead to health problems for the people living within those areas.

Nonpoint Source

A non-point source usually refers to sources of pollution that are generated from a large area, rather than a single point. What this means is that instead of a singular factory pouring their waste into a river to create pollution, the pollution is instead coming from a large area and being carried by liquid runoff.

Common examples of non-point source pollution include:

  • Land-runoff from heavy rains
  • Poor drainage techniques
  • Incorrect waste disposal in residential areas

Nonpoint source pollution is a problem because water runoff carries natural and human-made pollutants. These plastics and hazardous wastes ultimately end up being swept into our lakes, rivers, and oceans

Hybrid Vehicle

A hybrid vehicle uses two or more types of power. For instance, most hybrid cars run on gasoline and electricity. The electricity used to power these vehicles is generated by converting the rotational energy of the motor into electrical energy.

Hybrid vehicles are much more environmentally friendly than their gas-powered counterparts. Gasoline is a nonrenewable resource that is refined from oil pumped out of the ground. Energy sources like electricity, hydrogen, or biofuels, on the other hand, are considered renewable. This means that there is not a limited amount that can be produced.

Fuel Cell

A fuel cell converts the chemical energy of a fuel into electricity. In most cases, this is done by converting hydrogen and oxygen into a form of energy that can run an engine or act as a battery. 

Fuel cells present in an enormous opportunity to begin weaning off of nonrenewable fossil fuels and switch over to environmentally friendly energy sources. This exciting technology has not yet been perfected, but it’s being increasingly applied throughout the world!

3) Do ONE activity from seven of the following categories (using the activities in the merit badge pamphlet as the basis for planning and projects):

I’ve covered the underlined knowledge-based requirements below. However, I strongly encourage you to consider completing a few of the requirements that I don’t cover. Many of these options will teach you interesting and useful life skills that can’t be gained from just memorizing information. If you have the extra time, definitely pursue your interests!

3a) Ecology

Option 1: 3a(1) Conduct an experiment to find out how living things respond to changes in their environments. Discuss your observations with your counselor.

–Option 2: 3a(2) Conduct an experiment illustrating the greenhouse effect. Keep a journal of your data and observations. Discuss your conclusions with your counselor.

Option 3: 3a(3) Discuss what is an ecosystem. Tell how it is maintained in nature and how it survives.

As we mentioned in requirement 2, an ecosystem is a system in which a community of living organisms interacts with their nonliving environment.

In nature, this could be a Savanah where plants grow on top of rocks using sunlight and nutrients. These plants are then eaten by antelope, and the antelope are eaten by lions or other predators. This is just one small example of our planet’s many ecosystems!

How is an Ecosystem Maintained in Nature?

An ecosystem is maintained through a delicate balance in resources between its predators and its prey. If there are too many predators, the herbivorous prey will be killed off. This will likely cause plants to grow out of control and predators to later starve due to lack of food.

On the other hand, if the predators in an ecosystem are killed off, the prey animals’ populations will grow rapidly. This may sound like a good thing at first, but over time they’ll consume all of the ecosystem’s resources. Eventually, this might force the prey animals to migrate or risk starvation.

As you probably now understand, ecosystems can only flourish by keeping a delicate balance within the food chain. Unfortunately, in many places around the world, humans have disrupted those food chains and caused ecological collapse. I’ll go into more detail on this topic below.

How Does an Ecosystem Survive in Nature?

For an ecosystem to survive in nature, 4 components must be provided:

  • Producers: Producers are tiny organisms, like that produce their own nutrients from sunlight and water. Types of producers include algae, grasses, plants, and some bacterias.
  • Consumers: Consumers are both herbivorous animals that eat producers (ex: deer) as well as carnivorous animals that eat herbivores (ex: wolves). Often, herbivores are called ‘primary macroconsumers’ and carnivores are called ‘secondary macroconsumers.’
  • Decomposers: Although often overlooked, decomposers are an essential part of any ecosystem! Examples of decomposers include bacteria, fungi, and insects. These organisms break down an ecosystem’s waste, whether it’s rotting logs, poop, or a dead animal!
  • Abiotic Substances: These are the basic building blocks of an environment. Anything that isn’t living in an ecosystem, from soil and rocks to sunlight and water are examples of abiotic substances. This is the stuff that the producers eat!

Humans have been known to throw off this balance and cause the destruction of ecosystems. We’ve done this in a variety of ways — at times killing off the consumer animals and, in other instances, releasing chemical pollutants that stop producers or decomposers from properly functioning.

Climate change is another major factor in environmental destruction. Changes in temperature and rainfall can cause significant damage to any of the 4 components within an ecosystem. As a scout who can create a positive impact, you too should do your part to curb the destruction of our planet’s beautiful ecosystems! More on this in the next section…

3b) Air Pollution

Option 1: 3b(1) Perform an experiment to test for particulates that contribute to air pollution. Discuss your findings with your counselor.

Option 2: 3b(2) Record the trips taken, mileage, and fuel consumption of a family car for seven days, and calculate how many miles per gallon the car gets. Determine whether any trips could have been combined (“chained”) rather than taken out and back. Using the idea of trip chaining, determine how many miles and gallons of gas could have been saved in those seven days.

Option 3: 3b(3) Explain what is acid rain. In your explanation, tell how it affects plants and the environment and the steps society can take to help reduce its effects.

In requirement 3a, we were just talking about how humans often damage ecosystems, and acid rain is a great example of this. Acid rain occurs in areas where there are high amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide air pollution. This type of rain has an extremely harmful effect on plants, animals, and human infrastructure.

Here’s a great and brief video (1:58) that explains the causes and impacts of acid rain:

Obviously, acid rain is acidic and is damaging to living creatures. Some of the negative effects of acid rain include:

  • Soils becoming infertile
  • Acidification of coastal waters which can kill many types of algae, eggs, and small critters
  • Corrosion of historic monuments, houses, and cities
  • Destruction of forests at high elevations that are surrounded by clouds of acid rain

Luckily, the ‘acids’ in acid rain are too dilute to directly harm humans. However, the components that cause acid rain, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, can cause heart and lung problems in humans. 

To reduce the effects of acid rain, we must lower the number of pollutants we release into our atmosphere. This can be done by placing stricter regulations on the emissions a factory is able to produce, or by encouraging the public to purchase more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Air pollution is a huge problem that we’ll all need to work together to solve.

Ready to move on to requirement 3c)? Click here!

Congrats on Finishing The First Half of the Environmental Science Merit Badge!

Wow, we just covered a ton of info and now the page is even beginning to lag! Great work. Are you starting to understand the science of our environment more thoroughly? You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a pat on the back! 🙂

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Environmental Science merit badge (Requirements 3-6) click here!

Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to complete your merit badge worksheets.

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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