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Name : _________________________________________________________ Period : ________ Date :___________
Honors Biology
Biogeochemical Cycles Inquiry Project
A biogeochemical cycle or substance turnover or cycling of substances is a pathway by which a chemical
substance moves through both biotic (biosphere) and abiotic (lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere)
compartments of Earth. A cycle is a series of change which comes back to the starting point and which can be
repeated. Water, for example, is always recycled through the water cycle. Elements, chemical compounds,
and other forms of matter are passed from one organism to another and from one part of the biosphere to
another through biogeochemical cycles.
The term "biogeochemical" tells us that biological, geological and chemical factors are all involved. The
circulation of chemical nutrients like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and water etc. through
the biological and physical world are known as biogeochemical cycles. In effect, the elements are being
recycled. Due to their presence in most macromolecules needed to sustain life, the most important cycles are
the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the oxygen cycle, the phosphorus cycle, the sulfur cycle, and the water
Disturbances in these biogeochemical cycles can be detrimental to species of organisms as well as ecosystems
altogether. Unfortunately, the human race is to blame for many of these current issues. The only way to begin
to right these wrongs is to learn about the importance of each of these cycles and what actions we can take to
make improvements.
The Issue:
With all of this talk of GMOs, processed meat and cancer in the news, Mrs. Hinz and Ms. Schuckers decide that
they want to go into farming so that they can grow their own food and livestock. They also want to make a
profit and have decided on marketing two products, Hinz Ketchup and Schuckers Jam. They will therefore be
growing their own tomato plants for the ketchup and strawberry plants for the jam. Fast forward a few
months… things are going pretty ok for the new farmers but they start to notice yellowing of the leaves on the
tomato plants. They decide to start using a fertilizer. Over time they see that the fertilizer produces tomato
plants with green leaves and a higher fruit yield in the strawberry plants. Unfortunately they begin to notice
issues in the lake on their property. They keep seeing dead fish and the water has turned a thick green. What
is going on?! What can we do to help?!
Your Task:
Analyze the problem above with your group through the lens of the cycle that you choose (water, phosphorus,
carbon, or nitrogen). The first thing you will do for this assignment is to educate yourself on 1 of the 4 cycles
we will be discussing and investigate how it is involved in our issue. You will research the cycle and learn about
all of the processes and organisms involved in the perpetuation of this cycle. Utilize your resources! You have
access to articles, books, youtube videos, etc. Make sure you look at at least 3 sources to obtain your
information. Once you have become an expert on this cycle you will create a google slides presentation to
share this information with your peers so that they can learn about your cycle. You will also create a handout
with general information about the cycle that will be copied and distributed to your classmates. You must
include the terms given to you by your teacher once your cycle is chosen. See the handout rubric for
guidelines. After explaining your cycle you and your group will come up with 2 different solutions to our issue.
You should support your ideas with facts and evidence from scientific literature. You will include these
solutions in your powerpoint but not on the handout and you will present these solutions to your classmates
after your discussion of the cycle. Lastly, you will explore different ways (at least 2) that humans impact your
particular cycle and what that means for the human population and environment on a global scale. Follow the
presentation rubric to be sure you include all necessary information. Be creative and good luck!
Biogeochemical Project Rubrics
All processes on the list in the cycle are
explained in detail and in your own
words. Explanations are easy to
understand and have a natural flow.
All processes are explained but are
difficult to understand or lack flow.
1 or more processes are missing or are
not explained.
Original diagram included which
illustrates all components of the cycle
with examples.
Diagram is present but 1 or more
components are missing.
Diagram has been copied and pasted from
internet or does not provide any
Handout is structured so that it is easy
to follow.
Some structure is evident.
No real flow
Less than 2 spelling or grammatical
errors are present .
2-5 spelling or grammar errors present.
Multiple spelling or grammatical errors.
_______ out of 12
Content - Accuracy
All content throughout the
presentation is accurate.
There are no factual errors
and all requirements are met.
Most of the content is
accurate but there is some
information missing.
The content is generally
accurate, but one piece of
information is clearly
inaccurate and some
information is missing.
False claims are made and
multiple pieces of
information are missing.
Student presents information
in logical, interesting
sequence which audience can
Student presents information
in logical sequence which
audience can follow.
Audience has difficulty
following presentation
because student jumps
Audience cannot understand
presentation because there is
no sequence of information.
Subject Knowledge
Student demonstrates full
knowledge (more than
required) by answering all
class questions with
explanations and elaboration.
Student is at ease with
expected answers to all
questions, but fails to
Student is uncomfortable
with information and is able
to answer only rudimentary
Student does not have grasp
of information; student
cannot answer questions
about subject.
Student's graphics explain
and reinforce screen text and
Student's graphics relate to
text and presentation.
Student occasionally uses
graphics that rarely support
text and presentation.
Student uses superfluous
graphics or no graphics
Presentation has no
misspellings or grammatical
Presentation has no more
than two misspellings and/or
grammatical errors.
Presentation has three
misspellings and/or
grammatical errors.
Student's presentation has
four or more spelling errors
and/or grammatical errors.
Members spoke at an
excellent rate, volume and
with good grammar. They
maintained eye-contact while
using, but not reading their
notes. It is obvious group
Members spoke at a good
rate, volume was not always
consistent. They used
acceptable grammar. Some
eye-contact was maintained,
but read their notes often.
Group could’ve used more
Members spoke at an
inconsistent rate and volume,
and/or used poor grammar.
They made little eyecontact
and relied heavily on their
notes/slides. Group could
have used lots more practice
Members demonstrated
having paid little attention to
rate, volume or grammar.
They read nearly word for
word from notes/slides. It is
obvious group did not
______ out of 24
Overall Grade: ________ out of 36
Biogeochemical Cycle Terminology
Below are the term checklists for each cycle. You must include and fully explain these terms in your
presentation and will be responsible for knowing these terms.
1. Carbon/Oxygen Cycle(s):
a. Photosynthesis
b. Respiration
c. Decomposition
d. Combustion
e. Eutrophication
f. Carbon sinks
g. Carbonates
2. Water Cycle:
a. Evaporation
b. Transpiration
c. Condensation
d. Precipitation
e. Run-off
f. Eutrophication
g. Collection
3. Nitrogen Cycle:
a. Nitrogen Fixation
b. Nitrification
c. Denitrification
d. Ammonia, Nitrates, nitrites
e. Ammonification
f. Assimilation
g. Eutrophication
4. Phosphorus Cycle:
a. Phosphate mining
b. Erosion
c. Eutrophication
d. Absorption of phosphorus
e. Inorganic vs. organic phosphorus
f. Leaching
g. Uptake