BOSCO Uganda & Lead-Deadwood Plants Project

In Uganda

The students at the Lacor School are collecting images and tying the images to GPS coordinates (see the Plants of the Gulu Region links on the left), and sharing what they know about the uses of those plants. They are beginning to construct a virtual herbarium. Eventually, it would be awesome to establish a plant collection.

In the US

Students collect information about native plants and their competitors, and apply treatments to reduce invasive species. (See the Englewood Springs Botanical Area Project link on the left.) They are also investigating the environmental requirements of many unusual native plants, including orchids, in something called a groundwater dependent ecosystem.

And when the weather improves in South Dakota, and the plants emerge from their blanket of snow, students in the US will also photograph and locate their plants. They will add to our herbarium under the watchful eye of a USFS botanist.

The Collaboration

Students at both schools have begun to get to know each other as pen pals and will share information about their lives, and their data. What plants do they have in common? Which ones are native and which are cultivated? What are the plants used for?

BOSCO Uganda & Lead-Deadwood High School Whitewood Creek Water Quality Project

Mapping Project




Description of the Project
Initially the project will consist of the collection of mineralogical and biological data from Whitewood Creek, South Dakota, a former Superfund site, and from the water sources that are used by the individuals in the former IDP camps, and communities that are served by BOSCO. Students will explore the histories of their water supplies and examine their current water resources. They will also be challenged to develop and implement strategies for the remediation of water quality problems.

In the local South Dakota community, students will collect data from our watershed Whitewood Creek, which is within walking distance from the school. Lead, South Dakota is the home of the deepest mine in the Western Hemisphere, and until the early 90’s, gold had been extracted continuously for over 100 years. And, although it was the source of income for 1000’s of people, Whitewood Creek was a casualty of that industry. The EPA designated it as a Superfund Site in the early 1990’s; clean-up was conducted, and it was deleted from the Superfund in 1999.

For 100 years from 1877 to 1977, Homestake discharged at least 100 million tons of gold-mill tailings and hazardous substances. Approximately 2,700 tons of contaminated sediments from Homestake were deposited daily into Whitewood Creek from about 1900 to 1978. From 1920 to 1977, about 270,000 tons of arsenic was discharged into Whitewood Creek. Historically, gold was recovered by gravity or by amalgamation with mercury. Since the early 1900’s, cyanide was used for gold extraction. Whitewood Creek was an efficient conduit, transporting contaminated sediments into the slow, meandering Belle Fourche River, because much of Whitewood Creek’s channel downstream of Lead is steep and incised into bedrock. The Information in the preceding paragraph comes from the FINAL CONCEPTUAL RESTORATION AND COMPENSATION PLAN FOR WHITEWOOD CREEK AND THE BELLE FOURCHE AND CHEYENNE RIVER WATERSHEDS, SOUTH DAKOTA

In the documentary, The Rebirth of Whitewood Creek the color of the creek water was described as "Battleship Gray". In the film residents describe the creek as a place to be avoided due to the garbage and raw sewage discharged into the creek, one comments that they, “try not to look at it”. And, it was devoid of life as a result of the metal laden sediments, not even algae would grow. This condition was all that the residents had ever known. In 1975 it was classified as a Class B waterway, meaning it was suitable for transporting waste. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks collected fish in Lake Oahe, and found mercury levels in tissues of 1.16 ppm, well above the legal limits. In June of 1973 signs were posted at Oahe warning fisherman of the problem, (the lake also drains into the Missouri River). Arsenic was found in well water along the Belle Fourche River, into which Whitewood Creek drains. The situation was indeed dire and Homestake was required to take action.

Homestake discontinued use of mercury in the amalgamation process in 1970, and sediment discharge was discontinued not long after. The changes were noticeable almost immediately. Remediation strategies were developed by several agencies, including Homestake, who developed a strain of bacteria that could metabolize high levels of cyanide, removing it from the discharge. The new water treatment plant in Deadwood began removing sewage contaminants and other chemicals from the creek in 1979. In 1980 invertebrate life began to reappear. In 1984 finishing touches on the project were completed, and by 1985 fish were found in the stream. And for the first time in over 180 years it was safe for children to play in the stream. And, by 1989, when this author moved to Deadwood, she had no idea that anything had ever been wrong with the creek in the first place.


Ugandans experienced a devastating civil war, which forever altered their lives. The community in Lead and Deadwood experienced a huge and profound alteration to the environment that may have seemed pretty hopeless and beyond repair. The mine is closed and in our past, and although the scars the earth here bear don’t match the human toll of a civil war, they are reminders of sacrifice. In Uganda, communities are rebuilding, hopefully they find that there are always solutions to problems. The reminders of the past will probably never go away for those that live in Uganda, just as the open pit in the middle of town in Lead, will never disappear. We feel that everyone should know our story because it serves as an example that with hard work, environmental problems, even on the scale of Whitewood Creek’s, can be solved. We would like to learn the methods of ecosystem monitoring and management together, making this journey hand-in-hand. And, if young people can get to know someone, and make a friend on the other side of the earth, with the protection of our precious water sources as a common link... Well, wouldn’t that be something?


Students in Uganda are isolated due to wars, disease and poverty. Students in Lead, SD are isolated by their geography. Unlike many other US states our cultural world is homogenous, and our population is small. When our students go to college out of the area, many return home within the first year. It is imperative for their success that they connect to the larger world.

The potential for Leadership opportunities is immeasurable, ultimately US and Ugandan students can mentor and teach problem solving together. There is an opportunity for high school seniors to use this collaborative as a platform for senior research and projects; whether they are seeking a solution to a global problem, or managing digital media to support the site. And, there is a larger opportunity for young people to find a common purpose as members of a global community.


This project is possible in part thanks to the 2010 NSTA Toyota Tapestry and Washington University in St. Louis Life Sciences for a Global Community Institute NSF Grant #0634470

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