Monday, April 26, 2010

Milltown Dam Journeys Program

Gareth Griffes is a new WEN volunteer this spring. We were so happy to have him on two field trips this week! Gareth help in teaching the Girl Scouts about aquatic macro invertebrates and later in the week assisted on our Milltown Dam Journeys field trip with Clinton school. Read his narrative about Milltown below:

At 12:15 on Wednesday, April 21st, I was privileged to take part in a Milltown dam FT with WEN. We would be taking approx. 20 kids out to the Milltown dam bluff to learn about the life of a bull trout, the usage of the area by native peoples, some geomorphology of the area, and all about the dam restoration project.

We left on time, picking up an MCAT employee by the name of Tor who arrived as suddenly as he was given the assignment to come out and film the FT. As I had only done the stream monitoring field trips so far, what we were going to be doing was a complete mystery to me. Deb told me all about the station I was to be helping Emilie with--the bull trout obstacle course. I had to just visualize it since we wouldn’t have that much time between setting up the station and then facili tating it for the kids. It was my first time in East Missoula (having no car is no fun), and it would be my first time seeing the dam restoration. Deb filled me in all about the history of the dam and all of its problems so I wouldn't seem too out of the loop.

When we got there the heat was stifling. The kids would be getting there in 10 minutes or so, so we had just enough time to set up and read over the script a few times. Houston and I would be helping Emilie out with the bull trout game, and Deb and Christa ran the geo caching activity on the bluff.

Our station was designed to show how difficult the life of a bull trout was. The kids would try and make it through all of the obstacles without 'dying' and we would see who made it all the way through. First was the man-made turbine (jump rope). Then came the going up through the fish ladder (jumping on one foot through a path). After that the ever-popular predator alley, where classmates would throw wiffle balls at them while they dodged thr ough cones (an underhanded throw and hitting below the waist was a rule often forgotten). Through the culvert was next (originally a hula hoop, then changed to a soccer ball from Albertsons), followed by the random conditions dice roll. Finally putting an egg under the chin, walking over to the red bucket (signifying a redd), and dropping it in meant a successful spawning.

Out of our two groups around 10 percent of the kids made it through. Nothing got too out-of-hand, but our Q&A session made the students a little sugar-buzzed due to the prizes of Swedish fish (a bull trout has to eat). The kids were good for the most part and though Tor filmed all throughout the trip, the kids didn't seem to notice, which was good because seeing the 6-graders interested in learning was the goal. We finished up with both groups and then went to listen to Peter Nielsen from the Missoula Water Quality District about the dam restoration project. It was great seeing the kids' enthusiasm about their future park and all about what they would be doing there in just a few years. Their teacher brought a much needed pack of water and we finished up around 3:30. We all piled into our (thankfully) air-conditioned cars, said goodbye to Tor at the office, and parted ways from another great field Trip with WEN.

If you know of a class or community group who would be interested in learning about the Milltown Dam, please email water@montanawatershed for more information.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WEN at MUD's Earth Day

WEN joined MUD to celebrate Earth Day. The theme sustainability theme: 'Do it yourself with others' came alive with businesses and nonprofits offering their own educational activities. WEN brought aquatic macroinvertebrates from the Clark Fork River and offered aquatic macroinvert water coloring. We also had a few educational factoids on how much water it takes to produce every day consumables like meat and cotton. A few of our interns and volunteers came to help out at our table. Good music, good food, great weather, and good people! We met a some new friends and learned about the cool work our fellow nonprofits/businesses do to encourage sustainable living every day.

Amazing water facts included:

1lb of beef requires 1799 gallons of water. 3lbs of grain for feed, plus irrigation water. 16.4lbs of roughage or grasses for feed, plus irrigation water. 18.6 gallons of additional water for drinking and processing.

1 gallon of wine requires 1008 gallons of water . 63.4 gallons of water for 1 cup. Most of the water used for wine production is for growing grapes.

1 T-shirt requires 713 gallons of water 45% for irrigation 41% is rainwater that evaporates off of cotton fields 14% is for treating wastewater from fields and factories

One egg requires 53 gallons of water. Each lb of chicken requires 2 lbs of grain for feed and the associated irrigation of water

1lb of chocolate requires 3170 gallons of water. Each lb of dark chocolate is 40% cocoa paste, 20% cocoa butter. Cocoa paste has a water footprint of 3993.8 gallons of water for 1lb. Cocoa butter has a water footprint of 6091.7 gallons of water for 1lb.

To calculate your water footprint, visit these sites: Water Footprint Network; and for a more kid oriented approach: H2O Conserve

All of our facts came from National Geographics Freshwater page: Water per Pound, Drinking Water and Sanitation Quiz

They have some awesome interactive water quizes. Absolutely worth checking out!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Caution: WEN Field Trips could make you a morning person

April 8th, 2010 Sentinel High School Field Trip at the Clark Fork

From the 6:45a pick up, to loading equipment, to the essential coffee stop, to scoping out the monitoring site, to site set up, I finally realized what a beautiful morning it was sitting on a log pulling off my waders. The light pink tinged clouds, the bustle of the Clark Fork, Canada geese flying over caused an emotion to well up inside me: ‘I’m at the river and it’s a good day to be alive.’ This field trip was a little different than the others I’ve done in the past. Because of time restraints, we primarily demo’ed how to run the water quality tests instead of letting the studen
ts do them. This way we were able to focus on the main scientific ideas of water quality testing and downplay the step by step instructions of conducting the tests. In addition to dissolved oxygen, we showed students how to test for nitrates and phosphates and more importantly, why we test and what would cause detectable traces of the substances to be there. Eutrophication was one of the main ideas in the lesson. Having done some undergraduate research on aquatic plant cover in a stream recovering from eutrophication, I have a vested interest in the subject. The site I studied during my undergraduate was a spring fed calcium carbonate stream recovering from point source pollution. As a student, eutrophication can be a tricky concept to understand. When students are asked about contributors of dissolved oxygen, plants are a common guess, so it is essential to clarify the overall effects. Aside from the outcome eutrophication has on DO levels, I like to mention the effect it has of lowering aquatic plant diversity. Massive algal blooms set off a competition for sunlight that shut out submergent plants. This was evident in the research I did as watercress (an emergent plant) and filamentous algae dominated the stream before recovery.

WEN volunteer Taylor Wilcox joined us for the second half of the field trip to lead the chem station. As the second group of students filed down to the river, the clouds began to darken and the wind kicked up. Before we could get through our second station, the sky opened up on us with a nice dose of cold rain, when it noticed that we weren’t budging, it changed to graupel-like snow, then gave up and went back to rain. The students maintained a level of enthusiasm, but we were all more than glad to finish and get out of the cold.

Emilie Kohler is an AmeriCorps*VISTA Development Assistant for Watershed Education Network. She has been working with WEN since July 2009.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New WEN volunteers share their first field trip experience

Two new WEN volunteers share their first field trip experience on Wed. April 1st at Turah

Kirsten Kober goes to school at the University of Montana. She studies Resource Conservation in the College of Forestry. Her favorite color is yellow and she enjoys hiking in the wilderness and playing frisbee.

Gareth Griffes is currently in between schooling right now. He attended Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, CO, and is looking for a different career path. He enjoys travelling, hiking mountains, rugby, and listening to chilled-out music.

Entering our first volunteer experience with WEN, we were feeling both nervous and excited. We were nervous about teaching 7th graders (with whom we had little experience teaching), and excited about getting our youth to experience and learn about their local river. We travelled approx. 15 minutes upstream to our river-site in Turah. There, we set up our stations and quietly awaited the arrival of the bus.

As it pulled into the parking lot, we swallowed our nerves and put on our best smiles as the 20-odd students scampered down to meet us. We had decided beforehand that Kirsten and Emilie were to do the physical station, Josh to solo the bug station, and I was to assist Al at the chemical station. After our brief introduction to the class, we all split up to begin our lessons.

As I was not too familiar with the chemical station, I stayed silent for much of our first group and listened to Al's teaching for the most part. The kids themselves were pretty reluctant to try and answer any questions at first, with a few exceptions. As we got to know each other better though, they began to open up more. Explaining about dissolved oxygen and the pH scale brought back my own fond memories of middle school science. Ah, the good ol' days! I felt much more familiar with the material as the day wore on, even teaching some of our station to the second and third groups.

Kirsten worked the physical station with Emilie, she also became more confident as the kids became more rambunctious and enthusiastic. The kids enjoyed throwing the sticks in the river. Kirsten noticed that many of the students really enjoyed doing the hands-on things at the station. Even the simple things like measuring out the distance between the two stakes and hammering the stakes into the ground were prized jobs. By the third round she felt comfortable teaching the station and when she lost her train of thought Emilie was there as back up. It's really nice to have two people working the stations because if you forget something the other person can step in and help out. All in all, the kids behaved as we expected them to-- excited whenever we dealt with chemicals and getting in the water, and sometimes forgetful when it came to remembering facts.

As time expired in the third group, the kids were eager to be getting back home. We said our farewell and there was an immediate sprint to grab the best seats on the bus. We all were happy that the day had gone so well and that there weren't really any problems. The whole ride back we talked about all of the good (and unexpected) things that the students had said. My favorite quote was "Science is awesome. They should do it all over the world!".

Upon our departure from WEN, we both felt a sense of accomplishment for the work we had done and a desire to do it again as soon as possible. It was definitely a blast working with WEN!

Bonner Scool Stream Monitoring

Spring days are here, most of the cold winter days are behind us. As I watch sun shining on rivers and we hear of snow geese on Freeze Out Lake, WEN’s office is a buzz with new energy. Even a spring break week meant class presentations and fieldtrips for WEN’s team.

Last week as Sean Kiffe’s Bonner School students were headed to Turah Fishing Access to collect School Stream Monitoring data for their sixth year, WEN’s 2010 spring volunteers were staged to meet them. Launching WEN’s spring river field activities with a whopping 34 fieldtrips scheduled from Feb. through June, some wonder how does WEN do all of this. It starts with Josh Gubits and the winter water monitoring trainings. Then, Alain Strehlow recruiting the new volunteers and regular volunteers for the fieldtrips the teachers schedule for their students. New volunteers, Kristen Kober, Gareth Griffes, Sheri Whittlake, high school student Conner Weston, regular volunteers Al Pak and Travis Ross from Missoula Water Quality District joined the fieldtrip staff. The weather was fine for a fieldtrip, cool but with sun shots enough to keep everyone motivated. New volunteers learned from the experienced crew how to best engage the seventh grade students in learning new concepts of their river.

Eager students broke into their groups of physical, chemical, and biological groups. Travis Ross brought an electronic multi-meter probe to compare pH, conductivity and temperature to WEN’s field equipment measurements.

The aquatic insect station always keeps the students interested. The favorite discoveries were large salmon flies, net spinning caddis with green bellies, and red mayfly nymphs Josh identified as Flathead mayflies. Students were also enthusiastic about measuring velocity by throwing sticks in the river and timing them as they floated downstream. Animated yells to the students operating the stopwatches could be heard of ‘start!’ at one end and ‘stop!’ as the sticks crossed the downstream steaks.

It is a great way to learn and a good thing to have students out for an afternoon at Clark Fork River. Even a chilly day at the river is better than the classroom for seeing, feeling, knowing a river. These are the students who have grown up watching the changes to the Clark Fork River in their backyards. Only a few years ago, they drove or walked by a reservoir of water at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers.

"Science is awesome. They should do it all over the world!". ~Thomas, 7th grade Bonner Student