Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Time Stream Team

June 2010

Rain continues to fill the banks of Western Montana’s streams and rivers. Driving from Dixon to Missoula every morning, I am struck by how green everything looks. Balsamroot and Lupin are still blooming in the hills, and the cottonwood and aspen are putting out new growth along the Jocko and Clark Fork Rivers. After an abnormally dry winter, let’s hope all this precipitation cuts the summer fire season short.

As native Montanan who migrated to New York for college, it’s great to be home for the summer. Hiking in the mountains, and seeing wildlife, rivers and wide open spaces again reminds me just how lucky I am to live in our beautiful state. A couple of weeks ago, I started a summer internship here at WEN. I’m excited to join the WEN team, and to learn about river education. Part of my internship this summer will include weekly Stream Team sessions. Every Wednesday from 1:00-4:00 pm, a group of community volunteers and WEN staff will be heading out to monitor the health of our local streams and rivers. The data and information we collect will be added to a National online database.

Despite the rainy weather, Emilie Kohler, Michael Anderson, Michael Canseco, Al Pak and I headed out to a site on Pattee Creek last week for Stream Team orientation. Emilie showed us the proper method for each stream experiment. We measured physical aspects of the stream, such as the stream channel morphology and flow characteristics, and using a tennis ball, we calculated velocity. After taking the physical measurements, I pulled on my waders, and along with Michael A., who splashed into the water in his sandals, collected material from the bottom of the channel in nets. We searched through the stream bottom contents for macroinvertibrate life. Although Pattee creek runs through residential Missoula, it seems to be a fairly healthy stream. We found worms, snails, a large cranefly larvae, and a great number of black fly larvae.

Yesterday, Stream Team drove up to Rattlesnake creek. The water was rushing along its banks at a high velocity, due to all the recent precipitation. The swift current made macroinvertibrate collection difficult. However, after only a small mishap in which a team member’s wader filled up with water, we collected a diverse sample that included over 200 mayfly larvae, an enormous stonefly, several types of caddis, aquatic worms, blackflies, and leaches. It was fascinating to see the mayfly larvae breathe; they have visible abdominal gills that flutter gently along their sides in the water.

Despite the threatening clouds, the rain held off until we finished collecting data. After a satisfying day in the field, Stream team headed back to the 4th street office.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gida in Glacier

Last week, WEN joined Tony Berthelote of the Salish Kootenai College and the gidaa camp of Minnesota for 2 days in Glacier and a day of water monitoring in the Mission Mountains. The visiting gidaa camp has been coring Minnesota lakes as part of a wild rice lakes study. We met up with LacCore Scientists to core Lake Josephine at Many Glacier. Amy, one of the scientist, showed us a core they had taken from a neighboring lake which had ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama around 5700 BC (what is now Crater Lake OR). The cores recorded a sediment history up to 13,000 years old. Some things the samples are being tested for are Lead 210 and pollen. Lead in the atmosphere accumulated exponentially until it was reduced and ultimately banned in gasoline beginning in 1973. Looking at lead will aid in dating sediment. Studying pollen gives an idea of the vegetation biodiversity at the time. Students got to look at sediment under dissecting scope ride the “Purple Pony” out onto the lake and take a coring sample. Thursday, everyone enjoyed the views of glaciers close up on the bus tour of Glacier Park the Minnesota students, teachers and National Lab staff even had a shower under the Weeping Wall.Friday, WEN led students and teacher in water monitoring at Mission Creek Falls. The day was beautiful and sunny and the location was breathtaking. Students tested velocity, pH, dissolved oxygen, phosphates, nitrates, aquatic macro invertebrates, and more. The students tell it best and you can read about their study and their first impressions of Montana on their blog. You can also read a news article about the trip here. We really enjoyed meeting the amazing young gidaa camp scientist and sharing an incredible few days with them.