Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Watershed Education Network Internship by Kate Kinney

“Look out for the hawthorn!”
Swish! Thwap! Ouch.
Bushwacking isn’t necessarily a new skill in the educational career that I’ve chosen. But it does seem to be one that never gets easier for a smallish person who always has her arms full of stuff.
On this beautiful sunshiny Sunday, we were slowly crawling our way towards the West Fork of Lolo Creek, a normally docile little stream up Lolo Pass that has been monitored by the Watershed Education Network in past years. Today the spring runoff turned it into a raging beast of a stream, and we wondered whether we would be able to place cross sections on the stream at all. That, of course, was all secondary to the actual locating of and getting to the cross section… That seemed to be the current hurdle. But WEN volunteers are made of tougher stuff than some spiny shrubbery, and sure enough we made it to the site with naught but flesh wounds.
WEN’s weekend Stream Team is comprised of a group of hardy volunteers who spend Sundays monitoring various streams near the Missoula valley. The streams are monitored for a variety of factors that can tell us a number of things about the health of the stream. Our first step at the site is to establish a level cross section across the stream, a process that involves a brave soul in waders and some logger’s tape. Once that transect is set up, two more can be established 30 feet on either side of the first, and the monitoring can begin!
At the cross sections, data such as sediment size, flow, and depth can be determined. We also monitor stream chemistry, and look at factors such as turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and pH. On the banks of the river, there’s some other exciting science going on. Riparian vegetation assessments are done, as well as evaluations of erosion factors and sediment sources. Macroinvertebrate identification is also done on the banks. Bugs are collected from the stream by “washing” rocks into nets, which are then dumped into tubs to be examined on the banks. (Do you know how to tell your mayflies and stoneflies apart? I’ll give you a hint… it has to do with knowing your dance moves! I’ll tell you later.)
All the data collected from a site is recorded on data sheets, which are later processed and analyzed in the office. This data is particularly useful in comparisons on how a stream may change year by year, and the influence of not only environmental factors, but human factors as well. WEN has the unique opportunity, beginning this year, to monitor how the Lolo watershed was impacted by the recent fires that devastated the area. Since WEN has data from pre-fire monitoring, it’s going to be very interesting to observe how the factors of the stream will change over time with a disturbance.
How does this reflect on Wilderness and Civilization? What we’re monitoring for deals with both; the changing health of this stream not only reflects environmental factors like fires and changing climates, but also the effects of human constructs like roads and water usage. WEN’s mission also seeks to bridge the gap between Wilderness and Civilization by cultivating a group of students and volunteers that not only care about the health of their watersheds, but also want to be part of the monitoring experience. By fostering a love of watersheds in the people who use them, we hope to be creating a generation of responsible and caring users who will pass on their knowledge to others. It’s an exciting prospect, and a wonderful program, and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.

(I didn’t forget! I promised you a dance lesson. Follow these steps for some fun macro ID!)
These wacky moves are how mayflies and stoneflies move in the water.
Dance Move 1: The Mayfly Mambo
1. Raise arms above head.
2. Loosy-goosy! Keep your elbows and knees wobbly like you’re a gangly teen again.
3. Do the worm with your whole body, starting at your hands and ending with your feet.
4. Now do it really fast, like you’re swimming away from a big fish!
5. Congratulations, you’re mamboing like a mayfly!

Dance Move 2: The Stonefly Shuffle
1. Raise arms above head. Keep your elbows at approximately 90 degree angles.
2. Pop your hip to a side. Either side really, just remember to pop it like you mean it.
3. Now, this gets a little trick and requires some coordination. Take your arms and raise one higher while lowering the other. Rock this motion back and forth.
4. Remember that popped hip? Shake it in the opposite directions your arms are moving. Don’t be afraid to use some sass!
5. Look at you! You’re doing the Stonefly Shuffle!
Not only do you now know some awesome dance moves, you also can ID these two types of macroinvertebrates! Now go forth and impress all your friends!

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