Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stream Safari

Stewardship Assistant Kevin with a handful of Asiatic clam shells
Despite the threat of thunderstorms, our annual Stream Safari came off without a hitch.  Our Stewardship Assistant Kevin who just earned his undergraduate degree in education, led about a dozen participants to the creek to comb the streambed cobbles for critters.
What ya' got there?
We billed this year's safari as an event for children more than we have in previous years (when we advertised it as a family activity), and four families with lots of kids came for the event.

Most invertebrates cling to the bottom of rocks
Our creek is "impaired" according to the state's official classification.  How could it not be?  We're in the center of the watershed, and the upper half of the drainage is fully overwhelmed by suburban sprawl.  So, our creek suffers from torrential flooding, sediment deposition, erosion, and nutrient enrichment.  In fact, it's amazing the creek is in as good a condition as it is.
Mom was really getting into the hunt
We found plenty of caddisfly larvae and mayfly nymphs that are tolerant of moderate pollution.  The invertebrates indicative of really high purity streams were, of course, completely absent.
Kevin even set up a field laboratory so that the participants could examine their finds with microscopes.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the cool water on a hot, humid evening as well as the cool animals hidden in the creek's nooks and crannies.


robin andrea said...

What a great way for kids to learn about creeks and wildlife. I was just reading this morning in the NY Times how children are spending way too much time looking at screens instead of looking at the world around them. This is the best antidote!

packrat said...

It must be really rewarding to see people enjoying themselves on such an outing, Scott. It's great that your preserve sponsors such activities. I have a question about water quality; as you know, here in the West, many streams, ponds, etcetera, are rife with giardia. Is it as much a concern in the Piedmont?

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: A few of these kids were looking at screens (of the strainer type), too. (Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.) Yes, too few children get outdoors, but these kids were having a great time, an indication of how much more frequently they need to get outside.

Scott said...

Packrat: Since I was trained as an aquatic entomologist, I couldn't help but get caught up in these folk's enthusiasm. I didn't join them in the creek (I didn't have the right footwear), but I was helping them to sort through and identify the critters they brought back to shore. Your question about giardia is a good one that I had never considered. Our creek is so full of enteric bacteria from malfunctioning septic systems and from pet waste that it never occurred to me to think about giardia. the next time I have a chance to ask someone knowledgeable about giardia in the urban stream around here, I will.

Kali and I went to a "dude ranch" in Montana for a week about a decade ago. One of the activities was an overnight pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The wrangler responsible for preparing our meals scooped-up a pitcherful of stream water at our campsite and added powdered lemonade mix to the water, then offered it to the guests. We'd been riding all day and crossing streams full of beaver ponds; I believe that giardiasis is also known colloquially as "beaver fever." I challenged the wrangler, asking him why he hadn't treated the water first, and he gave me some mealy-mouthed reply. I did end up drinking the lemonade (we were all parched), and I didn't get sick, but his actions were not responsible in my book.