Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Best way to relax after a busy week? River Monitoring!

What happens when you mix a couple cups of water with an assortment of bugs and a batch of 6th graders at 67ish degrees for 2 hours? A fabulous Bonner field trip! ….and that’s all it took to turn a stressful school week into a happy Friday. Who wants to sit in a library writing up reports when there is an opportunity to listen to a kid try to explain how gills work? As one Bonner student put it, “Fish breathe with gills in their neck – like lungs only with water.” Sure, but what happens when they find out that mayfly gills are not on their neck. “Whoa! You mean they breathe from their butt?!” Well, not exactly their butt. *review head, thorax, abdomen* Yes, the biological station is always filled with exceptional comments and critiques. At the end, which was their favorite bug – “Mayflies, they swim like mermaids” and what did they learn – “That there are a lot of different things living in the water.” And we saw plenty of diversity (yes, word of the day) in our samples: lots of stoneflies, mayflies, a few caddis flies, a crayfish, and a tiny fish about the size of your small finger. It always amazes me how much these kids learn and remember. I always like to ask them what they learned from the previous station(s) and they don’t even hesitate in answering and sometimes they beat me to the end of the question. "What is the veloc-"-"3.2 feet per second"! "And what about dissolved ox"-"10 drops"! How’s that for efficiency? They waste no time, especially if they see a pair of waders. But equally important in helping these amazing kids learn about the awesomeness of the stream monitoring. A big part of the fieldtrip success is WEN's awesomely awesome team with Josh and Molly and me! They made this field trip even more amazing, like the cherry on the top of an ice cream cone, or like finding a grumpy little someone in their little stone case! …and you all keep asking why I’m still volunteering.

  Al Pack
WEN Volunteer since 2007

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Monitor Rivers?

Because it is important to understand what is in our rivers and how they are changing!  According to a recent Missoulain article, the Glacier Stonefly is at risk of becoming endangered due to the effects of climate change.

Read it HERE

The Stonefly needs clean and cold water, so it is known as an indicator species for healthy rivers.

Heading Up the Blackfoot

This past Sunday Stream Team had an amazing afternoon taking data on the Blackfoot River at the Angevine site. While our volunteers, Rob and Pam, started on chemistry, Maria, Steve and myself started setting up to gather stream flow data.  The weather turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  Standing along the Blackfoot, next to the cast of the mountain shadows, the sun lit up the water and made the scenery almost as pleasant as the warmth on my cheeks.  I stood up on a rock to get a better view of the river, watching it curve with the mountain line, and could not have been more happy that I had gone out to do Stream Team that day.

Once we were done measuring stream velocity and dissolved oxygen, we were ready to start collecting insects! As the waders collapsed around the shape of my legs, the water actually felt good, cooling me off from the warm weather.  After a couple of good collections we were ready to start sorting and identifying.  We found numerous stoneflies and caddis.  In fact, many of the stoneflies we found were the biggest I had ever seen, it was very exciting! 

The river had a wide variety of insects and many healthy indicator species. The chemical and physical aspects of the stream also were in healthy conditions; we were very satisfied with the day.  Our day was one of the best Stream Teams yet this year, and I highly suggest anyone interested to get involved, because otherwise you'll be missing out on great days such as this one!

Megan Girsch
WEN Autumn 2010 Intern

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WEN teaches the Swan Valley School about stream health

The keystone of The Watershed Education Network (WEN) is its School Stream Monitoring Program.  In this program, WEN teaches students about the importance of watershed health and how to monitor their local rivers.  We recently taught the Swan Valley School and took them out to the river for hands on learning.

We were very excited to take Swan Valley School out to Glacier Creek. The morning started bright and early for the long drive out, and we could tell it was going to be a great morning.  After an almost two-hour drive, we arrived at the stream, parking beside an old rusty bridge, with the river flowing swiftly below.  The kids were unbelievably great, very eager to learn and participate. The groups at each of the stations were a mixture of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders and they worked so well together—the older students took on leadership roles, helping the younger students and I think it was really beneficial for the group as a whole.

It was my first time running the physical station and it was a lot of fun!  The kids had a blast throwing the sticks in the water to measure velocity.  Once all of our data was collected, the high number of positive indicating insects collected, combined with our high oxygen content and pristine clear, cold water, we knew Glacier Creek was a promising supply to the Swan River.

The trip ended at the school, where Josh gave a wonderful presentation to the 4th grade classroom about what makes a healthy stream, including what types of conditions are ideal for our native trout populations. The students were then allowed to ask questions, and the only question was directed toward Josh, asking, “do you like healthy foods?” Confused, Josh replied with a “yes” and the student told him, “because Lunchables are 100% healthy!” The students then filed out of the room to the cafeteria, where they would be treated to their much anticipated lunch after a long morning as watershed scientists.

—Megan Girsch
WEN Fall UM Intern

For more information about the School Stream Monitoring Program or WEN, go to or email

WEN mointors Streams accross Montana

Along with providing resources for our community and local schools, the Watershed Education Network also monitors local streams for stream health. Our Stream Team has an awesome time this past Sunday!  It was a beautiful day for monitoring our local rivers.  This fall, our Stream Team will be monitoring a different river every Sunday afternoon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

August Winner

Congratulations to our August Blog Winner... Kristin Gardner! Kristin has won $500 to support her monitoring efforts and student education and outreach programs. Well done Kristin!

Keep up the great work everyone!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

World Water Monitoring Day is September 18!

To order your free test kit, participation certificates, fact sheets, puzzles and worksheets; please call us at 406-994-6425 or emails us at

 Students Make Valuable Contribution to World Water Monitoring Day

More and more, students are leading the efforts to protect their local environment.  Living in a world shrunken by technology, they have a better understanding of the interdependence of important natural resources in a larger, global setting.

Since 2002, many youth have demonstrated their growing knowledge while participating in World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD). Observed officially each year on September 18, WWMD presents an important opportunity for young people to become involved in safeguarding natural resources on a local, national and international scale. Students around the world from Argentina to Zimbabwe have paid their local waterways a visit in order to test four basic indicators of water quality. Dissolved oxygen, pH (acidity), temperature and turbidity (clarity) are important, yet basic indicators of the water’s quality.

While engaged in this annual event, students can learn more about the watersheds in which they live, how watersheds work and how protecting their waters can have beneficial impacts downstream. Teachers and students often use their data to discuss impacts in their local watershed and compare their findings with others. The Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association serve as the primary coordinators for the program. A complete list of sponsors and partners is found on the web site.

For more information, visit the World Water Monitoring Day website at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Field Sketching

Does anyone have lesson plans to practice field sketching in the classroom? I am looking for tips to add depth to field sketches. The target group is middle school and we would take a few class periods to introduce the material before we go into the field. Rai Hahn Fairfield Middle School