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Archive for the ‘Adopt-A-Stream’ Category

Fall Creek Monitoring: Beautiful colors and beautiful bugs

River and creek sampling

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests.

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto

Thanks to 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 548 volunteer hours, the 2013 Fall River Roundup was a great success!  Our volunteers split into 25 teams and traveled to 50 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.

This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected from this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.

You can see all the results in Fall 2013 River Roundup Report.

Current Watershed Health

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

12 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County.  Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.

14 sites are significantly improving.  11 of improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. 2 sites are improving in Livingston County (Horseshoe Creek at Merrill Road and Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

 

Highlights

1. For many years HRWC has held up Millers Creek in Ann Arbor as an example of what can happen to an urban creek- the stream flow is flashy, the channel is incised, the riparian vegetation is shrubby invasive plants, and there is little life in the creek.  In 2009 HRWC finished up a green infrastructure project in the headwaters of Millers designed to reduce the amount of stormwater rushing into the creek, and at the same time the City of Ann Arbor finished a major streambank stabilization project where the creek crossed Glazier Way.

The efforts spent restoring Millers Creek seems to be paying off.  The sample taken in Millers Creek at Glazier Way contained the most insect families ever seen since sampling began in 1993. While the overall trend since 1993 is unchanged, from 2004 when the creek was at its worst (3 insect families), until now in 2013 (12 insect families), there is a statistically significant increase.  Insects that are particularly susceptible to pollution and disturbance have yet to be found here however, and we will continue monitoring in hopes that these insects will make their way back to the stream.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

 

2. Starting in this past January, HRWC has been sending volunteers to two new stream sites on Portage Creek near Stockbridge.  This is a long drive from Ann Arbor and we appreciate the volunteers who have made this journey. This Roundup, volunteers in the Portage Creek at Rockwell site found a treasure trove of insect diversity.  Twenty insect families were found which puts this new site up there with the very best places we go.  We will look forward to visiting this site again in the future!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve... a new sampling site!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve… a new sampling site! Picture taken January 2013.

 

Lowlight

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor.

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor. credit: Ron Fadoir

Norton creekshed in Oakland County is a Detroit suburb and industrial hub. Historically, the creek has suffered from numerous impairments and has seen little improvement as the area has become increasingly suburbanized.

In terms of the macroinvertebrate community, samples taken here have always had terrible diversity and low abundance, but in recent years things have gotten worse.  When sampling started in Norton Creek at West Maple Road in 2000, it was normal to find between 8 and 10 insect families.  However, volunteers during the past four fall River Roundups have found 3, 4, 4, and 3 insect families.  Two of the insect families found are actually water striders, which are only semi-aquatic as they live on top of the rather than in the water.

These poor samples have made Norton Creek the worst location of all of those that HRWC monitors. For more information on Norton Creek, see our Norton Creek page and associated creekshed report.  http://www.hrwc.org/norton

 

What’s next?

On January 26th, HRWC staff and volunteers will gather for the 19th annual Stonefly Search.  This event is very similar to a River Roundup except that we are only looking for stoneflies.  Some of these little guys can be found year round, but there are a couple of stonefly families that are only reliably found in the winter months, and they are great indicators of healthy water.   We hope you and your family and friends will join us for this fun outdoor event!  Register here! http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/

What Ever Happened With My Data?

Expert volunteer hard at work!

HRWC volunteers spend a lot of the summer collecting water quality information. THANK YOU!  Of course, getting in the water is great fun and often a fun challenge. But what of all the data that we collect? What does it tell us? Where does it go?

2013 Field Results

Join HRWC staff as we present the results of the 2013 field work for Portage Creek, Bioreserve, Adopt-A-Stream, and Water Quality Monitoring. Program directors Kris Olsson, Paul Steen, Pam Labadie and Ric Lawson will give presentations on the most recent findings, followed by Q and A.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

6:30 – 8:00 PM

NEW Center Conference Rooms

1100 North Main Street

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Please RSVP to Jason: JFrenzel@hrwc.org

 

Lampyridae, Tabanidae, and Belostomatidae: OH MY!

Belostomatidae

Beware the Belostomatidae

Want to meet the Lions, Tigers, and Bears of the Huron?

We’re happy to show them off – but you’ll have to help us hunt them down! (Though ours are a tad smaller, as they are aquatic insects.)

Join us on Saturday, October 12 for HRWC’s autumn River Roundup. You can bring a small group of friends or we’ll put you on a team with other awesome HRWC volunteers. The outing takes about 4 hours and starts at either 9:00 or 10:30 am (you get to choose!). We’ll send you to some really cool spots around the watershed to track down some of those critters. When you return we’ll have a nice snack to share over your stories in the wild!

For info and to register, please check out www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup.

*Lampyridae, Tabanidae, and Belostomatidae are, respectively, fireflies, horse flies, and giant water bugs – OH MY!!

 

More creekshed reports available!

creeksheds

What creekshed do you live in? Check out our interactive creekshed map! 

 

As reported last September,  HRWC is compiling all of our data on a creekshed scale, looking specifically at our creeks and the land that affects them.  We are synthesizing all of our knowledge on these creeksheds and putting them into easily digestible and colorful 4 page reports.

There are now seven creekshed reports available, including the Woods Creek report, which was just finished.

Woods Creek, located near Belleville, is the healthiest lower Huron River tributary.  There are several ordinances protecting the creek and there are many invested citizens who live in the watershed, including the Woods Creek Friends.

Creekshed Reports:

 

 

 

Measuring and Mapping Training, Sunday August 4th

Time to Get in the Water!

Have you always dreamed of making a difference? Of helping to protect a resource that sustains you, your family – your community?

Picture 063Then mark August 4th down in your calendars. We’re having a special training session for our Measuring and Mapping program, and we want you to join us.

You will learn how to “read a river” by characterizing the bed, banks and other indicators of stream health. No prior knowledge is necessary! Once you complete our training, you will form into teams to map a site on a later date selected by you and the team. You will go out into a stream in Livingston, Oakland, Wayne or Washtenaw County for about 4 hours later in the month — whenever is good for you! You will be walking IN the stream and possibly over uneven terrain when you map your site, so be prepared to get wet. Older children (9+) are welcome to attend, but each one must be accompanied by one adult.

The training session will be three hours on Sunday afternoon at the NEW Center at 1100 N. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

Registration ends August 1st! If you are a first time volunteer, please fill out this basic information form.

For more information, please email Jason or visit our Adopt-A-Stream website.

HRWC Kicks off Bioreserve Field Season

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently.  The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.

This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.

The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks.  For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake.  While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north.  The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.

Dealing with high water during macroinvertebrate sampling

2012 04 20 RU by John Lloyd (21)

Diane Martin braves the fast flowing water… and wisely wears a life jacket! credit: John Lloyd

A wet and wild spring

On April 20, teams of HRWC volunteers poured from our office and explored the Huron Watershed in search of aquatic insects, snails, clams, and crustaceans. The data that these volunteers collect enables HRWC to keep a finger on the pulse of the Huron River and it’s tributaries; to understand where streams are degrading and where they are getting better.

This year’s event was marked by very high water, just like our Spring Roundup in 2011. And just like in 2011, data interpretation has been difficult.  The data collected from a River Roundup are meant to show overall conditions across the watershed and be comparable to past year’s data in order to tell us how things are changing over time.  In flooded conditions, the stream systems are not comparable to past years, often because the volunteers are forced to sample in an unusual manner (like standing on the bank and reaching into the swollen river rather than entering it).

QAPPs are useful- yes, seriously!

HRWC follows a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) to make sure that we deal with the issue of bad samples in a consistent manner.

FlemingCk_6593LookingDownstr_20Apr13_640

Fleming Creek along Galpin Road had overtopped the banks and flooded the neighboring yards. The team was not able to sample here and moved on to a different location. credit: Dick Chase

From the QAPP:

“The resulting measures of Total Insect Taxa for each site will be compared to the median from the site’s whole data record and there should be a relative percent difference of less than 40%.  The same comparison will be made for Total Abundance (for all taxa).

Sample results that exceed these standards will be noted as “outliers” and examined to determine if the results are likely due to sampling error or a true environmental variation.  If sampling error is determined or if the environmental variation is not reflective of normal conditions (ie extreme flooding), the data point shall be removed from the data record.”

13 samples were removed from the official data record for failing to meet these requirements. The rejected samples had on average total abundances 50% less than the median of past results, and coincidentally 50% less insect diversity than the median of past results. (We would expect these two numbers to be related but it is strange that they are exactly the same).

2 samples were at new sites where past data didn’t exist to test results against the QAPP

South Ore Creek flows fast and high! credit: John Lloyd

South Ore Creek flows fast and high! credit: John Lloyd

requirements, but volunteer descriptions make it plain that the sites could not be sampled properly. These samples were also rejected.

27 samples were accepted. For all accepted samples, total abundance was down 20%, and insect diversity was only down 14% from the median of past results. This amount of variation is normal even in unflooded conditions.

You can see all the results in the Spring 2013 River Roundup Report.

Current Watershed Health

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 59 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

13 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, the Huron River at Flat Rock, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  It should be pointed out, as it was after the 2012 Fall Roundup, that the majority (though not all) of the declining sites are in Livingston County.

12 sites are improving, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek,  Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. The majority (though not all) of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County.

What’s next?

The rejected samples aren’t thrown away.  They are placed into a separate database and flagged with the reason for their exclusion.  Such data may prove useful in the future- for example, quantifying the effect of high flows on macroinvertebrate populations… as a way at getting at how climate change could be changing our watershed.

Let’s hope for a drier fall- but if it is wet and flooded again- we know how to deal with it!

 

 

2013 Yields a Bumper Stonefly Crop

  • A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd
  • Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau
  • Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller
  • A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd
  • "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd
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Bring on the “brrr!”

On January 26, 110 intrepid volunteers faced the harsh winter elements and spread across the Huron River watershed in search of stoneflies, which are only found in clean and healthy streams.  Everyone made it back safe, which is the number one priority, and it seemed that a good time was had by all.

In 2012 the Stonefly Search volunteers had to deal with melting snow and flood conditions, but this year we had a deep freeze in the week preceeding the Search, and most of the teams had to break their way through the ice in order to sample the stream macroinvertebrates. Despite this challenging problem, stoneflies were found in great abundance at many locations.  The results are in, and are given in this pdf report.

Highlights:

1.  The status quo is being maintained for most of the sampling sites.  Sites that have had stoneflies in the past are still able to support them, and sites that were not healthy enough to hold stoneflies still do not have them.  That being said, we did see a few changes this year which are detailed below.

2. Four sites had the best stonefly samples that had ever been seen at those locations: Chilson Creek at Chilson Road, Fleming Creek at Galpin Road, the Huron River at Flat Rock, and Woodruff Creek at Buno Road.  At each of these sites, the stoneflies normally found at the location were there, but also new stonefly families were found that had never been seen there before! A greater diversity of stoneflies indicates greater stream health.  These are promising results and hopefully it will continue into longer term trends.

3. The team searching for stoneflies in Woods Creek in Belleville came back disappointed.  Wood’s Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark has been sampled 12 times since 1997, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. The problem likely comes from the thick ice and difficult conditions rather than pollution or disturbed stream habitat, but we will keep an eye on Wood’s Creek next year.

4. Traver Creek is a stream in north Ann Arbor that has typical urban stream problems- in particular, flashy flows and runoff, oil, and sediment from roads.  In the past couple of years, part of the train track berm washed out and released a large plume of sediment to Traver Creek.  However, we were pleased that both of the sites sampled on Traver Creek this year turned up stoneflies.  The sites were both upstream and downstream of the wash-out.

Next on the horizon!

Interested in doing more with our macroinvertebrate searches?  Think about becoming a trained leader or collector by coming to the next training on March 24.  This is an extremely important job because every team needs both a trained leader and collector, and we often do not have enough to meet the demand.  Sign up for the training!

 

 

 

Stonefly Fun

January Stonefly Search photo by John Lloyd
January Stonefly Search; photo by John Lloyd

Saturday turned out to be a lovely day for HRWC’s Stonefly Search. 110 volunteers returned safely from the field after successfully accomplishing their mission. These hardy souls endured the snow, enjoyed the sun (briefly), had fun breaking through the ice, and learned about the Huron and the critters who live here. Interesting finds included a slumbering frog, mute swans, and Canada geese (not to mention lots and lots of insects). Look for a detailed report from Paul Steen regarding the Stonefly results. Until then, here is a bit of verse to paint a picture of how the day went for many…

 

 

Winter Stoneflies in Arctic Michigan

By Dave Wilson

 

We don our coats and boots, go forth to break the ice

In frigid, frosty weather that no one could say is nice

We flounder through the streams in search of a great prize

Taeniopterids and Capniids, precious winter stone flies

 

Winter stones are quite the thing

Though one surely might be wondering

How these tiny creatures could ever be so bold

As to live and thrive in this bitter winter cold

 

Paul tells us that in winter these critters really thrive

Cold water holds the oxygen to keep them all alive

And winter is helpful in another major way

The cold keeps fierce predators so very far away

 

Quite sensitive to any water pollution,

Winter stones provide a quick solution

If we find ‘em we can be sure

That the stream is sweet and pure

 

The critters are small and rather dark

In this frigid weather they have a lark

Scamper about in the ice and snow

There’s no other place for them to go

 

To ID them here’s what you do

Look for wingpads four and cerci two

Along the flanks no gills are found

And on each leg two claws astound

 

The ice is thick, the water chills,

With cold I’m fed up to the gills

But none could say that we are quitters

We’ll search ‘til we find those little critters

 

Believe me, I know whereof I speak

You’ll find out fast if your waders leak

One hears screams of pain from the bravest jocks

When that icy water hits their socks

 

Collectors and runners can stay in motion

Stay warmer thus, I have a notion

But picking requires that one stand still

Can be quite bleak, cause many a chill

 

Don’t go on ice unless waders you wear

If you’re not wearing waders your weight it won’t bear

If you should venture this dumb thing to do

I guarantee you’ll surely break through

 

Let me warn you right now; listen up and take heed

Bring twice the wraps you think that you’ll need

That usually turns out to be about right

So that you are not left in a piteous plight

 

A jug of warm water is always quite pleasing

Helps to keep that D-net from freezing

And stout rubber gloves keep collectors’ hands dry

Help a great deal when frostbite is nigh

 

On these trips a truly most gracious amenity

May help the participants keep some of their sanity

A big jug of cocoa sure hits the spot

Beloved by all if it’s nice and hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HRWC Education Program Updates

2012 Educator Training

Through the summer of 2012 Dave Wilson, Lee Burton, Janet Kahan, and Alison and Graham Battersby worked tirelessly to improve our education programming materials and lessons.

This autumn’s educator training saw a huge increase in our volunteer capacity. These new volunteers quickly jumped in, shadowing and leading alongside our wonderful existing volunteers.

Events at numerous schools in Ann Arbor, as well as Pinckney, had area students learning through hands-on activities about stream speed, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, erosion,

Community High students analyzing stream geomorphology

habitats, and – of course – benthic macroinvertebrates.

With lots of new volunteers, we’re now welcoming a few new schools into our programming. If your middle school or high school science class is interested, please let Jason Frenzel know, jfrenzel@hrwc.org.

As always, a big thanks to TOYOTA for their support of this program.


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