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Archive for the ‘Volunteer’ Category

News to Us

2014_05_23_Greenhills_teaching_(2)_-_smallIn News to Us this edition, HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations.  Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.

Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.

To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species  Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists.  They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area.  Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone.  MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species.  With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.

Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention.  Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes.  If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series.  The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.

We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region.  Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.

Being a Creekwalker (Part 2)

The adventure continues!

You can read Mark Schaller’s first post here about his experiences with HRWC’s Creekwalking Program.

Are you interested in being a creekwalker? You can recruit your own family and friends to join you on your team or ask HRWC to assign you to a team. This year’s training is on June 10, 6:30- 8 pm. Check out this webpage and email Jason at jfrenzel@hrwc.org to volunteer.

____________________________________________________

Guest Author: Mark Schaller

Now that the initial visit and thermometer placement was out of the way it was time to schedule the second visit. Like our previous trip, real life issues came up for most of the team, and Erin and myself continued our team of two.

Mosquitos can be bad during a creekwalk, depending on the location and weather. Long pants and long sleeves may be a good idea! Right, Erin?

Mosquitos can be bad during a creekwalk, depending on the location and weather. Long pants and long sleeves may be a good idea! Right, Erin?

We decided that Erin would handle the writing duties while I took the reading and pictures. This time around we were supposed to check for signs of wildlife and pick up any garbage. After her last losing battle with mosquitoes Erin came prepared this time. Long sleeve shirts and real insect repellent were in order. She even sprayed me down to try to keep the bugs at bay. It didn’t work.

Woods Creek was pretty much in the same state as the last time we were here. We entered at the first bridge and got to work. We took a few temperature and water conductivity readings and not much had changed. Since I didn’t have to concentrate on the readings, I spent more time checking out what signs of life there were. Erin is more of an herbologist than I am so she kept track of the plant life. She was rattling off plant names and I just took her word for it. I’m not a vegetarian.

Like last time I spotted some smaller bait fish but couldn’t get a good enough look at them to see what they were. When we got to the water thermometers I saw some larger fish hiding underneath the stump but again I couldn’t get a good look to see what they were. What I did see were a lot of crayfish. These guys I was very interested in. I wanted to know if they were native crayfish or the non-native rusty variety.  For the rest of the walk I tried to catch one and for most of the walk my efforts were pretty futile. Just as I was about to grab one it would take off and disappear in the silt. Even with my advance warning system screaming every time one ran across her foot, I still couldn’t corner one long enough to grab it.

Mark had a good time catching and identifying crayfish on his creekwalk.

Mark had a good time catching and identifying crayfish on his creekwalk.

Eventually I caught one and it wasn’t a Rusty. So far so good. I was able to catch a couple more and they were all native crayfish as well. I don’t know what kind exactly, but they weren’t Rusty crayfish. I’m sure the Rusty’s will eventually work their way into this creek but for now no sign of them.

One of the other things we had to do during this trip was pick up garbage. I’m glad to say that there wasn’t much. I expected to find plastic worm containers, fish line, and empty cans. All I really found was some pieces of broken glass and an old shirt.  Nice to see that there wasn’t much trash!

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Stayed tuned for the third and final part of Mark’s creekwalking experience.

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!!

 

Your New Resource for Water Trail Trip Planning

Welcome to the virtual launch for the new Huron River Water Trail website!

HRWT_newweb_screenshot-300x275The new online tool, seven months in the making, offers a nearly complete Water Trail experience . . . minus the water.

While nothing beats trying out the site for yourself, here’s a sample of what to expect:

  • Clean, user-friendly interactive trip planning maps
  • Extensive trail amenities – where to grab a sandwich? where to pitch a tent? what activities are happening in the Trail Towns?
  • Real-time weather and stream flow information
  • Outfitters with canoe and kayak rentals
  • And much, much more

Are you looking for a lazy float on flat water or a chance to try your whitewater skills? Flat water, flowing river, portages, and other trail features are all mapped with recommended trips to last a few hours to a few days. Investigate the distance, time, level of difficulty, highlights, and more for each recommended trip.

The trail information and graphics complement the new Paddler’s Companion, the indispensable waterproof map book for the Huron River Water Trail. Get your own copy today!

Help us spread the word about the new planning tool for the Huron River Water Trail. Use it to plan your next trip! Tell you friends and family! And become a part of it by sharing your observations and photos.

HRWC acknowledges the planning and design team of The Greenway Collaborative, Inc. and Imageweaver Studio, the Partners of the Huron River Water Trail for their review and recommendations, and the support of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Erb Family Foundation, and the many partners of RiverUp!.

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.

News to Us

H2O Hero, John Dingell, Laura Rubin

Friend of HRWC, Congressman John Dingell is now the longest standing member of Congress.

In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.

Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment.  A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements.  Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!

A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor  As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress.  He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.

Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’  Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades.  Notice anything interesting, fun or sad?  Let us know in the comments.

There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know  As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area.  Don’t be alarmed.  Just be aware.  And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.

Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side  A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river.  Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements.  The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron.  A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.

 

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!

 

 

Ann Arbor Storm Corps

Interested in chasing storms?

The City of Ann Arbor is offering a unique opportunity for residents to participate in collecting needed data as part of the recently-launched Stormwater Model Calibration and Analysis project, which is the first step in evaluating and recommending improvements to the City’s stormwater system.  (Read more about the project here.)

As part of the City of Ann Arbor’s “Citizen Storm Corps,” you would be the eyes on the ground, recording and submitting visual observations from one or more of the Large Event Data Gathering (LEDG) locations where the City is monitoring surface flooding.  (See a map of LEDG locations here.)  “Large Events” is the technical term for a big rain storm!

Volunteering is easy, fun, and will not require much time.  If you can take a photo and use a map, you’re qualified!  The City anticipates that over the next few years, Storm Corps volunteers will be asked to submit observations 1-3 times after significant rain events – although more frequent participation would be most welcome, if you choose.

The City of Ann Arbor is hosting several orientation sessions for people who may be interested in serving as part of the Citizen Storm Corps:

  • Tuesday, March 19: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room
  • Tuesday, March 19: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Traverwood Library
  • Thursday, March 21: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room

No need to RSVP – please feel free to join at your convenience during any of the above blocks of time (the actual orientation will only take about a half hour).  Also, please note that attending an orientation does not obligate you to participate – come by, check it out, and see what you think!

Finally, if you are not able to attend one of the sessions, but think you might be interested in volunteering in the Citizen Storm Corps, simply contact Jen Lawson at the City of Ann Arbor (734.794.6430 x43735, jlawson@a2gov.org). She will help you identify a convenient location, and orient you to the materials via phone or email.


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