This fall nearly 1200 students visited their local waterways to find out how healthy the water is for salmon. With mostly sunny, dry days this fall, students fanned out across the Henderson, Deschutes, Eld and Totten Watersheds. Overall, 57 sites were tested. Student data showed better than optimal levels of dissolved oxygen in the Deschutes River, cold temperatures (all below 9 degrees C), and low turbidity. Students will trek back out to their monitoring sites this February to once again collect and test the water, this time making observations on how increased rainfall might change their results. Many thanks to the teachers and multiple parent and community volunteers who turned out to make this day a success!
Every fall a new batch of AmeriCorps swarm Washington State to inspire the next generation with education or #GetThingsDone by improving the environment. Just like the AmeriCorps, salmon are on their final migration back to the natal streams to lay way to the next generation and deposit nutrients into the environment. I began my journey to Washington with only the knowledge of how to eat salmon, but by November I would become somewhat of a salmon expert.
While serving with South Sound GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network), my main duty is to educate youth on water quality to the standard that salmon require. If you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, salmon is life. Not only is it one of the economic back bones of this region, supporting conservation jobs and fish markets, but it was and still is an essential food source for many local Native American Tribes.
Almost anything around here can be linked back to these anadromous fish. Love the orcas of the Puget Sound? Well, salmon are their major food source. Use to drink Olympia Brew Company libations? The chinook run is on the Deschutes River which was the water source of the once brew company. Or maybe you love seeing the beautiful evergreen trees in the evergreen state? Once again, salmon nutrients can be found in tree 3 miles deep into the forest. Over 137 species rely on the salmon in the ecological chain! See what I mean? Anything can be linked back to the Pacific fish.
That is why every year people flock to witness these astonishing salmon runs. No, salmon are not literally running… wouldn’t that be a sight! But instead these salmon are migrating from Alaska into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and head down to the South Puget Sound where they nose their way back to the natal stream. I get the pleasure of educating the locals and tourist about this unique spawning display. People gather around stream banks to watch as the fish struggle swimming against the current, males fighting for dominance, and the females digging redds with their tails; all to get the chance to release gametes creating the next generation
As a salmon docent, I get to spend my days with salmon that are spending their last few determined to spawn and with people that are enjoying the splendors of Mother Nature. Between the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail supported by South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and McLane Creek Nature Trail sponsored by Stream Team, I have educated 286 students from 9 different schools and engaged with 243 visitors. All of this was achieved within 4 weeks, and there is still yet another week left in the salmon run! As people continue to view and ponder the curious world of a salmon I will be there to help fish for the answers.