Environmental Education, South Sound GREEN, Uncategorized, Water Quality

How Clean is Your Stream?

Water quality is a major issue not only here in the Pacific Northwest but all over the world. Local Olympian students, grade 4th through high school, are taking a closer inspection to truly see if the water quality in their neighborhood is healthy with the help of South Sound GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network). South Sound GREEN is a watershed education program in Thurston County that educates, empowers, and connects about 50 classrooms and 1200 students in watershed studies annually. Students conduct stream investigation that include water quality monitoring, benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, and projects to improve the watershed.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, I went into classrooms to teach the students what is a watershed, how humans influence water quality, and what are the best optimal standards for water quality (which of course are based on salmon… we are in the PNW!). Many students think watersheds are tanks that hold water for houses, when in reality watershed are areas drained by a river system, or other bodies of water. Or they believe that woody debris lying in the stream is bad rather than seeing great habitat for aquatic life. After learning about good examples of riparian zones and acceptable water quality standards, we take the 1231 students and 143 teachers/volunteers outdoors to test the waters.

In February and October, I went out with the classes to sample water from their adopted creeks, lake, or beach to conduct tests for dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrates, pH, temperature, and fecal coliform bacteria. Once the data is collected the students then compare these numbers to the previous sampling data, noting patterns and trends. By analyzing the data, students have a better understanding of point source pollution and non-point source pollution in their watershed. They can then come up with an action project that will help lessen the impacts of human activity and improve water quality at their testing sites.

This data collection and analysis will prepare them for attended the annual Student GREEN Congress where student delegates present their data and discuss the health of their watershed with other students to find out how they can protect their watershed.
So I ask, how clean is your stream?

Environmental Education, Salmon, South Sound GREEN, Student GREEN Congress, Uncategorized, Water Quality

Did You Know Salmon Can Run?

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.

AmeriCorps Member – Aeriel

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.

Teaching Pacific salmon species using fingers on the hand.

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.

Chum salmon spawning in McLane Creek.

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.

Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail