Sunday, May 31, 2015

Third Annual Amazon Creek Clean-Up

The River Spies chose a culminating action project to improve the water quality of Amazon Creek. On 5/29/15, the River Spies embarked upon our third annual Amazon Creek Clean Up


We started at the north end of Amazon Park near 24th Avenue and Amazon Parkway and worked our way south along the bike trail. The River Spies collected as much trash as possible; they know that every piece removed improves the health of Amazon Creek!


Armed with gloves, trash bags, squeeze handles, and boots, the River Spies picked up an array of litter: plastic bags, food wrappers, a broken trail sign, bottles, clothes, and balls. We are happy to report that we found less trash than we did during our last clean-up. We hope to see this trend continue!
Carrie Karl explains clean-up procedures to the River Spies
A gigantic thank you to Carrie Karl of Eugene Park Stewards for greeting us at Amazon Park, accompanying our crew, providing gear, and for hauling away our trash collection at the end. 

River Spies featured in Envision

Sulley Schuster, a University of Oregon environmental science student and journalist, wrote an article about environmental education at Edison Elementary and the River Spies program in the online UO publication Envision. Link to the article: http://www.envisionjournalism.com/archives/5834

I had the good fortune of having Sulley and Aida Goma Petit - also a UO student- serve as River Spies volunteers this Spring. The kids adored Sulley and Aida's vibrant personalities and their enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Sulley and Aida - many thanks to you both!



Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Sampling in Amazon Headwaters

On 5/22/15, the Rivers Spies surveyed for aquatic macroinvertebrates in Amazon Creek at the base of Amazon Headwaters (south of Frank Kinney Park along Martin Street trail). 




Macroinvertebrates are animals that lack a backbone and can be seen with the unaided eye. "Aquatic" refers to animals that spend most of their lives associated with bodies of water. These animals are excellent bioindicators - their presence, abundance, and diversity can indicate the health of a stream, river, lake, wetland, or other aquatic environment. Macroinvertebrates are grouped according to their tolerance to pollution. 

We temporarily removed some 
macroinvertebrates for closer inspection.
At our survey site, we turned over rocks and scanned the water in search of macroinvertebrates. We found several species including caddis flies in their stony fortresses, water striders, scuds (amphipods), leeches, at least a hundred mayfly larvae! 

Mayfly Larva
Caddisfly Larva

Scud - also known as Sideswimmer or Amphipod


Damselfly Larva


Water Strider



Overall, our Amazon Creek site rated as having fair water quality.
I loaded our results from 5/22/15 onto StreamWebs™  - an online water quality data base managed by OSU: http://streamwebs.org


Second Water Quality Survey of Spring Season

On 5/15/15, the intrepid River Spies braved inclement weather and tested Amazon Creek water quality in Amazon Park. Our site was in line with 26th Avenue and just west of Amazon Pool. We accessed Amazon Creek from the east side adjacent to the bike path. The River Spies measured water temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and pH.

The River Spies!

Temperature
The Amazon Creek site had a water temperature of 11℃ - a degree cooler than our previous water testing site. We attributed the cooler water temperature to the shading provided by vegetation surrounding the banks. Aquatic organisms need a certain temperature range to survive and thrive. For a frame of reference, trout and salmon require cool water no greater than 20℃ to survive. Salmon and steelhead need water temperatures less than 13℃ to spawn.
Turbidity
The Amazon Creek site had a turbidity reading of 0 JTU. We made sure to collect water before we stirred up any creek bed sediment. In general, the less turbid (or less suspended particles) the better. Suspended particles can clog fish gills, smother eggs, block sunlight needed by aquatic plants, and raise water temperature by absorbing heat.
Dissolved Oxygen
The Amazon Creek site had a DO reading of 2ppm. The slow rate of flow may account for the low dissolved oxygen reading. Bodies of water with high dissolved oxygen levels provide healthy and stable environments for a variety of aquatic organisms. 
pH
Our Amazon Creek site had a pH of 7.5. A majority of freshwater organisms 
live within a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. 

Later, I entered our data on the World Water Monitoring websitehttp://www.monitorwater.org











Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bird Survey at Washburn Park

On 4/24/15, the River Spies practiced their birding skills 
by surveying for birds at Washburn Park. 



The River Spies identified European Starlings and American Crows, 
spotted two Scrub Jays, saw a House Sparrow, and heard at least one 
Black-capped Chickadee and one Song Sparrow. 






We saw upwards of thirty birds flying overheard feeding, but could not make a positive identification. Our best guess was some type of swallow based on the body shape and size. Results from our bird survey were recorded on the eBird website: http://ebird.org/content/ebird

When we returned to Edison, we refilled the garden feeder. 




Then each River Spy made a handcrafted bird feeder to take home. We used leftover (and cleaned) milk and juice containers from the Edison Elementary cafeteria as the main body of the feeder. Thank you Chef Ray and Stacey for the supplies! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bird Survey in Amazon Park

Adding black sunflower seeds
to the bird feeder




Before heading off to Amazon Park on 4/17/15, the River Spies installed a bird feeder in the Edison Elementary garden. Over the next two months, we will be observing what bird species use the feeder and how quickly birds consume the black sunflower seeds.






The River Spies rest after the trek to Amazon Park





Barbara Gleason shows the River Spies
how to use binoculars
At Amazon Park (at the intersection of 24th Avenue and Amazon Parkway), we met up with Barbara Gleason, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited (2510 Willamette Street in Eugene). Barbara brought a handful of binoculars and gave the River Spies a lesson on how to use these handy birding tools.








Barbara then accompanied us on our bird survey at Amazon Park and helped the River Spies identify several species. The River Spies observed starlings and crows, spotted one Stellar's Jay, saw a Rufous Hummingbird going back and forth to the same cottonwood tree (nesting?), plus heard Black-capped Chickadees and Song Sparrows.



Recording bird observations
While some of the River Spies were absorbed in recording their observations, others could not resist the allure of rolling down the grassy embankment!
Results from our bird survey were recorded on the eBird website: http://ebird.org/content/ebird




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Water Quality Testing near Amazon and 24th


On 4/10/15, the River Spies tested water quality in Amazon Creek near 24th Avenue and Amazon Parkway. The River Spies were excited to get their hands wet - along with the rest of their bodies! We measured water temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and pH.



Temperature
The Amazon Creek site had a water temperature of 12℃. Aquatic organisms need a certain temperature range to survive and thrive. For a frame of reference, trout and salmon require cool water no greater than 20℃ to survive. Salmon and steelhead need water temperatures less than 13℃ to spawn.



Turbidity
The Amazon Creek site had a turbidity reading of 40 JTU. In general, the less turbid (or less suspended particles) the better. Suspended particles can clog fish gills, smother eggs, block sunlight needed by aquatic plants, and raise water temperature by absorbing heat.




D
issolved Oxygen
With a DO reading of 2ppm, our Amazon Creek site was about 19% saturated. We conducted the survey just south of where Amazon Creek enters a concrete canal paralleling the bike path. At this particular site, the water is pooled and has a slow flow rate which may account for the low dissolved oxygen reading. 

Cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water before it is 100% saturated. Bodies of water with high dissolved oxygen levels provide healthy and stable environments for a variety of aquatic organisms. 




pH
Our Amazon Creek site had a pH of 7.0. 
A majority of freshwater organisms 
live within a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5.



I entered our data on the World Water Monitoring website: http://www.monitorwater.org

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Food Webs and A Bird Quest

Food Webs
The River Spies constructed a food web to model how multiple food chains form a food web. The River Spies stood in a circle and each River Spy had a picture of a plant or animal taped to him or her. I stood in the center of the circle representing the sun. We created connections by tossing a ball of twine from the sun to a producer (plant), then primary consumer (herbivore), and then secondary consumer (omnivore or carnivore). As each food chain ended with an omnivore or carnivore, I cut the twine and began anew. After we formed several food chains, the shape of the food web appeared. When each person had at least one connection, I had certain kids drop their pieces of twine. This action represented an organism disappearing from the ecosystem. We observed how the food web weakened and then collapsed as species dropped out of the system. My goal for this activity was to get the River Spies thinking about the connectivity of fresh water organisms including plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals that we might observe along Amazon Creek.
Recording bird observations at University Park
Bird Quest
Following a Bird Quest designed by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we set out to identify birds in University Park based on shape, size, color, pattern, behavior, and sound. Although many birds were seeking shelter from the wind and rain, the River Spies identified American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, European Starlings, and sparrows (most likely Song Sparrows). All of our bird counts will be recorded on the eBird website (www.ebird.org) as the River Spies join citizen scientists around the globe by sharing data and observations.
The River Spies discussed improving bird habitat by adding to one of the essential habitat elements: food, water, shelter, and space. The River Spies will be installing a bird feeder in the Edison Elementary garden to provide bird seed and to give kids the opportunity to observe birds in their school backyard!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

River Spies Spring 2015


Welcome Edison River Spies!
I will be leading a 7 week session of River Spies this spring that will be entirely field based. We will meet on Fridays from 2:45-4:45pm from April 3rd to May 29th. We will not meet on May 1st or May 8th. Registration is open to Edison 1st through 3rd graders. 
To obtain a registration form contact me: deb_rosenthal@hotmail.com

Besides collecting water quality data and surveying for macroinvertebrates, we will incorporate bird surveys along Amazon Creek. We will touch upon food webs and explore the connectivity of organisms in fresh water habitats. As in the past, the group will decide on an action project designed to improve our local ecosystem.

WE WILL GET WET & DIRTY. As a general habit, please have your River Spy wear clothes/shoes that can get muddy and bring rain gear (jacket & boots) to school.

Keep checking this blog for pictures, updates, and links. I am looking forward to reporting more about our young sleuths' discoveries!