ALESS dances in the creek with CABIN in fall 2011

A new column series contributed by the Arrow Lakes Environmental Stewardship Society.

  • Nov. 13, 2011 10:00 a.m.

Editor’s note: The Arrow Lakes News is proud to welcome a new periodical column series contributed by the Arrow Lakes Environmental Stewardship Society.

Once again the annual fall migration of twenty some volunteers, otherwise known as “citizen scientists,” head out to their local wadeable creeks throughout the Columbia Basin to strut their stuff.

Dressed in life jackets and hip waders, for those of us that have them, and armed to the hilt with our “tools of the CABIN trade,” we hunt for someone we’ll call ‘No Name’ to help us carry all the paraphernalia needed for our quest.

What’s this all about, you may wonder? It’s part of a five-year Water Quality Monitoring Project funded by Columbia Basin Trust to establish a baseline on the health of wadeable creeks.

CABIN, an acronym for Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network, is a national biomonitoring program developed by Environment Canada (EC) that provides a standardized sampling protocol for assessing aquatic ecosystem approach.

Arrow Lakes Environment Stewardship Society is one of nine groups throughout the Basin taking part in the project with Simon Bamber and myself having taken a University of New Brunswick online course and certified by EC in the spring of 2009.

Enough of the fancy talk, let’s get down to local business.

It’s a rainy October Monday morning at 7 o’clock. We’ll spend the day recording six pages of information for each of Burton’s three creeks. With equipment and site inspection sheets completed, first stop: the lower end of the Caribou.

Simon sets his borrowed survey equipment and “holy —-” – not more than three spits to the wind, a perched eagle.

“Quick ‘No Name,’ get the camera and while you’re at it, take photos: upstream, downstream, across site, then place that six inch ruler on the exposed bar and shoot that.”

‘No name’ replies “how about taking a shot of Scotch at the bar.”

In the meantime I tick the uneventful first half page of the field sheet: tick, tick, tick. Location Data… I’ll have to doodle with Google again…wish we had a GPS; and drawing a Site Location Map always looks like an artistic effort done by a three-year-old. After some more tick tick ticks we’re into the fun stuff – Benthic Macroinvertebrate sampling, otherwise known as bottom dwelling visible bugs without backbones.

Collecting these bugs has Simon with stopwatch in hand (he’s the one without hip waders) while I take the mesh kick net and head into yon creek sliding and stumbling over periphyton (algae)-covered cobble. Positioning myself facing downstream with net at feet, I give the signal “READY.” Simon responds “GO.”

The next three minutes involve kicking and twisting the stones to a three- or four-inch depth and rubbing one booted foot over the surfaces to dislodge the critters. The collected sample is poured into a swirl bucket and, much like panning for gold, the critters are separated from unwanted debris. Then they are transferred into a sample jar, preserved with a measured ratio of rubbing alcohol, labeled and sent off to a taxonomy lab for identification.

The 100 Pebble Count involves the actual measurement of – you guessed it – 100 randomly selected pebbles from within the creek bed and trust me, the water is darn cold. Its purpose is to determine the average size of substrate whether it be organic, pebbles, cobble, boulders or bedrock.

As the percentage of sand and silt increases, the suitability and availability of living space for bugs decreases, and therefore fewer bugs in existence somewhat reflect the health of a fish-bearing creek.

Our borrowed survey equipment is finally put to work with Simon and ‘No Name’ to determine the slope as part of the Channel Data.

In the meantime I’ll unpack the meters to take Water Chemistry readings for pH, Specific Conductance, Dissolved Oxygen and Turbidity. Having taken part in the Know Your Watershed project, your grade 8 students should be able to help decipher some of this terminology, otherwise I’d be taking up the reminder of this page – or hopefully, you could read all about it in our next bi-monthly column. Lastly, a water sample is taken, to be sent to the lab for further chemical analysis.

Full width and depth measurements of the bank comprise the last portion of Channel Data. Simply put, a math formula combining these measurements along with a velocity meter stick will yield the volume and speed of water. The significance of this data is most useful in determining hydrological variables and the relationship to bug distribution.

One last sample we’ll take with a stainless steel spoon – sediment. A lab analysis will provide a history of metals contained within the hydrological habits of the creek bed.

And lastly – “pull the logger!”

“What – a logger in the creek?”

Yes. A temperature logger has been recording water temperature every hour since it’s been launched last spring and once connected to a computer will display data in graph- and hour-specific format. The Caribou is done – the Burton and Snow to go and then homeward bound we’ll be.

Upon receipt of all lab analysis, it and all collected data is entered into the National Data Base. Once the accumulation of several years of data which has been entered into the data base, a computer generated program based upon physical, chemical and biological interactions will compare the condition of this particular site with a pristine watershed giving us the ability to conduct consistent, comparable and scientifically credible biological assessments.





Just Posted

Rapping mom busts rhymes for Castlegar rec centre kid’s drop-in

Funny video with important message about importance of service

New system to keep Nakusp-area snowmobilers, caribou from meeting

GPS tracking keeps caribou safe while opening up the backcountry for sledding

Kootenay Lake ferry labour dispute ends with ratified agreement

The deal was approved by 83 per cent of members

November in West Kootenay saw only third of normal precipitation

Stalled weather system lingered over region

Police watchdog exonerates RCMP in Bonnington death

Officer’s shots were justified, report says

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read