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

Last of southern Selkirk caribou relocated to Revelstoke area

One cow from the South Selkirk herd and two from the Purcells were moved this week

How to stay safe in the Nakusp backcountry: BCSARA

The B.C. Search and Rescue Association recommends planning, training and taking the essentials

Skier caught in backcountry avalanche near Rossland

‘The man was lucky he had the ‘A-Team’ of ski patrol people able to respond as quickly as they did,’ says Rossland rescue spokesperson

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

Most Read