Saturday, July 30, 2016

Taking the classroom outdoors

Students get a peek at microbiology and stream health

Ecology staff and Yakima Valley College students take samples at Diamond Fork Creek in Klickitat County
For a second year in a row, this July, Yakima Valley Community College (YVCC) students and their biology professor joined Ecology staff on a biological survey in a Washington stream.

Nancy Cortez and Freddy Martinez are both pre-med students working with YVCC professor Claire Carpenter on a microbiology project this summer. The experience allowed them to get "up close" to biology and to enjoy the great outdoors in a beautiful mountain stream!

The team took measurements and samples in Diamond Fork Creek, a tributary to the Klickitat River in Klickitat meadows, northeast of Mount Adams. Ecology staff Eiko Urmos-Berry, Molly Gleason, and Dan Dugger showed them how to collect biological and water quality samples, measure stream habitat, and record data.

The students got their hands wet scrubbing rocks for invertebrates and periphyton, a group of microscopic organisms that cling to rocks. Periphyton and invertebrate communities in healthy streams are different than in streams with pollution.

The data from these surveys are used to determine healthy reference conditions for Washington streams.

Nancy Cortez summed their experience up, "I always thought Department of Ecology only told people, 'Hey, clean up that oil spill! Hey, you can't dump paint here!' But now we've been part of these surveys, it's like, whoa! You do this too?"

By Dan Dugger, Environmental Assessment Program specialist, Eastern Region

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