Mountain View Voice

News - July 20, 2012

A day at the creek

Volunteers help study ecology of local waterways

by Nick Veronin

A local environmental organization is looking for a few good men, women and children to help collect information on the ecosystems of the Stevens and Permanente creeks next weekend.

The event, which takes place July 28 in Mountain View, was organized by Palo Alto-based Acterra as part of the World Water Monitoring Challenge — an international program founded to give communities all over the world a chance to learn about water and how human activity can be a force for both conservation and destruction of the planet's most valuable resource.

The "citizen science" project will be led by Joanne McFarlin, senior ecologist with the Acterra Stewardship team, who will guide up to 60 volunteers for two hours of collecting samples, recording data and observing the creek's overall condition.

"It's a way for people to engage, understand and be connected to the creek," McFarlin said of the expedition, which begins at 10 a.m. and runs until noon. Participants will measure the creek's pH levels, determine the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, take note of turbidity (clarity), conduct some biomonitoring by observing the surrounding wildlife and perform a pollution assessment.

All of the tasks can be performed by most people, without any background in environmental field work, McFarlin said. "This exercise gets people out in the field thinking about water quality."

She hopes the hands-on activities will push people to constantly strive to be more conscious of how their actions impact the local watershed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "a watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place.")

McFarlin said she hopes to see a strong turnout and aims to impress upon volunteers "how important our local creeks are for the continued local existence of our local plants and wildlife," and how much of an impact each individual's daily habits has on the health of the creeks in their area.

Being conscientious about reusing, recycling and disposing of different materials in the appropriate way is one of the most important keys to a healthy watershed, McFarlin said, noting that many don't realize that any debris or fluid that makes its way to a storm drain, will ultimately end up in a local creek (if not the bay). "Even if they never come anywhere near their local creek," she said, they have a big impact on its health.

Those interested in registering for the event may visit tinyurl.com/CreekMonitor or call Carrie Sandahl at 903-6224.

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