25 Sep OC and Creek Connections take a snapshot of stream health
by Jim Palmer, PhD
Osa Conservation staff and volunteers ‘kicked around’ in Rio Piro to get a quick snapshot of stream health during a field workshop in the Osa Peninsula in June 2013. The workshop was led by biologist Jim Palmer, Director of Creek Connections, a watershed education program based at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA.
Staff and volunteers used field water chemical tests and macro-invertebrate kick-net samples as simple indicators of stream health. Chemical tests of the water revealed low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, consistent with those of clean streams that have minimal impact from agriculture or human habitation. Workshop participants observed moderate alkalinity values, reflecting the local surface and groundwater geology contributing to stream flow. Participants also collected samples of macro-invertebrates (invertebrates large enough to be seen without a microscope), including larvae of stoneflies, caddisflies, mayflies, and riffle beetles – all indicators of very good water quality.
Baseline studies of stream health in Osa watersheds are another important tool for assessing success of conservation and restoration efforts on the peninsula. In addition to informing conservation and management decisions, these studies provide an excellent opportunity to engage local students in citizen science. Pilar Bernal, Osa Conservation’s Education Outreach Coordinator, hopes to continue collaborations with Creek Connections, the Stroud Water Research Center, and others to establish school-based stream monitoring on the Osa Peninsula.
Founded by Dr. Palmer in 1995, Creek Connections coordinates a network of school-based stream monitoring programs throughout western Pennsylvania, with additional schools in Ohio, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maryland. Since 2007, Green Valley School in Atenas, Costa Rica has participated in Creek Connections symposia, summer camps and stream field studies in Atenas. In addition to Osa Conservation, new Costa Rican collaborators with Creek Connections include La Paz Community School in Flamingo, New Summit Academy in Atenas, and Universidad Tecnica Nacional in Balsa.