Ríos Saludables on the Road!

Submitted by: Jim Palmer, Science and Education Director

Osa Conservation took its new citizen-science stream-monitoring network, Ríos Saludables de Osa, on the road in February for a community workshop in the San Josecito area south of Dominical. Over 35 community members including kids convened in the scenic watershed of the Rio Higuerón for a full day of ‘immersion’ in stream ecology and hands-on measurement of aquatic health.

Claudia Alderman, a resident of San Josecito and member of our Osa Conservation Science and Education Advisory Committee, hosted the event. Activities were facilitated by Osa Conservation staff: Pilar Bernal (Environmental Educator), Erin Engbeck (Aquatic Research Field Assistant), and Jim Palmer (Science and Education Director), as well as recent UCR graduate Alejandro Muñoz (Biomonitoring and Ecotoxicology Lab).

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The morning session held in the San Josecito community center featured an introduction to the Ríos Saludables Network and hands-on practice in methods of basic analysis of water chemistry and bacterial coliforms. Residents had the opportunity to voice their concerns and personal passion for the health of their drinking water sources and beautiful streams in this mountainside community. Of special concern were instances of illegal harvesting of freshwater shrimp in the watershed and the potential impacts on overall stream health.

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The afternoon was filled entirely with fieldwork from the banks of the beautiful Río Higuerón. Divided in to four teams, the group conducted replicate tests of basic water chemistry (temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, nitrates, turbidity, alkalinity), bacteria (E. coli), and stream biodiversity using kick-net samples. The soothing, cool water of the stream and natural waterslides did not escape the attention of these citizen scientists either! Results revealed a stream high in clarity and oxygen with strong influence from adjacent spring-fed tributaries. Kick-net samples detected 27 different taxa of freshwater macroinvertebrates with an ‘excellent’ score (exceeding 120 points on the BMWP-CR index of water quality. Especially important indicators of high water quality, the mayflies (Ephemeroptera), stoneflies (Plecoptera), and caddisflies (Trichoptera) were present in healthy numbers and multiple taxa.

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At the conclusion of a busy day, Jim Palmer presented the San Josecito community group with a complete water testing kit so they may continue to assess the health of their watershed on a monthly basis. OC staff will return periodically for future follow-up sessions to introduce the stream studies to local school classes. We invite the San Josecito community members and students to visit us at Osa Conservation for comparison water studies on the Osa Peninsula and partner with our local schools in Puerto Jimenez, Carbonera, Piro and Río D’Oro in this growing network.

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Ríos Saludables de Osa is a volunteer water-monitoring network for community members and schools of the Osa Peninsula and southwestern Costa Rica. Osa Conservation provides the organizing framework for the project with assistance from professional, government and non-profit agencies. Our purpose is to establish and sustain a network of community volunteers across the Osa region to conduct ongoing basic water quality monitoring. Data will be incorporated into an online Water Atlas for the ACOSA region and used to inform public health, watershed protection and conservation decisions.

Initial organization of Ríos Saludables de Osa was made possible by the materials, resources and experience of our partner organizations: Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (Atlanta, GA, USA); Creek Connections (Allegheny College, USA); and Stroud Water Research Center (Avondale PA, USA). As the project matures, community volunteers and stakeholders will oversee organization and water monitoring activities of local groups.

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