As you may have seen in our Spring newsletter, since 2013 we have been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) on a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. One of the goals of our partnership on this grant was to develop a culture of stewardship for the Nine Mile Run watershed by engaging a wide range of ages in citizen science and stewardship activities. One way we approached this was to implement PPC’s Mission Ground Truth (MGT) program at Wilkinsburg Middle School.
MGT is an interdisciplinary ecosystem assessment program mapped to PA state academic standards for 7th and 8th grade students that includes in-class discovery activities as well as a field trip to Frick Park. During the field trip, students get to be ecologists for the day, and have the opportunity to use the same tools and sampling methods that scientists use to evaluate the health of forest and stream ecosystems.
Recently, NMRWA staff worked for two days in Frick Park with Environmental Educators from PPC to help lead the Wilkinsburg Middle School students through the field day programming.
We began each morning by discussing goals for the day, then broke into small groups. During the morning session, the groups each explored a section of the Fern Hollow stream while discussing questions such as “how can ecologists detect and measure pollution in a stream?” and “what benefits do humans and animals get from streams?” Then the students recorded data on physical and chemical water quality characteristics, such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and velocity. Next, we explored the benthic macroinvertebrate populations by carefully overturning rocks and collecting samples using a net. To wrap up, we would discuss how everything tied together by asking questions like “based on the data we collected, is the stream healthy or unhealthy?“and “how does the quality of Fern Hollow affect the health of Nine Mile Run?”
After a break for lunch, the students got to venture into the forest for a deeper look at the complex forest ecology present in Frick Park. We identified different tree and plant species and talked about the various ecosystem services that forests provide to animals, streams, and people. We asked questions like “why is biodiversity important in forests?” and “how is the health of this forest related to the health of Fern Hollow and Nine Mile Run?” Then the students used forestry tools to collect data on the location, size, and type of trees, and we looked for evidence of Asian long-horned beetles. To wrap up, we asked questions similar to the morning session, like “is this section of the forest healthy or unhealthy?”
Over the course of the two days, we had a wonderful & enriching experience working with the students and with the PPC staff. Thank you to Mike, Taiji, Steve, and Chelsea for their expertise & enthusiasm in implementing the MGT programming!
For the past two years, NMRWA has been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) to increase the environmental stewardship capacity of our watershed community. Funding for this work was provided by a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. Maybe you read about this in our recently released Spring newsletter?
Yesterday, as a part this program, NMRWA staff co-led a training workshop for Urban EcoStewards on streamflow monitoring in Nine Mile Run. Along with Sarah Lavin, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Sara Powell & Paul Yanulavich spent a sunny Sunday morning working with eight volunteers to measure streamflow and take cross-section measurements of the stream.
It is important for us to understand streamflow patterns and how the stream channel is changing in Nine Mile Run, both for continued restoration efforts in Frick Park (e.g., erosion remediation), and also so we can assess how well management efforts in the upper watershed (e.g., green stormwater infrastructure, rain barrels) are reducing excess stormwater flows into the stream.
Unfortunately, continuous monitoring of discharge (the volume of water flowing through the stream during a unit of time) is complex and expensive. Instead, since last summer, we have been working with Urban EcoSteward (UES) volunteers to help us collect data that will allow us to create something called a stage-discharge rating curve.
This curve will allow us to ‘reconstruct’ a continuous discharge record – giving us a much better understanding of streamflow in Nine Mile Run!
So, at Sunday’s training, we demonstrated how UES volunteers can measure the stream’s velocity and cross-sectional area – two critical pieces to calculating discharge. We then used similar methods to measure the stream channel geometry.
The geometry of the channel is also important to understand, because storms can cause large volumes of water to surge rapidly through Nine Mile Run, changing the stream channel shape very quickly. These changes, whether they are due to erosion or damage to built rock features, put our restoration efforts at risk. Regular cross-section measurements will allow us to look at how the shape of the stream channel is changing over time, and to apply necessary management efforts as needed.
Thank you so much to all the Urban EcoStewards and interested volunteers for coming out on Sunday! We will be posting more photos from the day on our Facebook page, so make sure to check them out!
If you are interested in becoming an Urban EcoSteward, click here for more information or email .
Whoops! Sorry for going radio silent the past three months or so… Summer is always a busy time here at NMRWA, but that’s no excuse. Now that Fall is on the way, we’re ready to get back on a regular blogging schedule!
In the coming months, we’ll be posting about NMRWA events and workdays, information about native plants and animals, lists of other upcoming watershed community events, and more, so stay tuned.
Here are a couple snapshots to help recap our summer…