I have had the privilege of working as the watershed intern for the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) this summer. My work and responsibilities have varied in the field and office. I have gained valuable experience and knowledge in watershed management. Improving and maintaining the health of Lake Erie watersheds is one of my main future career objectives as a Cleveland State University environmental science student.
In the Rocky River Watershed, I have had the opportunity to participate in stream cross-section surveys and water monitoring. The stream surveys are part of a study to determine stream bank erosion rates in the watershed. Erosion rates will be compared with baseline national data to determine any differences, and whether to establish a new baseline for the watershed.
Water quality monitoring in the Rocky River Watershed consists of sampling the Rocky River and its tributaries. Aspects monitored include pH, turbidity, conductivity, total dissolved solids, temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphorous, and ammonia. These elements of the stream determine the types of organisms able to utilize it. The dissolved oxygen percentage indicates how much oxygen is available in the water. Turbidity indicates clarity, which is needed for sight feeders. pH is most habitable at a medium reading, not too basic or acidic. Temperatures that are too high or low can affect fish and macroinvertebrates, especially in the egg and larval stages. Phosphorous and ammonia are nutrients that contribute to algal growth. Too much algae can become a nuisance and even lead to harmful blooms. The data gives useful information on the health of the stream, and is added to long term data to evaluate trends.
Another factor in determining the health of the stream is assessing the habitats it provides. Using the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI) I have assessed sections of the Rocky River to determine a generic score of stream habitat quality. The QHEI evaluates the composition and materials in and around the stream such as cobble, boulders, and woody vegetation. It accounts for the amount of riffles, runs, and pools that provide habitat for aquatic organisms such as fish and macroinvertebrates. Bank composition, erosion, and riparian zone width are also assessed.
Stream bank erosion is a problem in urban watersheds. As an attempt to slow down the effects of an eroding stream bank, I have participated in tree plantings. The trees act as anchors as their roots grow into the soils of the bank and act as a riparian buffer which helps absorb stormwater runoff and pollutants before they enter the stream.
CSWCD reaches the public through educational workshops. I have assisted at a Rain Barrel and Composting Workshop. Participants that registered were educated on the benefits of implementing rain barrels and composting in their yard practices. I helped participants assemble their rain barrels and answer questions.
A Day in the Life of Euclid Creek was an event in partnership with the Cleveland Metroparks and the Friends of Euclid Creek. It was a great event that educated the public on the health of the Euclid Creek and surrounding watershed through water monitoring, macroinvertebrate sampling, and electrofishing. It was informative through walking tours of current and future restoration projects and best management practices which reduce stormwater. I covered social media at the events to capture and share moments as the day unfolded on the Friends of Euclid Creek facebook and twitter pages.
In the office I have been assisting with social media, graphic design implementation for public outreach tools, and map creation. I have also been assisting the Euclid Creek and Rocky River Watershed Coordinators by gathering information to update their Watershed Action Plans. The plans give detailed information on the watersheds to supply to organizations when applying for grants and funding to use on watershed projects and initiatives. I was able to attend some meetings and observe active participants of the watershed and hear their future plans.
It has been a wonderful experience and opportunity to work firsthand with the Watershed Coordinators Claire Posius and Jared Bartley, and the other interns and staff at CSWCD. I have gained invaluable knowledge about what is involved in planning, management, and restoration in a watershed. I have learned more about the Euclid Creek Watershed where I grew up and currently reside. I will take my experiences with me throughout my remaining educational career and into the sustainable future of the Lake Erie watersheds.
Blog Author: Annie Roberto, CSWCD Watershed Program Summer Intern