By: Angela Danovi, Regional Projects Director and StreamSmart Coordinator
Over the past several weeks I have been spending a lot of time talking and thinking about StreamSmart, our volunteer monitoring program in the Beaver Lake Watershed. I have been heavily focused on this program in preparation for our annual StreamSmart training. The StreamSmart training is a day-long introduction to the StreamSmart program and training for new volunteers who are interested in helping us monitor the water quality of the creeks, streams, and rivers of the Beaver Lake Watershed.
My planning efforts culminated on Saturday, July 16, when our largest class ever joined us at the Center for Nonprofits for our annual StreamSmart training! This year’s class of 25 attendees was especially unique because at least half of the group was new to water quality monitoring. I was really pleased to see how eager some of our community members were to learn about protecting water quality.
We started off the morning with attendees receiving their new manuals along with some coffee and a light breakfast. I opened the training with an introduction to the concept of watersheds and the geography of the Beaver Lake Watershed. Erin Scott from the Arkansas Water Resources Center (AWRC) gave a brief presentation about how and why we collect water samples and the special partnership AWRC has with the StreamSmart Program. Brad Austin, who also works for the University of Arkansas and the AWRC, taught the group about assessing habitat and collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates as part of the regular assessment of stream health. I led the group through the basics of measuring stream discharge and my colleague, Gopala Borchelt, finished up the morning by talking about how we use a process of repeat photography to document site conditions over time. Our morning session was wrapped up with a call to action from long time volunteer, Denis Dean, who has been monitoring Spout Spring Branch in Fayetteville since 2012!
Our volunteers enjoyed a catered lunch and then we headed out to Prairie Creek below Lake Atalanta Dam to put into practice the skills we learned during the morning sessions. I chose that section of Prairie Creek because we have found a lot of really good macroinvertebrates that indicate a high level of water quality while monitoring that site. The volunteers enjoyed a couple of hours out in Prairie Creek on Saturday afternoon kicking for macroinvertebrates, measuring stream discharge, assessing the stream habitat, and learning to take water samples in preparation for becoming full fledged StreamSmart volunteers! By the end of the day, teams of volunteers had adopted three new sites and several other volunteers joined existing teams who needed additional support for future monitoring. Overall it was a really successful training and a fun day for new volunteers to learn about water quality monitoring and join our growing StreamSmart team!