Monthly Archives: December 2019

Project WET relaunched in Arkansas

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Project Manager of Ozarks Water Watch & Sophia Stephenson, Executive Director, Arkansas Environmental Education Association

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) was formally re-launched in Arkansas at the end of 2019. The Arkansas Environmental Education Association (AEEA) became the new host institution in September. In November, nine new facilitators became certified to provide WET training to teachers and educators.

Project WET is an international network of organizations and individuals dedicated to providing water education to people of all ages. Through partnerships with state agencies, municipal utilities, colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations, Project WET is available in all 50 states and over 70 countries. Project WET’s mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues

Project WET had previously been active in Arkansas; however, the partnership between the national office and the previous state host institution ended a few years ago. This left a gap in training for bothworkshop facilitators and educators who wished to use the materials. The first step for the reintroduction of Project WET through AEEA was conducting a facilitator training. AEEA developed an application form and distributed it to selected educators around the state. From the applications, nine facilitators were chosen, including AEEA director Sophia Stephenson, who now serves as the Project WET State Coordinator.

Project WET facilitators are individuals who are certified to conduct project WET workshops for educators. Facilitators have previously completed a Project WET Educator workshop and generally have used Project WET activities within their own program for at least one year.

The first training for Arkansas Project WET facilitators was held in November at the Boone County Cooperative Extension Service facility. The training was supported by a grant from the Multi-Basin Regional Water Council, an organization that represents Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas; whose mission includes increasing capacity of its members to cooperate on water quality issues and fulfill their respective missions. The day and a half long training was conducted by Project WET co-coordinators from Missouri. The facilitator training included an overview of the project WET Guide 2.0, an introduction to Arkansas state science standards and training on how to use the guide to connect activities to state standards, training on specific project WET activities, and an opportunity for each facilitator in training to lead a specific activity.

The next phase of re-launching Project WET in Arkansas is conducting educator workshops, which are held for classroom teachers, non-formal educators, and staff. Educator workshops are not only beneficial for classroom teachers, but can also serve as a foundation for ecology programs at summer camps and scout groups, educational programs at parks, and would also be beneficial for home-schooled students. Participation in an educator training workshop is open to paid or volunteer educators and staff who use water education materials in their work.

Part of the agreement for individuals chosen to complete the facilitator workshop is they each must conduct one Project WET Educator training workshop in 2020. This ensures their skills are up-to-date and that new educators are receiving training to provide Arkansas students with accurate and scientifically supported water education. Of the nine trained in November, four are able to provide workshops anywhere in the state.The remaining five are focused on a more local level.

In 2020 AEEA expects to conduct another facilitator training. This training will expand the location of trained facilitators as well as strengthen the network of the current facilitators.

If anyone is interested in receiving Project WET Educator training or would like more information about the Project WET program in Arkansas contact Arkansas Project WET coordinator, Sophia Stephenson at [email protected] or call 501.773.1107

Christmas Trees Become Fish Habitat in Beaver Lake

Sinking Christmas trees as fish habitats in a channel off the Arkansas River

As the holiday season draws to a close, you may be looking for a sustainable way to dispose of your live Christmas tree. One option available in Arkansas is to donate your live Christmas tree for fish habitat! The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began the program in 2006 and this year there are multiple drop-off locations across the state to leave your tree for an angler to use in their next brush pile.

Northwest Arkansas Live Christmas Tree Dropoff Locations:

Christmas Tree AGFC dropoff at Hwy 12 access on Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake Dropoff Points:

  • Highway 12 Access
  • AGFC Don Roufa Hwy 412 Access.

Other Northwest Arkansas AGFC Dropoff locations are:

  • Lake Elmdale boat launch in Springdale,
  • Bob Kidd Lake boat ramp access located about 2.0 miles west of Prairie Grove in Washington County,
  • Crystal Lake Boat Ramp Access located off Arkansas Highway 59, northeast of Decatur.

Live Trees are also being accepted at Hook Line and Sinker Outdoor Store located on Hwy 12 at 98 W Locust St (HWY 12), Rogers, AR 72756

Sign on hwy 12 at Hook Line and Sinker

Trees can be dropped off at any of the AGFC locations until the end of January

How does the Christmas Tree Fish Habitat Program work?

Anyone with a real Christmas tree may take it to a drop-off location and leave it near the indicated boat ramp. Anglers may then collect the trees and place them into designated waters to create habitat coverage for fish. The program is similar to the “leave a penny, take a penny” concept. Anyone can drop off their tree, and anyone is welcome to take them to sink their own brush piles. Anglers sinking brush should call ahead to make sure sinking brush is allowed in the body of water where they want to sink the trees. Some water-supply reservoirs and other lakes have regulations to prevent dumping of brush without permission.

In 2018, AGFC devoted a few minutes to their Arkansas Wildlife show to demonstrate how the christmas tree donation program works and how you can build your own fish habitat using Christmas trees:

Why Sink Christmas Trees?

In water bodies lacking structure and depth changes, such as Corps lakes like Beaver Lake or other smaller dammed lakes, baitfish will be heavily scattered. Without refuge, many fish remain inactive most of the day, suspending over deep water. Adding cover provides much needed nutrition for even the smallest of species, and with this the food chain will follow.

As woody plant tissue decomposes, Mother Nature jumpstarts a whole new series of vegetation at the lowest levels of life such as phytoplankton and various algaes. Zooplankton, also known as water fleas, populate and forage on the new vegetation, attracting small insects, mussels, snails, and crayfish who also eat on the phyto and zooplankton. The abundance of life then attracts small, non-predatory fish that eat on the small insects or zooplankton, and the larger, predator species we cherish. Members of the sunfish family, such as largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappies are attracted to submerged trees. Small fishes hide there for protection. Larger fishes may seek protection, or may chase the small fishes that are attracted by it.

Sinking Christmas Trees on the Little Maumelle River in Little Rock, Ark.

For those wishing to donate trees:

  • Only REAL trees may be donated.
  • Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights and other man-made materials from the trees before dropping them off.
  • Drop off at one of the commission pre-approved locations or check with the owners of the lake or body of water before leaving trees behind.
  • Do not block the boat ramps when donating trees.

For those wishing to sink trees for fish:

  • Always check over trees to make sure that they meet the program requirements.
  • Always check to make sure the location allows habitats to be sunk.
  • Take several trees and tie them together to create a more abundant habitat.
  • Anglers must provide their own cinder blocks and rope. Polyester rope will last longer than cotton rope.
  • Consider adding trees to an existing habitat to rebuild it.
  • Sinking trees to a depth of 12-25 feet is ideal for crappie. Bass habitats can be a little shallower.
  • Mark the GPS location of your habitat so you can return to it later to fish.

Click here for more information about the 2019 Arkansas Game and Fish Christmas Tree Drop off Information

Arkansas Volunteers Honored for Service

Each fall, we take the time to honor volunteers who have served with us over the past year. This year, nearly 30 volunteers from Stream and Lake monitoring as well volunteers who have supported our educational programs came together to celebrate their accomplishments for the year.

In addition to dinner and celebrating each other, several outstanding volunteers were honored for their service contributions.

Outstanding Service Award:

Honoring Retiring Volunteers who have given 5 or more years of service

2019 Honoree: Gary Culp – Team Leader, West Fork of the White River at Baptist Ford Bridge & Brentwood Park

Gary Culp began volunteering with StreamSmart during its inaugural year in 2012. During his time as a volunteer and site leader, Gary has monitored the West Fork more than 30 times. He also recruited and trained over 10 people to work with his team during his volunteer tenure with Ozarks Water Watch, ultimately recruiting one person who is now serving as the new team leader, ensuring continuity of the work he began nearly 8 years ago. Gary is a lifelong resident of West Fork, Arkansas. He is a long-time member and former board member of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists. Gary looks forward to relaxing in his life-long swimming and fishing holes on the West Fork!

2019 Honoree: Denis Dean – Team Leader, Spout Spring Branch

Denis Dean Sr. was an inaugural volunteer with StreamSmart, attending our first training we held in the summer of 2012! For more than 7 years Denis and his son, Denis Dean Jr., monitored Spout Spring Branch, a tributary of the West Fork that flows through Walker Park in Fayetteville. Although the monitoring was challenging at times due to eroding banks and unexpected findings in the park or the stream, Denis and his son persevered. Denis was almost always one of the first volunteers to complete monitoring and only missed one monitoring event during his volunteer tenure. Denis is a member of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists and is a fossils aficionado. He looks forward to giving more support to the service, outreach, and environmental education programs of the master naturalists.

Volunteer of the Year:

Honoring an Overall Outstanding Volunteer

2019 Volunteer of the Year: Jane Mohr, 7th grade science teacher at Elmwood Middle School

Jane Mohr is one of the most highly motivated and interactive middle school science teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. In 2017, Jane approached me about collaborating on an Ecology field trip experience for her middle school science teachers. After our first field trip in 2018, we decided to expand the field experience for the students by including water testing stations, a secchi dip in, soil testing, and water permeability education. Jane was instrumental in helping Ozarks Water Watch secure a $500 grant which helped to purchase the additional supplies for the field trip. She also volunteered her time preparing and organizing equipment for the stations, ensuring a successful field trip. On May 22, 2019 all of our efforts were realized when 280 Elmwood students completed their ecology field trip at Lake Atalanta. In addition to partnering on the ecology field trip, Jane volunteered her time during spring break and over summer break organizing and preparing lake kits and StreamSmart kits. She also helped organize data files and documents for the program. 2019 was an extremely successful year both for our monitoring programs and our water quality education programs because of Jane’s generosity and volunteer service.

Beaver Lake Monitoring Team of the Year

Dale and Deborah Bennett : Beaver Lake Site #2

Dale and Deb have been monitoring Beaver Lake for two consecutive years near the Nursery Pond. They are one of the most diligent teams on Beaver. They were the first team to contact me about picking up their lake kit and supplies, the first team to call about dropping off mid-season samples, and the first to call about completing end of season responsibilities in September. They have always completed their monitoring. This year they gave 37 hours of volunteer service towards monitoring on Beaver Lake.

StreamSmart Team of the Year:

Ward Slough Team: Erin Grantz, Brina Smith, & Abbie Lasater

Erin Grantz has been a StreamSmart volunteer since 2016. In 2018, she began monitoring with the newly established Ward Slough Team, comprised of University of Arkansas staff and graduate students. Erin has served as the team leader for two years, taking responsibility for organizing monitoring, leading the field work, and ensuring the samples and field data forms are submitted.

Brina Smith has been a StreamSmart volunteer since 2018 when she joined the Ward Slough team. Brina has been a wonderful supporter for StreamSmart by promoting monitoring opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students and helping to keep all of our samples organized through her position in the AWRC lab.

Abbie Lasater has been a member of the Ward Slough team since 2018. She is a PhD student in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Her current research involves working with Dr. Brad Austin to develop a network of discharge monitoring stations in Arkansas using a SonTek acoustic Doppler instrument, which can measure stream discharge using the doppler effect.

StreamSmart Team Captain of the Year

Fred Hopkins: War Eagle at Withrow Springs

Fred Hopkins began volunteering with StreamSmart in 2018 and immediately took the position of Team Captain for the team at War Eagle at the Withrow Springs State Park. He is one of the most diligent team captains in the StreamSmart volunteer network. He leads all of the monitoring events for his site, ensuring monitoring is completed in full and on time. He is a great supporter of StreamSmart and of his team by recruiting and training new volunteers and keeping volunteers engaged at his site. Fred can always be counted on to provide great leadership for his team and he is deserving of being honored as the 2019 StreamSmart team captain of the year.