AU Biosystems students assess local stream

The AU Ecological Engineering class (BSEN 5510/6510), taught by Dr. Puneet Shrivastava, met with Eric Reutebuch and Cliff Webber last November to learn about Alabama Water Watch(AWW) and to examine a local stream using the AWW Water Chemistry Monitoring and Stream Biomonitoring protocols.

The class sampled Swingle Creek, named after Dr. Homer Swingle by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (a division of the U.S.G.S., see http://wp.auburn.edu/aww/h-s-swingle-honored-with-stream-naming).

The stream is a tributary of Loblochee Creek, north of Loachapoka, AL just off of Lee County Road 188.

Dr. Shrivastava's Ecological Engineering class participating in stream assessment

AU Ecological Engineering class participating in stream assessment

The students learned about how geology and soils influence stream water quality as Reutebuch tested for pH, alkalinity and hardness. Alabama is a mosaic of geology and physiographic provinces which yield a mosaic of water quality patterns in the state’s streams and rivers. Since Swingle Creek drains parts of the Piedmont Physiographic Province (which contains mica-schist-gneiss-granite parent rock and few calcareous formations), it’s alkalinity and hardness typically runs in the 20-50 mg/L range (whereas many streams draining through Limestone County and the Huntsville area typically run in the 100+ mg/L range).

Dr. Shrivastava determines stream's pH with the aid of students

Dr. Shrivastava determines stream’s pH with the aid of students

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The students captured a fairly diverse group of stream critters (mayfly nymphs, stonefly nymphs, caddis fly larvae, aquatic snails, cranefly larvae, crayfish and clams) indicative of a healthy Piedmont stream. This is what one would expect from a well-forested, relatively ‘pristine’ stream with a minimal amount of development in its watershed.

The students enjoyed the stream assessment, and gathered some real-world experience and informative data in the process. Are you curious about what lives in your local stream, and whether or not it’s a healthy ecosystem? Consider joining the army of citizen volunteer water monitors throughout Alabama who watch over this precious resource. See the many ways that you can get involved at www.alabamawaterwatch.org (click on GET INVOLVED).