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The Effect Of a Developed Watershed on Stream Ecology - Science Fair


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#1 Guest_Gavinswildlife_*

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:29 PM

With 9th grade science fair approaching much too fast, I decided I would do something with fish and streams.
My idea right now is to test how a developed watershed affects the fish diversity, water quality, and (possibly) macroinvertebrates.
At this point I have no clue how to do these systematically.
I would go to three locations and test these factors, one in a relatively undeveloped area, one in an impacted area (Nimishillen Creek in Canton), and one in a very impacted area (Little Cuyahoga at Akron). I might need a sampling buddy/mentor to assist with the project. Any help/ideas would be greatly appreciated.

#2 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:41 PM

Figure out a way to measure turbidity. That's almost guaranteed to vary between such sites, other things being equal. Macroinvertebrates could be trickier. If you're good at identifying groups such as Dipterans vs. Plecopterans, Trichopterans and Ephemeropterans you'll find differences since Dipterans are way more tolerant of funky conditions. And crayfish... I think many of them can live under a wide range of conditions, it might be harder to tease out a pattern among their diversities. Freshwater mussels would be an excellent indicator but you need a license to handle them with any regularity. Ohio has a reputation for being touchy on the subject since poachers from Kentucky and Tennessee routinely try to essentially steal mussels from Ohio.

#3 Guest_Gavinswildlife_*

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:50 PM

I forgot to mention - the little cuyahoga is across the continental divide from the Nimishillen. That might screw everything up...
I chose the little cuyahoga because it is so hugely affected.
Thanks for the suggestion for the macroinvertebrates. For this study, would it be better to use other peoples' data or my own?
Right now I'm thinking of using USGS for turbidity, and OSU or whatever I can come up with for the biology part.

#4 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 09:43 PM

If you're not familiar with the macroinverts, and I'd guess you're not, use someone else's data for sure. It's a lot of tedious work to collect and accurately identify either aquatic insects or mussels, although much of it's fun too.

#5 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 10:23 AM

The AGE of the urbanization has an effect too, not just the proportion of developed land. IME recently built-up or actively developing watersheds often show worse impacts. For example Crabtree Creek through downtown Raleigh is extremely incised, but the damage is mostly old, the stream bed and banks are fairly stable now, grown up with trees, there's decent rocky substrate in some areas, and about 3/4 of the native fish species that "should" have been there originally are present. Areas where new homes and office parks are growing up on abandoned farmland are often the worst; due to unstable banks and heavy load of silt and fine sand that buries the cobble & gravel areas so important to bugs and fish. Once the active land development phase is over, silt loading slows down, the stream bed slowly clears out the fine sand and silt, and some fish & inverts can move back in (assuming there's decent adjacent stream habitat they can move FROM). Also consider watersheds developed with good stormwater management vs those with "traditional" (bad) stormwater management.

#6 Guest_Gavinswildlife_*

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 04:50 PM

Ok. That information is good and all, but I need something relatively simple. If I have something very complicated, iit will be darn near impossible to present well. So maybe inverts was a bad idea. But, I could still do fish and water quality.

#7 Guest_smbass_*

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 10:47 PM

My offer still stands to give you some data on two water sheds or two sites, one with less human impact than the other and you could compare the data. You could also go to them as part of it to see what differences you see first hand.

Yes having your sites on opposite sides of a major divide can cause you some trouble when trying to make comparisons in the fish or invertebrate communities. Might be able to help you out with the collecting part but my free time is pretty limited so I'm not making any promises on that side of things.

#8 Guest_mikez_*

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 10:24 AM

Search for either local, state or volunteer stream monitoring programs. They regularly sample and test for water levels, temps, turbidity, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, phosphorous and fecal bacteria. These are standard tests and tell most of the story you're after.
You may find diversity data too, or do that part yourself. Find locations with a variety of water quality results and sample macro/micro critters. A basic field id book, camera and google makes it pretty doable. wish I had such options when I was kid.

#9 Gavinswildlife

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 03:35 AM

After Brian Zimmerman helped me obtain data, I have decided to test instead the effect an impoundment has on fish diversity. So far I am finding that the number of native species above the dam (>RM 3.2) is about 12. The number of species immediately downstream (<RM 3.2) is about 17. Downstream of the dam the stream condition is worse compared to upstream. Some of the species that have been observed downstream that are absent upstream are log perch, greenside, rainbow and blackbanded darter.

More exciting, the local parks commission is going through a major reform. They will soon be implementing proper riparian zones and restoring a large stretch of the stream. This is exciting because only a small stretch of the creek is in full or partial attainment of water quality parameters.

There has been an aquaponics system sitting dry in my school's greenhouse for some time now. The horticulture teacher has allowed me to take charge of it. It is 8'x3' with a 6" grow bed and a 10" main tank. I am excited to fill it with local stream fishes. Does anyone have any suggestions about cool species or things to do with this?

#10 smbass

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Posted 12 January 2015 - 09:13 AM

Great Idea to compare above and below the dam, that does simplify your project and makes good use of the data I shared with you. It is always interesting to me to see how many species are able to persist in a cut off system above a dam over time. It is also always apparent that other species, even if the habitat is not great, could use the system at least seasonally since they do appear directly below the dam trying to make their way up stream. Would this happen to be the dam in the park near the Pro football hall of fame? I use to fish there all the time when I was younger. Another species I caught rate there below the dam one time was a trout-perch.

How many gallons is that main tank where the fish would go. You may just want some easy to keep community fish that you could keep a bunch of in there. Several minnow species come to mind that you should be able to catch plenty of locally. Blacknose Dace, Southern Redbelly Dace, Hornyhead Chub, Bluntnose Minnow, Spotfin Shiners all are easy to keep and make good aquarium fish that are found locally.

Brian J. Zimmerman

Gambier, Ohio - Kokosing River Drainage




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