Looking for a new way to engage community members in streamside restoration efforts? The Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center and Penn State Extension have worked to develop a citizen science monitoring protocol that can easily and quickly show volunteers the good that comes from installing best management practices.
Riparian buffers, livestock fencing, and streambank stabilization structures can dramatically improve the health of a stream. Unfortunately, most monitoring activities sample downstream and require many years of sampling to see a change.
This new protocol, First Investigation of Stream Health (FISH), guides landowners or volunteers to record important environmental features, like vegetation growth, wildlife presence, and water clarity at restoration sites. These common measures show how the stream and its neighboring habitat are changing over time.
FISH is a simple, family-friendly activity that asks easy to answer questions about what you see around a stream. What you record with FISH helps you and others understand how the health of the stream habitat is changing over time.
You can participate using the paper FISH survey, and thanks to a partnership with Chesapeake Commons, you can now also use mobile apps and an interactive website.
FISH is available for free. It’s great for landowners with a stream on their property and also for concerned citizen volunteers interested in observing a stream site on public lands like a community park.
Stream sections that have recently been restored; cleared of invasive plants, had trees planted along the bank, had livestock fenced out, or other projects, are the most likely to see dramatic change over time.
FISH can encourage new landowners to restore their property when positive changes are recorded at a neighboring project site, according to Penn State AEC Director Matt Royer. “High deer populations, excellent fishing, and new birds at the bird feeder can be huge motivators for landowners,” he says.
FISH was originally designed to be completed on paper, but Chesapeake Commons, an environmentally focused app developer, partnered with the Penn State AEC and Penn State Extension to create a smart phone app and website to make data collection a smoother and easier process.
To get started recording data on your stream or at a public access site, visit the First Investigation of Stream Health (FISH) website.
FISH was developed through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through two large watershed focused grant projects, The Conewago Creek Initiative and Greening the Lower Susquehanna.
Input on FISH was provided by many partner organizations. Questions about FISH and the grant projects that supported it can be directed to Kristen Kyler, AEC Project Coordinator, by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-948-6609.(Reprinted from the December 7 Watershed Winds newsletter from Penn State Extension. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)