Monday, June 22, 2020

York Stream Team Monitors Water Quality In The Susquehanna River Watershed

Jodi Sulpizio, York County Master Watershed Steward Coordinator & Julie Vastine, Director ALLARM

The Susquehanna Stream Team has been monitoring water quality in the Susquehanna River Watershed with enthusiastic community volunteers, including Penn State Master Watershed Stewards.

Stream Team is a new monitoring initiative created and run by the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), a nationally renowned community science center based at Dickinson College. 

According to Director Julie Vastine, ALLARM has carried out its mission to empower Pennsylvania and New York communities with scientific tools to assess stream health and use their data to implement stream restoration and protection measures for the past 34 years. 

In 2018, in collaboration with watershed, community, county, and regional partners, ALLARM developed the Susquehanna Stream Team program. 

The goal of this regional monitoring initiative is to engage volunteer teams in collecting scientific data on Susquehanna tributaries that can inform local approaches for improving watershed health. 

Stream Team is grant funded in partnerships with the Campbell Foundation, Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (EPA funded) and the Consortium for Scientific Assistance to Watersheds (PADEP funded).

ALLARM provides support in various ways. They provide monitoring workshops and equipment training, assist with site selection, make quality control checks, coordinate Stream Team meetings, and manage and share data. 

During Stream Team’s pilot year, October 2018 – November 2019, ALLARM trained about 100 volunteers in York, Cumberland, and Columbia counties resulting in 48 sites being monitored in the Susquehanna Watershed. 

These Stream Teams include Penn State Master Watershed Stewards in the following county programs: York, Dauphin-Lancaster-Lebanon, and Luzerne-Wyoming Counties. 

Each Stream Team works with various local partners. For instance, ALLARM conducted inaugural workshops in York County in collaboration with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, York County Master Watershed Stewards, and York College of Pennsylvania. 

Three workshops were conducted in York County, resulting in 21 sites being monitored by about 45 active volunteers; three-quarters are Master Watershed Stewards.

After properly trained by ALLARM staff, volunteers begin monitoring. Monthly monitoring consists of doing a visual assessment, testing temperature, pH, conductivity, and nitrate-nitrogen. 

Annually, in spring or fall, aquatic macroinvertebrates are collected and surveyed at each site. More parameters may be added to monitoring if the baseline data shows a need. 

After a year of monitoring in York County, the trained York Stream Team is beginning the data interpretation process. 

From the baseline data, they are seeing strong connections to geology and land use. The first data interpretation workshop will take place this month. 

ALLARM, collaborative partners, and the York Stream Team look forward to developing strategies for local, state, and regional data use. Stream Team data are housed in the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative’s Chesapeake Data Explorer.

Julie Vastine, Director of ALLARM, and Helen Schlimm, Community Science Specialist with ALLARM, shared praise for the partnership with the Master Watershed Stewards:

“In ALLARM’s 34 years of operation, collaboration has been a key ingredient. We are a firm believer that no one program can do it all, and strong partnerships make initiatives successful and more enjoyable. 

“Similarly, Stream Team has benefited from incredible collaborators. Being able to pick up the phone and talk to Jodi (York Master Watershed Stewards), to brainstorm approaches, and to troubleshoot challenges is rewarding and fun!

“We love working with volunteers. What an incredible privilege it is to collaborate with individuals who contribute their time to collect data and improve stream health. Volunteers have their own stories, viewpoints, and reasons to monitor. 

“We deeply appreciate their commitment and local knowledge of waterways in their region, which helps us build and maintain stronger partnerships and makes the program more enjoyable. 

“We also recognize the unique sense of community that being part of a regional volunteer monitoring program brings.

“We have heard many fun stories and tips from Stream Team volunteers! One team would schedule monitoring to line up with the sunrise in the summer. One team brings a thermos of hot water in the winter months to help warm up the cold water faster for analysis. 

“Family teams include their kids in the monitoring process and have remarked how much they enjoy that opportunity. It has also been cool to see such an engaged response, generating enough interest for more than one workshop in both York and Cumberland Counties.

“ALLARM has thoroughly enjoyed partnering with the Master Watershed Stewards in Cumberland, Dauphin-Lancaster-Lebanon, Lackawanna-Luzerne, and York. Stewards come to the program with a strong foundation in watershed science, policy, and restoration and have been a joy to engage!”

Water quality monitoring helps Master Watershed Stewards achieve their volunteer requirements, forms key partnerships, and is great fun! More importantly, while assessing water quality, stewards are continuing to learn more about local watersheds and their connection and impact to the Chesapeake Bay.

[The Master Watershed Steward Program is active in a growing number of counties, including-- Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Wyoming and York counties.

[Contact them to find out more through your local Penn State Extension Office or learn more by visiting the Master Watershed Steward webpage.  Questions can be directed to Erin Frederick at 610-391-9840 or send email to: ]

(Reprinted from the June 22 Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletter. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

[Posted: June 22, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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