Alumni Outlook Magazine

Trout Streams Need Health Checkups Too

Trout Streams Need Health Checkups Too
Tiffany Clarno and Coutney Oelkers, applied science students, on Gilbert Creek.

Tytus Brigger, Bio-111 student, tests the waters.
Biology students at UW-Stout are part of a larger effort to ensure the water quality of local trout streams.

“Students learn to be community members and to have responsibility for the watershed they live in,” says Chuck Bomar, program director for applied science and professor of biology.

More than 1,000 hours have been clocked by students over a period of three years to monitor and restore a two-mile stretch of Gilbert Creek in Dunn County. Students collect water quality data along specific sections of the creek and compare the results from year to year. Like an individual’s health checkup, students look for benchmarks to determine the well-being of Gilbert Creek. Water quality is assessed using the parameters of acidity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrogen and phosphate levels, fecal coliform, habitat assessment and water quality biotic index. Students use their laptop computers to enter and retrieve data, and develop tables and graphs to incorporate into their stream monitoring reports. Students discuss their recommendations for improving the health of Gilbert Creek with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources using photos to illustrate some of the problem areas for each site.

In addition to the monitoring, students also have helped with sodding, seeding and mulching along Gilbert Creek to restore the wildlife area.

The goal is to collect a history of data over a period of 10 years. The data become tools that the DNR can use to develop policy. “That’s the power of partnerships,” says Bomar.

The project has been recognized on many levels. Some students have given presentations at a variety of conferences in the state. Applied science graduates, such as Matt Rasmussen ’05, who was a summer intern on the project and now works for Ecolab, use the skills learned through the project in their careers.

Two UW-Stout faculty members also have earned awards for the project. Bomar received the 2006 Teacher Award for Wisconsin Stream Monitoring from UW Extension. Krista James, a lecturer in biology who initiated the project, received the State of Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitor of the Year Award and the Wisconsin Association of Environmental Education Award.

Most importantly, citizens have banded together. Partners in the effort include UW-Stout, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dunn County Fish and Game Association, the Ojibleau Trout Unlimited Chapter, Wisconsin Prairie Enthusiasts, Menomonie Public Schools, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Northwoods Adventures and many others.

The end result is a healthier stream, which is an integral part of the natural community.