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Archive for the ‘Water quality’ Category

Fourteen great ponds (lakes greater than 10 acres) and 10 smaller ponds cover just over 7% of the Park’s area (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

Fourteen great ponds (lakes greater than 10 acres) and 10 smaller ponds cover just over 7% of the Park’s area (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

Lakes, colloquially called “ponds”, dominate the landscape at Acadia National Park. Since the Park’s inception, a variety of unrelated projects have provided some data on the water quality of these lakes. This information was integrated in the recently published Assessment of Natural Resource Conditions. In 2006, the Northeast Temperate Network (NETN) established a long-term lake monitoring protocol at Acadia NP. The 2006 through 2008 monitoring years were a transitional period, during which new sampling protocols were implemented, evaluated, and modified to address issues encountered during seasonal lake monitoring. While there is not yet enough data to do long-term assessments of whether lake conditions are improving, stable, or degrading, the data collected provides baseline information on the current status of Acadia NP’s lakes. This information will help park resource managers identify potential pollution sources, assess human-induced changes and threats, and track water quality trends. (more…)

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This past Monday was my first day out in the field.  Field days are an especially exciting aspect of this internship.  I am thrilled to have to opportunity to get an inside look at the research and programs going on at Acadia, meet park staff and interns, and contribute what help I can in the field, all the while enjoying Acadia’s natural splendor (although I am beginning to question how splendid mosquitoes and black flies are).  Monday, I ventured with Bill Gawley and Meg Goff across Mount Desert Island as they began the stream monitoring season.

Around 8:30, Bill led me down to a small room that served as a miniature chemistry lab and storage closet to meet Meg Goff, a biological technician for the water program with whom we would be working.  I spent the next hour and a half learning about the instruments we would be using to monitor water quality at various stream sites.  She explained in detail the calibrating process.  Being a good scientist requires so many checklists and much careful repetition!  By the time we were done stuffing backpacks with supplies and gear, I was ready to get out in the field and see all the gadgets in action.

Hadlock BrookHadlock Brook

Our first stop was Hadlock Brook.  We drove along the carriage roads and then hiked up a trail a short distance until we came to the monitoring site, a section of the brook below a small waterfall and about 500 feet above the carriage road.  Here we constructed a stream discharge gage out of PVC pipe, cables, a PDA, zip ties and tape.  Scientists are very resourceful.  Bill used the impressive rock drill to easily carve holes for bolts in the granite bedrock and we shifted heavy boulders to secure the pipe in place.  Again, it is important to follow diagrams and instructions to the letter, so that the data generated by these instruments are reliable and reproducible.

Meg took me through the water quality monitoring step-by-step.  I was glad that she was able to easily and effectively explain the process and the importance of each metric that we monitored.  NETN stream monitoring in Acadia NP began in 2006. Three sites are monitored every year (Cadillac Brook, Hadlock Brook, Otter Creek), while 17 other sites are monitored every other year. Sites are carefully selected according and subsets of park streams represent a range of conditions (e.g. developed/undeveloped, headwater source/stream order, burned/unburned by major fire) that are likely to influence stream water quality and biological integrity.  Park staff measure physical and in-situ parameters- stream discharge, pH, specific conductance, temperature, and DO- each month from May through October in the field.  Monthly water chemistry measures are determined with a YSI 600XL water-quality probes.  Water samples are taken in May (a low productivity month) and August (a high productivity month) to test for acid neutralizing capacity, color, nitrogen, and phosphorous.  Stream discharge records exist for three streams served by USGS continuous-recorded streamflow gaging-stations.  Established in 1997 as part of the PrimeNet program, Cadillac and Hadlock Brook each have eight years of data, however, these stations were discontinued in 2006 as they were not representative of most streams in the park and funding was limited.

Bill Gawley and Meg Goff at Hadlock BrookBill Gawley and Meg Goff at Hadlock Brook
Bill Gawley with the impressive rock drill.Bill Gawley with the impressive rock drill.
Stretching his new wings.Stretching his new wings.

Next, we took the scenic route to Otter Creek.  As we walked down a steep slope from the roadside and came upon an example of an operating gage station, Bill discussed the history and usefulness of the USGS gages.  It’s quite impressive that the station generates a report every five minutes.  We then traipsed further down the steep hill to the creek to measure the YSI probe values- conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen content and water temperature.   Just as we were beginning to go through our checklists, Meg let out an excited squeal.  She had spotted a fish- a large brook trout!  Fish aren’t frequently spotted in Acadia’s streams because there are so many natural (such as beaver dams, waterfalls, steep grades, debris) and man-made barriers (such as culverts, roads, and other engineering features) to passage.

Otter CreekOtter Creek

After finishing the monitoring at the Otter Creek site, we drove back to headquarters for a quick lunch break, which I enjoyed on the picnic benches outside.  The lawn was alive with black flies and busy park staff.  It’s strange to see so many people milling about after being so separated from the hustle bustle during the rest of my week at Schoodic.  I talked to Adrianna, a member of the interpretive team. She was really friendly and seemed to be excited about the work I was doing.  What a great feeling when someone is interested in or appreciates the work you are doing!  Days out in the field are a great opportunity to make connections and learn about the park and it’s natural resources. I doubt there will ever be a boring moment.

After lunch, Meg and I went out to take YSI measurements and do the discharge, flow and velocity measurements by hand at the new Eagle Lake Outlet site.  It was a lengthy procedure, but I got to enter data into the PDA, so I felt helpful (and itch since my hands, or mosquito swatters, were tied up punching in data on the PDA).

Setting up the site for measuring stream discharge with the Pygmy meter.Setting up the site for measuring stream discharge with the Pygmy meter.

We ended our stream monitoring work around 4:30.  The time had passed by surprisingly quickly, a true sign that it was a productive and interesting day.  Bill and Meg provided a pleasant introduction to the field work component of the job.  Hannah also had an excellent time in the field, although she and her clothes were covered with noxious invasive plant residue. She had been tackling giant hogweed all day. I’m glad I was monitoring streams!  With my first day of field work complete, it has really sunk in how truly saccarhine it is to be paid to explore, learn, and write.

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They are men on a mission: to sample water quality and flow characteristics of streams, rivers, and ponds in northeastern parks….and the crab cake panini at the Main Streets Market and Cafe in Concord, MA. Meet Eric and Dan, the dynamic duo who will be visiting a park near you (provided you live near a national park in VT, NH, MA, CT, NY, or NJ) with a cooler full of sample vials, a high-tech probe (the “YSI”) that measures everything from dissolved oxygen to pH, a fancy “flow-meter” that builds a profile of how water flows through the stream channel, and a yet-to-be-named (suggestions welcome) inflatable “research vessel”.

Eric and Dan hail from the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Eric is pursuing a master’s degree and Dan is a research associate.

Eric and the YSI at Saint-Gaudens NHS

Eric and the YSI at Saint-Gaudens NHS

Dan blowing up the "research vessel" at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP (NPS photo).

Dan blowing up the "research vessel" at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP (NPS photo).

Recently, I headed out in the field to learn the tricks of their trade. Eric and Dan boast of supernatural powers–or uncanny luck–for heralding good weather; in two summers together they have logged only two rainy days. This trip was true to form. Despite an ominous forecast, we had two surprisingly sunny days in the field together sampling streams and ponds at parks in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Some, like Blow-me Down Brook at Saint-Gauden’s NHS, were tranquil and serene. Others, like one of the streams we sampled at Minute-Man NHP, were clearly impacted by the suburban landscape in which the park is located. The experience reminded me: We all live downstream and national parks are no exception. The water resources in national parks, especially smaller units like the ones in the northeast, are affected by the communities and landscapes around them. The data Eric and Dan collect will help parks and their surrounding communities understand what kinds of water-quality issues they face, and maybe help guide solutions.

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