Over the past 2 weeks, 5 schools have sampled across the watershed:
School of Environmental Studies
Sampling the Vermillion River where it crosses Farmington, the SES students were greeted by clear waters nearly flowing out of the banks. The experienced crew got right to work and discovered a mostly healthy waterway, All of the metrics fell within a healthy range expect nitrates. Both samples taken on 4/13 were above the 3 mg/L range. This is not great for the river health, but also not particularly surprising due to all of the water flushing into the system from the snow melt. It will be important to collect nitrate readings in May to see if the high level of nitrates sustains itself into late Spring.
Eden Prairie High School
Eden Prairie High School's River Watch team sampled for their first time on 4/17 at Purgatory Creek in Purgatory Park. The morning was brisk, but the crew stuck it out and got a few rounds of sample data collected. It was a little too cold to find any bugs, but that didn't stop the crew from searching through the icy water (2.5 C/36 F). With no previous River Watch samplings to compare it to, the crew collected their baseline data. The Specific Conductivity (salt content), and the nitrates were both outside of healthy levels, so it will be interesting to compare it to the levels in May after the winter runoff has moved through the system.
Two Tri-City United science classes sampled a creek connecting 2 rural lakes. When we sampled this site in the fall, the creek was completely dry. This time the creek was out of the banks, feeding nearby wetlands a constant supply of highly oxygenated water. It was great to see a wide variety of birds flying and swimming about under the mostly sunny skies. The crew found the levels of nitrates to be 3 timed higher than is healthy. There were some nearby farm fields, that according to the students, have started applying fertilizer already this spring. It will be interesting to see if the wetlands are effected by the high nitrate levels, or if all the existing vegetation can absorb the excess nutrients.
The AP Biology students from Bloomington Jefferson enthusiastically embraced the impending Earth Day energy and started their sampling session with an awesome trash collecting session, transforming the aesthetic of the 9-Mile Creek Access. With 2 hours at our disposal, teams of students took turns collecting data, scooping for bugs, and picking up more trash. The bug collecting team really outdid themselves, finding 7 unique macroinvertebrates, some of which are highly sensitive to pollution (stonefly larvae). The macro survey combined with the water data indicated a basically healthy waterway, with slightly elevated salt levels.
Prior Lake High School
Six classes sampled the Credit River over two days. The first day was cold and rainy. It was great to see students brave the elements to collect a days worth of data. The data investigation was made less treacherous thanks to the shelter of the bus. It is worth noting that the river had elevated nitrate levels all day, likely due to the large quantity water dumped into it the previous day.
The second day of sampling, was cold, but without rain. Groups of students searched for bugs with minor success, while others picked up trash, and collected water data. The data from the second day indicated there was still elevated nitrate washing through the system. Luckily the portion of the river drains into a large wetland, which can likely absorb the excess nitrates.
Thanks to all the teams who have sampled so far this spring. I look forward to sampling with you in May!