Going back in time, streamside...

One of the great things about working for JRBP is you never know exactly what you’ll be doing tomorrow -- it makes coming to work an adventure!  Last week certainly proved this true, as I was introduced to stream sampling and went out on the annual JRBP fall Adopt-A-Highway clean-up!  It’s these events that are the heart and soul of who we are and what we do, so I wanted to devote a blog to them. If you want to get involved on the grassroots level, then these are the events for you.

On Monday, October 1st, I accompanied our Project Manager Brent Stock on the biannual stream sampling of South Creek, along with longtime JRBP and Missouri Stream Team Volunteer Darlene Haun. We started our sampling at a site on the MSU Darr Agricultural Center, and then worked our way east along the Greenways Trail, sampling at three different sites.  Darlene’s experience and knowledge was a great introduction for me to stream sampling.

Benthic Macroinvertebrates, or "bottom dwelling organisms without a backbone" can be seen with the naked eye and are used to measure water quality. Macroinvertebrates are collected using a kick net and the "Benthic Boogie", (sweeping motions with the feet) to disturb the streambed and collect the organisms, which are then counted streamside. Data collected by stream team volunteers is then sent to Missouri Stream Team and used to identify a variety of water quality issues, as well as to educate the public about the importance of good, clean water. It’s a lot more strenuous than it sounds, but it’s also fun and inspiring to be part of a group of citizen volunteers who are on the frontlines of water conservation. It’s also a good way to see first-hand the progress that JRBP has made since its inception back in the late 1990s in terms of overall stream health in the basin.

After several days to rest up from my first time doing the “Benthic Boogie”, at the end of the week Brent and I found ourselves on the road to the JRBP Fall Adopt-A-Highway clean up. JRBP participates in the Missouri Adopt-A-Highway program along a stretch of Highway M north of Jamesville, near the confluence of the James and Finley Rivers.

It’s a hilly, curvy stretch of Ozarks backroad, near one of the first settlements in Southwest Missouri during the 1810s and 20s.  For a brief moment you can imagine what the James River basin looked like when the Delaware and Osage tribes hunted and fished the area, and the earliest settlers made their way up the rivers and streams long before modern settlements and society left their fingerprints on the land and water.  We picked up a fair amount of those fingerprints along the roadway; a 2008-09 Nixa High School parking pass, broken bottles, several oil filters and a smashed travel mug, discarded or lost by motorists zipping by in a hurry. There will be another clean-up next Spring, but the James keeps flowing.

This weekend will be our annual member float. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the James as much as I do now, seeing the hard work that JRBP staff and volunteers do in a variety of tasks. These actions help keep the James clean, free-flowing and allows us to step back in a time for a few hours -- hopefully they will also allow future generations the same glimpse backwards.

See you downstream.

  From top center: The bridge at Jamesville; Adopt-A-Highway Clean-Up; counting macroinvertebrates; The James River; A discarded hang-tag; kick-netting in South Creek.

From top center: The bridge at Jamesville; Adopt-A-Highway Clean-Up; counting macroinvertebrates; The James River; A discarded hang-tag; kick-netting in South Creek.