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Local ecologists scour Paint Creek for quality purposes

April 09, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Local high school seniors pulled on their waders last week to assess the macroinvertebrate levels of the Paint Creek River at Children's Park in downtown Lake Orion.

Adam Pace and Kyle Cohen from Lake Orion High School, along with Scott Garrit and Jared Villeneuve from Clarkston High School, Alex Kozloss from Brandon and Cody Graderatte from Holly recently qualified for the Michigan Envirothon competition, a competition open to any high school student interested in making a positive ecological impact in their local community.

Their team called "Berry's Bees" took second at regionals in March, qualifying them for the state competition in Lake Ann, MI, May 19-21, where team members will present their community outreach projects to a panel of judges.

With the encouragement of their teacher Joel Berry from the Northwest Campus of Oakland Schools Technical Campus (OTC), "Berry's Bees" selected the Paint Creek River for their community outreach project site, and determined that the river water had a high enough quality for their salmon release objective.

Working in conjunction with the Clinton River Watershed, Berry's Bees assessed the bug availability in the river's sediment to determine whether the water quality was excellent, good or fair.

"The mayflies and stoneflies that we found today are very sensitive to pollution so they are a bio-indicator of good water quality with low pollution," Berry said.

Students also found other critters like crayfish, indicative of moderate to mid-quality water because they can survive in harsher settings, namely more pollution, than the mayflies and stoneflies.

Organisms like leeches would indicate poor water quality because they have very few requirements to survive, according to Michele Arquette Palermo, Program Director for the Clinton River Watershed.

Students slunk into the water with a kick-net, a specialized net with a flat bottom. Standing upstream from the net, they agitated the sediment on the river floor hoping to uproot the macroinvertebrates in order to capture them. Water samples are then dumped into clear, plastic trays for sorting.

Berry's Bees are part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resource Salmon in the Classroom Program, and determined that the high quality water of the Paint Creek, a tributary leading into the Clinton River, was suitable to release salmon into it later this spring. The plan as of now is to release the salmon into the Clinton River at Yates Cider Mill in Rochester the last week of April.

Apart from water assessment, students also brought trash bags to dispose of any scattered litter, but Berry said not even one bag was completely filled.

The Clinton River Watershed offers both student and adult volunteer programs to help keep the local rivers clean. The Adopt a Stream program assigns trained teams different sites along the local rivers for monitoring twice a season.

On the first Saturday of May and October the teams pull on their waders to gather information at their sites, including physical information such as stream bank erosion and surrounding land use, along with assessing macroinvertebrate availability.

"Stream Leaders," or student volunteers of the Clinton River Watershed also collect stream data, and have helped identify and resolve many issues of soil erosion. All three middle schools in the Lake Orion school district, along with the high school, participate in the student led portion of river maintenance.

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