“What I love most about rivers is, you can’t step in the same river twice. The water’s always changing, always flowing.”
Yes this song was stuck in my head each time I stepped into the canoe to paddle to our survey sites. It’s basically the theme of my week.
This week, I had the pleasure of working with a team from the Southeast Coast Inventory and Monitoring Network (SECN). What we did was hike and paddle out to different sites within the park to measure different aspects of certain streams. The sites were previously chosen back in March by the SECN team and were chosen based on criteria adopted from the EPA.
You may be wondering, “What’s the point of measuring streams?”. Well, just like Disney’s Pochohantas states: rivers are always changing. Because of that, it is important to monitor these changes. If something drastic were to happen, such as a major flood or hurricane, we can look back at the data and compare it to data collected after the event. From this, we can determine if characteristics within the stream, including habitat type and substrates, have been altered. We also measured the width of the stream (wetted width, active channel, bankfull, and floodplain) which will show us if the river has grown wider. Other measurements will tell us if the river has meandered more, become deeper, and if it is more or less shaded by the tree canopy. If you couldn’t tell by now, there’s a ton of measuring involved!
Monitoring in nature, whether it be a species or environment, is crucial to being able to predict outcomes. Although it was hard work to get to a couple of sites (portages make for excellent excuses to take a dip in the creek) and snakes were not afraid to make themselves known to us (no Mom, I didn’t try to touch them), I had a great time learning about the streams around me and gaining more experience with fieldwork. It was a great way for me to explore Congaree even more!