23 Jun Dam!
My project this year aims to identify the impacts of low-head dams in the Beaver Basin Wilderness Area of Pictured Rocks. Prior to the park’s establishment in 1966, Lowney Creek, a tributary to Beaver Lake that runs through Beaver Basin, was dammed to create a series of fishing ponds. These dams have accumulated sediment, increased water temperatures, and isolated biological communities. Since any man-made structures directly interfere with the tenets of the Wilderness Act (see previous blog post), the park is interested in restoring these dammed areas. To inform these actions, I am collecting baseline hydrologic data such as stream temperature, water level, and discharge. My advisor installed seven data loggers in 2017 that automatically record stream temperature and water level data. The loggers record this information every hour, allowing for cross-comparison between sites. Additionally, stream discharge (the volume of water flowing past a given point per unit of time ) is being measured at a subset of sites in order to create rating curves that allow us to estimate streamflow based on water level.
My role in this project is two-fold. On the field side of things, I manually measure water level and temperature measurements to compare to the data being collected by the data loggers. I also perform routine maintenance on the data loggers and measure stream discharge using a flowmeter. In the office, I am tasked with inputting, organizing, and analyzing the existing data (2017-present) using Excel, HOBOware (software package for the data loggers), and an aquatic informatics software called Aquarius Time-Series. I am incredibly excited to be working on this project at Pictured Rocks because it incorporates the perfect amount of field work and data analysis. I am a pretty data-oriented person, so I am particularly excited to learn and use Aquarius to analyze years’ worth of data in a meaningful way. However, I also love getting outside a couple times a week, wading in the streams, and personally collecting the data that I work with. Additionally, with the broader project focus on dams and federally designated wilderness areas, I am fascinated by the human/ management aspects of the project. Lots to think about and lots of potential for scientific, management, and public education outcomes!