posted by: AJ
I’m starting a project in May/June in which I’m studying nutrient transformations in streams and rivers in Indiana and Michigan. I’m going to try and document, as best as I can, the research process that I go through while performing this study. The impetus for the project is a classical stream ecology concept, known as the River Continuum Concept (let me know if you want the citation). Basically, this concept states that the biological community changes as you move from small, headwater sites into larger, open river systems, primarily because of a change in tree cover and the source of nutrients and energy. I am hoping to use this concept to see if process influencing nutrient retention also change as you move from headwaters to large rivers. The first step of this project was to find potential study sites. To do this, I spent my entire spring break in ‘Big Red’, one of our lab vehicles, driving throughout Northeastern IN and pretty much all of western MI (not the UP though, sadly). I used a stream network map that I developed in GIS to identify potential study sites based on the size of the river. I made maps for the St. Joseph River watershed in N IN and S MI, the Kalamazoo River watershed (SW MI), and the Manistee River watershed (NW MI) and then hit the road. I brought along a handy Gazeteer (basically an atlas + topographic map with streams depicted on the maps) and a bunch of bottles for water samples. I proceeded to drive all day, looking for access sites on large rivers such as the St. Joseph River:
I also went and found intermediately sized streams like the S Branch of the Elkhart River:
and small headwater sites like the Croft Ditch in Albion, IN:
I was able to find public access sites for most of the large rivers at places such as city parks, canoe launches, and boat ramps, but most of the smaller sites were located on private property. Therefore, my next step in this research project is to contact land-owners and request permission to access streams on their property. I am currently sending letters to land owners and hopefully will have finalized my study sites in a few weeks. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Just had to share a photo of my favorite site I found from my spring break travels. This is the Pine River, a main tributary of the Manistee River in NW MI. The Pine is a popular recreational river as it has a healthy fishery and is a good canoe trip (anyone want to go canoeing with me this summer?)