The Save Our Streams project, under the guidance of Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) biology teacher Vic Akemann, is in its 22nd year of monitoring the quality of the Little Plover River in Plover.
The Little Plover River, a class 1 trout stream, was recently named No. 4 on the list of Endangered Rivers by American Rivers organization. Increases in ground water withdrawals have repeatedly caused sections of the river to run dry in late summer, the listing said.
“Our study is a snapshot of the river’s quality and you can see what’s going on,” said Akemann.
Each year, Akemann and his students, along with members of the Isaak Walton League and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) students measure three different aspects of stream health: physical, chemical and biological.
“It’s all under the realm of ecology,” Akemann said.
On Tuesday, the students first bundled brush comprised of about 200 old Christmas trees to stabilize the bank. Christmas trees are used because they help create a strong bank and are biodegradable.
“This helps the water get deeper and lowers the water temperature so it’s a great habitat for trout,” Akemann said.
The students then measured aspects like dissolved oxygen content, the presence of nitrates, phosphates, and e.coli, the turbidity, or the clarity of the water and the demand on the river’s available oxygen.
With a donation by the Bill Cook Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the SPASH students used one-meter nets to collect, count and record the river’s organisms. They also used probes to measure dissolved oxygen and the p.H. of the river.
Akemann then takes the data the students gather and compiles it to create five-year summaries. In his 22 years or researching the Little Plover River, Akemann said the data continually shows the river is not as healthy as it should be.
“The stream is continually stressed,” Akemann said.
Throughout the time of the study, the river’s water quality has continually been fair to good, with some organic pollution, he said. However, he also said that because trout are spawning in the river, it’s a good indicator of some biological health.
SPASH senior Mary Lutz, who participated in the Save Our Streams project, said she enjoys getting out of the classroom to do a hands-on project.
“I like collecting data and adding it to the previous years’ data,” she said. “It’s nice to apply this to something useful.”
Junior Isaac Dopp, senior Julia Graham and sophomore Hannah Selwyn said they all were surprised that a river in their hometown is one of the most endangered rivers in the country.
“It’s scary that we are all affecting the river like this,” Dopp said.