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River Bioassessment Using Macroinvertebrates

Healthy River Lesson PlanIntroduction to Healthy Rivers

Gándlaay (Haida for creek)

What You Will Learn

  • Why is river health important?
  • How can we tell if rivers are healthy?
  • What are macroinvertebrates?
  • How do we collect macroinvertebrates?


Classroom Highlights

Students taking part in the Geoscience Education Program present their research at national conferences. For many students this is their first opportunity to attend a conference/scientific meeting, take part in presenting research publicly or travel outside of Alaska.

Conference: AISES National Conference 2011, Minneapolis, MN

Student Poster: Environmental Assessment of River And Estuary Ecosystems  (Download poster)

AISES 2011

Authors: Marque'e Pa'erson, Melanie J. Kadake, Moses Nix, Andrew Kashevarof, Wendy F. Smythe, Sean McAllister, Anthony Chris Kanson, & Antonio Baptista

Abstract: The rivers and estuaries in and around Hydaburg, Alaska serve an important function as both a valuable community resource & as an indicator of environmental health. Rivers provide water resources to the community, and deliver nutrients to the estuaries into which they flow. The health of these ecosystems directly impacts the health of the community relying on these water & fishery resources. This study focuses on answering the question of “What is the health of these ecosystems?” by conducting field assessments examining the ecological, chemical, & microbial characteristics of these environments. Environmental assessments were conducted along three rivers: Natzuni, Hydaburg, and Saltery. Ecological bioassessment was conducted by the collection, identification and characterization of macroinvertebrates; this information can be used as an indicator of water quality within these ecosystems. Microbiology assessments were conducted by plating water samples onto eosine & methylene blue (EMB) plates, which are selective for E. coli & other harmful microorganisms. Chemistry assessments were conducted using both Vernier data loggers and colorimetric assays. Results suggest that overall these ecosystems are healthy. Even so, there are some indications that local logging activities are negatively impacting the river & estuary ecosystems and have the potential of significant negative consequences for the health of the local fisheries and subsequently the community.

Conference: AISES National Conference 2012; Juneau, AK

Student Poster: Traditional Stories and Western Science: Examining The Validity of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. (Download poster)

AISES 2012

Authors: Chavonne Guthrie, Michael Eaglestaff, Ashley Christenson, Andrea Cook, Krissy Remple, Sasha Hardy, Wendy F. Smythe, Antonio Baptista

Abstract:  For generations our elders have passed down knowledge about our environment through stories and legends. This project is centered on both traditional stories and the bioassessment of local rivers examining the health of our local watersheds. Hypothesis: Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) provides information that can be tested using western science, indicating the validity of TEK. Our hypothesis is tested by examining traditional stories told by our elders about our local watersheds, and then collecting, and identifying macroinvertebrates and salmon from local rivers. To test this hypothesis we reviewed and analyzed traditional Haida stories about our environment. We then selected local rivers from which to conduct water quality monitoring activities, such as water chemistry, bioassessments and physical characteristics of these rivers. Our goal was to compare TEK to results from our western science experiment and see if we could identify how they compared and contrasted with one another.

Group Members

Wendy SmytheWendy F. Smythe is a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Dr. Bradley Tebo at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the Institute of Environmental Health. She studies manganese oxidizing microorganisms from various environments, with particular interest in microbe-mineral interactions and biogeochemical cycling. Wendy is Haida from Hydaburg, Alaska located on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.

Rick HugoRick Hugo is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. Rick's research projects utilize electron microscopes in geoscience research. He also engages in many science education and outreach projects in under served communities.

Sean McCalesterSean McAllister was born and raised in Eagle River, Alaska, and spent much of his youth backpacking and camping around southwest, south-central, and southeast Alaska. Sean has a Masters of Science degree in marine microbial ecology and is currently a Ph.D. at the University of Delware. Sean is interested in marine and extremophilic microbial environments and processes, and in educating the next generation of scientists about these spectacularly diverse, intricately connected, and human-impacted ecosystems.

Tony Christianson was recently appointed to the Federal Subsistence Board - which oversees the Federal Subsistence Management Program - providing rural Alaskans with opportunities for a subsistence way of life on federal public lands with an eye toward maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations

Edie (Nahaan) is currently a linguistics major at UAS. He is dakhl'aweidí from Klukwan Ak. His fathers people are the Paiute and his grandfathers people are the Inupiaq. His goals are to be a knowledgeable and respectful elder some day that contributes to the community through the embodiment of his ancestors language and ways.

Krissy Remple

Krissy Remple is a Master’s student in the laboratory of Dr. Bradley Tebo at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the Institute of Environmental Health. She studies manganese-oxidizing microorganisms in the Columbia River estuary with particular interest in the role they play in nutrient cycling and availability in estuarine turbidity maximum zones.


CMOP Interns


Althea WalkerAlthea Walker is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community. She is currently a junior at ASU, majoring in Civil Engineering-Environmental. She plans to continue her education upon attaining her B.S. degree and is interested in environmental  science and native culture.

Sasha HardySasha Hardy (Diné) is a senior at Stanford University majoring in earth systems with a focus on ocean systems. Sasha is from Magdalena, New Mexico.