Each year, the first-year cohort of ER Master’s students complete a Field Course to gain hands-on skills in sampling techniques and a practical understanding of study design for various types of surveys.
The course is divided into Aquatic and Terrestrial modules. This year, it ran on Fridays-Saturdays through March and April, which made for a hectic end-of-semester. On the other hand, it got us us outside in the field a fair amount which was a great change of pace.
In the Aquatic section, we learned about the Fish Habitat Assessment Procedure (FHAP) for assessing stream health, as well as fish ID and sampling.
We covered the CABIN protocol, which uses benthic macroinvertebrate communities as bioindicators. Many of these diverse but easy-to-sample organisms are highly sensitive to pollution or disturbance, making them ideal for assessing the degree of impairment of a waterway.
We also had a chance to try our hands at Large Woody Debris cabling and installation. These structures are commonly used in stream restoration to increase habitat complexity. To make them, we got to use power tools (drills to make log and stone holes) and epoxy (to affix cables into rock holes). No one got injured or permanently attached to any object. This was perhaps thanks to our focus on safety – from a dedicated module at the start of the course, to tailgate meetings we ran before every session, and a full complement of PPE (personal protective equipment, for those not up on the lingo).
That wrapped up the Aquatic component of the Field Course…
To be continued… in Part 2: The Terrestrial Module…