Knee Deep In Knowledge

A newspaper article about a classroom water-quality monitoring program inspired honors biology teacher Connie Gannon to literally send her Waterford Mott High School students “up a creek” in Waterford, Mich.

A high school student takes a sample for further study. Photos Courtesy Oakland County Parks

Twice a year, Gannon’s students make the short trek on foot from school to Waterford Oaks County Park to participate in the Clinton River Watershed Council’s Stream Leaders Program.

The project is hosted by a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, enhance, and celebrate the Clinton River, its watershed, and Lake St. Clair, according to the agency’s website.

At the park, which is part of a 6,700-acre parks system north of Detroit, students take samples from the Pontiac Creek, a part of the Clinton River Watershed. Another teacher assists Gannon and the students in monitoring four storm-water detention ponds located near the administration offices.

Investigation Provides Answers

The ponds act as filters before water runs into the Clinton River Watershed, which drains 760 square miles, including a large portion of Oakland County and sections of Lapeer, Macomb, and St. Clair counties. More than 1.4 million people live in 61 cities, villages, and townships in the watershed.

Donning waders and nets, students step into the water to retrieve samples on which they perform physical and chemical tests to check for various environmental indicators.

The section they monitor is a portion of the 70-square-mile Clinton River Main, which connects with a population of 243,000. The primary land use in the Clinton River Main is residential, commercial, and industrial.

“They check the water for macro invertebrates, chemical attributes, and physical properties. Data is recorded on an Excel spreadsheet, and they perform comparative analysis and draw conclusions about the tests results over time,” Gannon says.

Students test their water samples.

The park system provides the water-testing kits to students. In addition, Kathleen Dougherty, educational-resource specialist for the county parks, mentors the students and supports their field work along with education staff members from the Clinton River Watershed Council.

Thriving Wetland Ecosystem

The ponds were created in 2009 when the parks system restructured parking, increasing capacity by 50 spaces and implementing best-management practices to the aging infrastructure. The project was funded, in part, by a $190,000 Clean Michigan Initiative Grant.

“The detention areas filter and improve water quality in the surrounding natural areas,” says Mike Donnellon, chief of facilities, maintenance, and development.

“Now we’re filtering more than 75 percent of the site’s water runoff. Native vegetation, including Purple Cone Flower, Tufted Hair Grass, Joe-Pye Weed, and Switch Grass help with the breakdown of hydrocarbons that come from vehicles, such as petroleum, gas, and heavy metals.”

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Pooling Sailboat Skills
  2. A Deep-Rooted Tradition
  3. Paddle Trails
  4. River“front” Yard
  5. Moss In The Pool
  • Columns
  • Departments