Wait, what’s a watershed?

By Jessica Whitman ’18

Tuesday and Thursday of last week the freshman class went to Tanner’s Creek to learn about our watersheds. Half of us went each day, depending on our science class. I went on Tuesday. We left Mercy after homeroom and took buses to Tanner’s Creek.
When we arrived, we were split into five groups by last name. Each group had a chaperone, Ms. Kron, Mr. Burton, Mr. Evert, or one of the two parents who came. There were three different activities for everyone to complete. The first one started at 9:30. Every group had a different leader from the Ohio River organization. My group went to fishing first. We split into smaller groups of about four. Each group grabbed a bucket and a net and headed down to the creek. After a short demonstration, we attempted to fish on our own. Two people would stretch out the net and walk forward. The rest of the group would walk toward them, trying to scare the fish into the net. After we caught fish, the net would be lifted out of the water and someone would have to pick up the fish and put them in our bucket. After we had fished for about 45 minutes we went back to the shelter, where we used dichotomous keys to identify the fish we had caught. Finally, we completed a survey about the creek, to determine if it was healthy or not.
At 10:30 we switched to another activity. My group went to collect micro invertebrates. A healthy creek would have a variety of species, with some in each of the three taxas. We went down to the creek to catch some, with the instructions to flip over rocks and look for movement. However, if we found fish or snail eggs on the rocks, we should carefully put them back down. Similar to the fishing, no one wanted to touch the micro invertebrates. Eventually, with some screaming and accidental dropping of rocks, we’d caught enough. We went back to the picnic tables and tried to identify them using pictures and brief descriptions. After that we surveyed the creek again, with different questions. After this, at about 11:30, it was time for everyone’s favorite part, lunch. During this time everyone also enjoyed the playgrounds.
By 12:00 we were back with our groups, ready for the next activity. For my group, this was studying the quality of the water. We stayed at the creek the whole time this time and performed several tests to discover the turbidity, acidity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and phosphorus. We then performed one last survey.
At 1:00, everyone met to discuss what we had learned that day. According to everyone’s surveys, the creek was moderate. We discussed the different ways to preserve the creek and keep our water clean. Finally, everyone changed shoes and clothes and we boarded the buses to go back to Mercy.
At Mercy, we completed a watershed quiz to assess what we’d learned and answered questions about how we liked the field trip. Although not many people would do it again because of the strange creatures and soggy shoes, we all agreed that it was a beneficial field trip and future classes should definitely go to Tanner’s Creek.

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