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Stream Ecology Field Trip

When I found out that my stream ecology class was going to have two Saturday field trips, I was extremely bitter. Our first one was yesterday, and we all had to meet at the INSTAAR parking lot by 5:30am. Running on about 3 hours of sleep, I was not feeling too hot yesterday morning. I tried to grab some breakfast at Safeway, but after walking in and pulling some things off the shelves, I was told they weren’t actually open. How annoying. So I met up with the rest of the class, and we headed off. Luckily we did stop at a Starbucks in Golden so I could get some overpriced munchies, and then we continued on until we got to the Upper Snake River, a spot beyond Keystone at about 10,500 feet elevation.

It was freezing. There was ice around the edges of the tributary that we were working on in the morning. Basically this site is an acid mine drainage area, and we were helping out with a tracer study. Another group hiked up to the top of the tributary and dumped in a lot of salt (NaCl) as the tracer for the experiment. We were basically responsible for taking samples of the water every 15 minutes at certain sites. This allowed for some lounging in the sun  in between sticking my hands in water that was a few deegrees above freezing.
After a little while, there were about 3 or 4 us at each of the two sites we were responsible for, so Chuck and I decided it was a good time to go for a hike.
the rocks on the way up… covered in lichen
the view was awesome…
While we were up there, we saw the suburban come back up with the other half of the class. We were supposed to switch roles with them, but we decided that we were in no hurry. So far there had been way too many people for the jobs available, so why worry? After convincing ourselves there was no way we could be in trouble, we took an extra few minutes to enjoy the scenary and then headed down. Turns out, everyone was waiting for us for the next activity. Oops…
We headed to the spot where the Snake River (the acid mine drainage water) meets Deer Creek (apparently pristine water). If you see the color of the rocks in the pictures above, they change color along the width of the river from the different m

etal precipates. The first thing we did was measure temperature, pH, and conductivity across the width. The temperature was around 6 degrees C. The pH and the conductivity ranged across the width due to the two waters mixing, but in general the pH was around 3-4. Pretty acidic water. Next up was measuring flow rate.

Jeff, our TA
The dust from some motor bikes that went by.
Using a pygmy meter…
Collecting benthic invertebrates…
the super white rocks are from aluminum oxide precipitate
The stone flies we found in the Snake River. The only critter we found that could manage to live in super acidic waters.

Overall, the fieldtrip was pretty awesome. I complained and complained about it before, but it was so nice to get outside up in the mountains and do a little fieldwork. After the trip, though, I was completely wiped out. We didn’t get back to Boulder around 6pm. I picked up a board from Glen, drove home and relaxed. Forget Saturday night…

(I took all the photos with my blackberry… and tried to oversaturate the color to make them a little more pleasant to look at. Still can’t wait to get my camera back… )