Are you interested in the health of lakes and streams in your neighborhood? Would you like to know more? There are many opportunities to learn more about your watershed, while you are helping monitor water clarity or counting the little critters that make the water their home, and either help track water quality trends! Below are two that train you, provide supplies, and share your results on a webpage used by scientists, researchers and watershed managers. These are great ways to get to know our waters, help create a databases to guide actions, and meet others interested in improving our waterways.
Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program
According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), lakes often serve as traps for matter and debris produced within a watershed. These materials include suspended and deposited silt and sediments washed into the lake from stormwater runoff and erosion. They can affect certain lake uses. Another source can be excessive aquatic plant growth and/or algal blooms that often result from the overuse of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers along feeder creeks or lakeshores. Excessive plants, especially of invasives, may limit recreational use. Lakes may also collect heavy metal and /or organic contamination from urban, industrial, or agricultural sources. These trapped materials often impair the water quality and may seriously impact the way people can use a lake. They can also affect how lakes support fish and wildlife. Dissolved oxygen deficiencies may limit a lake’s ability to support a good biological habitat or result in odor problems.
The IEPA established the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP) in 1981 to harness the time and talent of citizen volunteers to help gather basic informaton on more Illinois’ inland lakes than could otherwise be possible with existing staff. It also serves its volunteers and the general public by providing environmental education and outreach opportunities for citizens to learn about lake ecosystems. While the IEPA has (temporarily, we hope) suspended funding for this program, Lake County continues.
In Lake County, Alana Bartolai of the Lake County Ecological Services Unit recruits, trains and manages volunteers in the program. An ideal volunteer lives near a lake and has access to it and a boat or canoe. They can contact Alana to sign up for the March or April trainings, and become a Volunteer.
The Illinois RiverWatch trains volunteers to collect quality data on small stream organisms called macroinvertebrates along wadeable stream sites. The presence of these small insect critters serve as bioindicators of water quality. If there are a good number of different ones, that’s generally an indicator of good stream quality. If there are not many, or of only a couple of different types, that’s an indicator of poor stream quality.
RiverWatch envisions a collaborative river-monitoring network of citizens, organizations, agencies, private interests and governments all working together to help improve and protect the rivers of Illinois.
RiverWatch also has a program for grade 5-12 educators. Barrington Area Conservation Trust works with high school students monitoring Flint Creek near Barrington High School, and they use RiverWatch materials.
RiverWatch is organized through the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. It has a website that explains more about RiverWatch, including a map of current volunteer stream monitoring locations, more about the equipment and materials RiverWatch loans to volunteers, and contact information on whom to contact regarding volunteering, training and sites.
RiverWatch will be scheduling spring 2019 trainings probably in March. Contact Charlie at the address below to indicate your interest and get on their mailing list.
Citizens for Conservation and Barrington Greenway Initiative
Volunteers are the life blood of Citizens for Conservation (CFC). CFC is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of over 431 acres in 11 different locations. CFC also partners with other natural area custodians such as Lake County and Cook County Forest Preserves. CFC has a robust program of community education, outreach to youth, including a school Nature-Lady series of programs, summer internship programs, Junior Naturalist program materials and more. There are a couple of major fundraisers: a native plant sale the first week of May and a native tree sale in the early Fall. CFC also hosts bird walks and a robust seed gathering program. All are run by volunteers! For more information, call CFC at 847-382-SAVE (7283). Check out their website for more volunteer and member opportunities: https://citizensforconservation.org Check them out today!
Nature crosses boundaries and does not recognize political or human made boundaries of interest.
The Barrington Greenway Initiative (BGI) is doing the same and helping nature.
BGI has six strategic partners: Citizens for Conservation, Audubon Great Lakes, Bobolink Foundation, Lake County Forest Preserves, Friends of the Forest Preserves, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
One goal is to link some 14,000 acres, providing natural migration of plants & animals. Another is to see how strengthening ecosystems protects residents’ quality of life – cleaner air, purity and supply of water, flood and erosion control, carbon sequestration, mental and spiritual well-being and physical recreation. For more information, contact CFC.
BGI has monthly work days – volunteers are welcomed! It’s a very friendly group and a wonderful opportunity to understand more about the world we live in!
Opportunities with Flint Creek
Flint Creek/Spring Creek Watershed Partnership has volunteer project opportunities as well. For example:
- Researchers and Writers: Do you enjoy delving into topics related to the environment? Translating what you’ve learned and sharing it with citizens? Are you interested in water quality, groundwater, water abundance, water stewardship issues? Or, are you interested in researching what we know about the effectiveness of native plants and raingardens to protect our waterways?
- Editors and Designers: Do you like to distill writing to its essence for web and web-newsletter articles? Do you have a sense for web-based layouts or print brochures? (for future education outreach)
- Data-Diggers: Are you willing to explore public documents or research with municipalities to develop lists of HOAs in our watersheds? Or lists of Creekside landowners?