By Alex Cooper, Community Watershed Specialist
A year after we kicked off our Streamkeeper program in partnership with the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, over 25 Streamkeepers returned to Lorimer Park along the Pennypack Creek to celebrate their first year. This time around, these citizen water quality monitors brought friends and neighbors eager to join the team.
The Streamkeepers took this opportunity to reflect on successes and challenges, and discuss ways to improve the program and expand their knowledge. Streamkeepers performing in-stream monitoring were supplied with waterproof boots and new monitoring gear.
Staff Scientist Kathryn Christopher of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University provided an overview of the Academy’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which relies upon multiple levels of monitoring to assess each of the smaller watersheds (such as TTF and Pennypack) in the larger Delaware Watershed. The overall DRWI is funded by the William Penn Foundation.
“Citizen data helps ensure the accuracy of the higher-level monitoring,” Kathryn explained. Following Kathryn’s presentation, the crew did what it does best: trekked down to the creek and performed an assessment. The purpose of the group assessment was to see how these folks have matured as citizen scientists. Veteran Streamkeepers helped new members spot erosion, identify algae and vegetation, take photographs and complete the Streamkeeper Monitoring Form.
Over the past year, Streamkeeper data has informed us on the condition of the Tookany Creek and its major tributaries (Jenkintown Creek, Rock Creek, Mill Run, and Baeder Creek.) Their photographs are shared with scientists unfamiliar with the local geography. Streamkeepers have documented dams that restrict flow, areas of streambank erosion, temperature, algae and a handful of other indicators of stream “health”.
Streamkeepers have also captured the many benefits the creek offers: fish and aquatic life (snakes, American eels, turtles and salamanders are spotted frequently), people recreating and fishing, bird sightings, rare plants and insects, and scenic areas. While pH readings and inventory of riparian plant species are building a valuable data set, it’s these instances of residents and wildlife using the creek that remind us that the Tookany Creek is a gem worth understanding and protecting.