NPS Entomologist Becky Nichols and interns conduct a stream profile.
In the field
To construct a baseline and answer their research questions, Becky and Chuck, sometimes accompanied by interns, pull on their waders and splash into streams. In the summer, the waders are heavy and hot. In the winter, the scientists are bundled against the cold and crawling on their hands and knees to follow the waterway. No matter the season, it’s important that these scientists follow an established sampling protocol, or system of taking samples of stream life, at each of the streams. Once they’re at the stream, they follow the following protocol:
1. Describe the structure of the stream: measure the width, depth, and gradient (how steeply it slopes) every 10 meters (about 30 feet), for a total of 10 measurements over 100 meters. This description is also called a stream profile.
2. Take basic water conditions: Measure the water temperature, conductivity (a measure of which metals are in the water), pH (acidity), and dissolved oxygen. In addition to measuring conditions each time they are in the field, a sensor they placed under a rock records temperature over many months.