Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Staff Spotlight: Chris Clayton, River Sentinel.

In the daily - dare I say it? - rat race of saving rivers, it's no surprise that the folks at the River Alliance put a lot of their energy into keeping the spotlight on rivers and streams around this state. That's why I dig 'em! And sometimes, I like to turn the spotlight back on them, too, because they're just interesting people.

Take Chris Clayton. His official job description is "Volunteer Citizen Monitoring Coordinator" but I like to think of him as River Sentinel Extraordinaire! One can spot him zipping across all four corners of the state to train, inspire and coax along the growing network of volunteer citizen stream monitors in Wisconsin. There are rumored occasional sightings in the office behind mountains of waders and reams of spreadsheets. And in between all that work, Chris likes to relax with paintbrush and saw as he renovates his new home.

But seriously, the work he does is important, effective and well-respected. Don't just take my word for it, see the great article published last week in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram about the Volunteer Citizen Stream Monitoring project he has shepherded along. It's going official (DNR is dedicating a position to it!).

Stimulus gives stream monitoring a boost
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
Sunday,August 23, 2009
By Joe Knight

"Of all the federal stimulus money being spent around the country, we were pleased to see a tiny but important bit of it land here that will help Wisconsin's rivers."
So begins an article in a recent newsletter of the River Alliance of Wisconsin.

The state Legislature has allocated $54,000 in stimulus dollars for the Department of Natural Resources to hire a statewide coordinator for volunteer stream monitors.

Greg Searle of the DNR said the monitoring coordinator position still has to be approved by the Department of Administration. The position would be for two years and some additional federal dollars from a source yet-to-be determined would be needed.

"It's short-term. That's not ideal, but the way things are going right now in state government that would probably be our best shot," he said.

Searle hopes the two-year position will become a permanent position funded by federal funds for water quality monitoring.

For Chris Clayton of River Alliance, the creation of the monitoring coordinator position with the DNR means he is out of a job. In October he will begin a new job that involves trying to improve water quality in the Milwaukee River Basin.

For the past four years River Alliance has worked with the DNR to train volunteers to collect water quality data on a stream near where they live.

They have trained more than 250 volunteer monitors. Volunteers enter their information on stream temperatures, oxygen levels, acidity, etc., into a DNR database with their computers.

"We put all sorts of checks in place to make sure the data that is reported is high quality data," according to the River Alliance newsletter.

At summer's end each volunteer gets a summary of information on his or her stream, and they can compare their stream with others across the state, according to Clayton.

At the start, four years ago, some DNR water quality experts were a bit skeptical about how useful information collected by amateurs would be, he said. "Certainly not everyone, but I think for some people they needed to kind of see how the program was going to evolve," Clayton said.

The fact that the DNR now is willing to have a staff member coordinate the program is a vote of confidence for the volunteer monitors, Clayton said.

"I think the DNR has embraced it. This position is going to be full time with the DNR. It says they're willing to move forward and expand the program and have DNR biologists partner with citizens," he said.

Volunteers working with Beaver Creek Reserve, near Fall Creek, were among the first to be involved in the monitoring, he said.

Somewhere from 27 to 30 stream monitors are working through Beaver Creek's Citizen Science Center monitoring streams in Rusk, Barron, Dunn, Chippewa and Clark counties, said Sarah Braun, director of the center.

Most volunteers are in a statewide program with UW-Extension, Water Action Volunteers Level 1, she said, but some are in a more rigorous program, Level 2, coordinated by Clayton.

Level 2 monitors usually use more sophisticated equipment, provided through the Reserve or the DNR, Braun said.

"They're also on a stricter calendar," Braun said. "People are working with the DNR to monitor sites that are important to local researchers. They have to monitor certain days of the month; there's not as much flexibility as with Level 1."

UW-Stout students have been involved in Level 2 monitoring on Gilbert Creek and Elk Creek in Dunn County to document changes in water quality and invertebrates, and on Galloway Creek in Menomonie, a creek with urban-related problems, said Chuck Bomar, a biology professor.

"It's a real valuable learning tool for the students, and they take these skills back to their communities," he said.

Clayton said the program provides good information on the water quality of Wisconsin streams for the DNR, but the best part of the program may be that monitors develop a feeling of stewardship for the creeks they work on, along with a cooperative relationship with the DNR.

Knight can be reached at 830-5835, 800-236-7077 or joe.

posted by the River Rat

No comments:

Post a Comment