Science Projects

Citizen Science Utah Water Watch- 10/2/2015images

10 volunteers participated in the Citizen Science Utah Water Watch training on October 2nd from 9:00 – 2:00.  5 ERWP partners were on hand to help with the training.  Brian Greene from USU was the trainer.  He began the day with an in-depth description of the program and its importance, and other places in Ut where data is being collected.  Then he described the scope of work that is involved in monitoring water quality, how to collect the data, and how to use the database.  Once all questions were answered we departed for the Headwaters demo site for the hands-on part of the training.  Use of equipment was demonstrated, and then participants conducted the monitoring protocols.  We followed up back at the Visitor Center where participants selected site locations for their monitoring.  Brian had two full sets of monitoring equipment which he left with the group, and he mailed down more equipment for each participant.

Some folks began their monitoring and others are waiting until spring to get underway.  This program has a 7 month minimum requirement, once a month, for monitoring/data collection.

Frontier Science School- 4/15/2015

FSS-3Congrats to Escalante High School, the first to participate in a Frontier Science School field trip! Here’s a photo of most of our group after a day of activities along the Escalante River, including water quality testing and macroinvertebrate sampling, a ranger-led hike introducing citizen science, vegetation mapping with invasive species specialists, electrofishing with field biologists (yep, we shocked and held and studied fish, including trout, daces, and suckers), and last but not least, tucked into a secluded alcove — a sunny spot out of the bone-chilling wind — nature journaling. We wrote, we drew, we questioned. Kudos to teachers Rebecca Harris and Stacy Davis, who took their students outdoors, and to Principal Bert Steele for supporting and attending the trip. Kudos to our instructors, too — scientists from state and federal agencies, as well as community volunteers and representatives from local nonprofits. And kudos especially to Escalante’s students and parents, more than 40 in all who braved the elements and dug in. Your roots just got a little deeper! — Frontier Science School, Jeff Muse


Sid Goodloe:  A Half of Century of Conservation and Restoration on the Carrizo Valley Ranch, New Mexico    –   Oct 2014

Dennis Bramble, ERWP speaking with Sid Goodloe in the field

Dennis Bramble, ERWP speaking with Sid Goodloe in the field

New Mexico rancher Sid Goodloe’s presentations in Escalante were well-attended. Following the talks, Sid and ERWP Science Committee member Dennis Bramble traveled to Dennis’ land in Upper Valley to discuss rangeland management.

According to Sid, to be a good land steward you should —
• Know your ecosystems and their history
• Manage them holistically
• Strive for properly functioning watersheds/vegetation management
• Plan your grazing and control it
• Be willing to share your experience and knowledge of maintaining a successful and sustainable operation




Sedimentation Issues

The Escalante River Watershed, due to its geologic structure and topography and frequent intense thunderstorms, sheds unusually large amounts of fine sediment into the water-ways that drain from it. Excess deposition of sediment now threatens the future of the newly rebuilt Wide Hollow Reservoir that serves as the primary agricultural water source for the town of Escalante. ERWP members are participating in a task force that seeks to identify the causes of the sedimentation threat and to find workable solutions for protecting this important water source in the future.


Springs & Seep Inventory

Following the melting of the annual snow pack, nearly all surface water flowing in the Escalante River and its tributaries (periodically augmented by monsoon rains) comes from numerous natural springs and seeps scattered throughout the Escalante basin. ERWP is currently conducting an inventory of significant springs and seeps throughout the watershed.  As a result we expect to obtain the first adequate accounting of where these important sources of water are located, their current condition and human use (if any), their capacity for water production and the quality of the water produced.  These localized and often isolated water sources are essential to sustaining the associated plant and animal communities. At the same time they may be the only reliable sources of water for livestock on the public lands.


Legacy Cottonwoods

Prior to European settlement gallery forests of large cottonwood trees with under-stories of willow and other water dependent vegetation occupied significant stretches of the Escalante River. Habitats such as these are among the most biologically important within the watershed, especially for neotropical birds. Unfortunately, much of the original cottonwood gallery forest has been lost through land clearing, wood harvesting, or natural death of the large trees.  EWRP is now begun a census of the remaining “legacy cottonwoods” – i.e., old, pre-settlement trees, both living and dead. Mapping the distribution of these trees will offer a better picture of where this important resource still remains within the watershed and how it can be protected.  The study of legacy cottonwoods can also help reconstruct the history of the Escalante River over the past several centuries, including changes in channel structure, flow patterns, and major flood events.


Impacts of Woody Invasive Removal

A major focus of the EWRP has been the removal of Russian olive (Ro), an exotic tree, from the riparian areas of the Escalante River and its tributaries. Substantial portions of the drainage have now been cleared of this unwanted species. But important questions remain concerning the longer-term impact of this restoration effort. Will the riparian ecosystems return to their original pre-invasion condition thorough passive restoration (i.e., natural recovery) or will it demand more active approaches (e.g., planting native vegetation) to restore healthy riparian habitats following the removal of Russian olive?  Is it possible that other exotic plants will simply invade the areas recently cleared of Ro?  Will removal of the invasive trees, which has caused considerable narrowing of the river channel and detachment from its historic flood plain, return the Escalante to a more natural geomorphic and hydrologic condition?  These questions and more will be the focus of upcoming EWRP research.


Water Inventory

In a high desert basin, such as the Escalante River Watershed, accessible water is the lifeblood of all living things, human and non-human. Yet there is little detailed information on such basic factors as how much water is available within this watershed, the relative contribution of various sources to water production (i.e., snow melt, rainfall, springs and seeps, ground water pumping) and how that water is utilized by various consumers (plants & animals; agriculture and other human activities). The ERWP has launched a program to collect information of these types and to use them to generate models of water supply and demand under several possible scenarios (e.g., severe, prolonged drought; growth of local communities and businesses). The results of these studies will be available to the public, local governments and land management agencies and can be used to guide the development of strategies that assure a sustainable water future for all.