Stream ecology class has students wading into field experience

Biology students explored the flowing waters of Rock Glen Conservation Area over the September 22 and 23 weekend as a field trip for professor Lynda Corkum’s course in Stream Ecology.

To ensure a full experience for all participants, half the class of 32 went each day, comparing the area’s two rivers: using survey equipment to calculate slopes, measuring discharge, and collecting chlorophyll samples to estimate algal abundance. The students also compared the aquatic insects that live under rocks in riffles and pools in each river.

“The techniques they learned are an essential part of protocols used by resource managers to assess habitat quality, hydrology and the overall health of running water systems,” said Dr. Corkum.

Students will spend the semester analyzing and processing the data and samples they collected.

Rock Glen is located near Arkona, Ontario, about a 30-minute drive inland from Grand Bend on the Lake Huron shore. Most of the Ausable River drainage area is flat, producing meandering, slow-flowing channels. At Rock Glen, the rivers flow over the ancient escarpment, providing unique habitats for aquatic life typical of more rugged parts of the country. The smaller Hobbs-Mackenzie Creek, with overhanging vegetation, flows into the large, open Ausable River at the conservation area.

Corkum’s fellow professor Jan Ciborowski and graduate teaching assistant Jeff Buckley assisted with the trip, the 25th in an annual series for the two faculty members.