Biology students get in the flow of aquatic ecosystem

Students in biology professor Lynda Corkum's class, Stream Ecology, explored the flowing waters of Rock Glen Conservation Area last weekend, gathering data and samples they will process and analyze over the remainder of the semester.

Rock Glen is located near Arkona, Ontario, about a 30-minute drive inland from Grand Bend on the Lake Huron shore. Most of the area is flat, producing meandering, slow-flowing channels, says Dr. Corkum, but the streams rushing over the ancient escarpment at Rock Glen provide unique habitats for aquatic life that are more typical of more rugged parts of Canada.

Hobbs-Mackenzie Creek, a tumbling trout stream, flows into the Ausable River, a larger river that attracts spawning salmon stocked into Lake Huron later in the fall. The students, accompanied by Corkum, professor Jan Ciborowski and graduate teaching assistant Bill Glass, spent Saturday, September 24, comparing the two waterways—using survey equipment to calculate slopes, measuring discharge, and collecting chlorophyll samples to estimate algal abundance. They also compared the aquatic insects that live under rocks in riffles and pools in both rivers.

The techniques students learned are an essential part of protocols used by resource managers to assess habitat quality, hydrology and the overall health of rivers.