Tools of the Monitoring Trade
Posted by mocobio on July 27, 2009
On fish monitoring days, we all meet early in the equipment room. Gathering equipment takes about one hour each time we go out into the field. Without equipment organization and meticulous planning, monitoring would be haphazard. With so many people depending on our results, equipment calibration becomes an important part of the quality assurance process that provides reliable date from our monitoring procedures. Cleaning equipment is an equally important process to ensure that our samples are correct, but also to ensure that we don’t introduce disease, alien exotics, and bacteria into the environment we are sampling in.
In all, there are 53 items we need to bring into the field on fish monitoring days. The items range from data sheets to more complicated equipment such as our hydro lab and electro shockers. Some of the equipment includes:
Buckets: After capture, the fish, crayfish, and salamanders are placed into buckets until they are identified and inventoried. The buckets are oxygenated with bubblers to minimize trauma to the animals.
Bubblers: These portable oxygenating units are similar to those found in common aquariums. Their purpose is to provide an oxygen-rich environment for the creatures while they await identification and weighing.
Data Sheets: These documents are where we store information obtained on site. Every detail is documented including habitat conditions, water chemistry, and lists and quantities of species found at the site.
Block Nets: Two large floating nets are placed across the stream’s cross section and are separated by 75 meters. The nets help to contain a specific section of stream, known as the stream work station. The biological specimens within this area can’t escape up or downstream.
Digital Scale: We use the scale to measure the biomass or collective weight of all the fish captured. If a stream has a low biomass, it can be an indication of poor stream health.
Electro Shockers: This piece of equipment is worn as a backpack. It operates off a battery similar to that used in automobiles. The voltage used depends on several factors including the size of the fish, the depth and width of the stream, and the water’s electrical conductivity. The voltage range is typically between 100 and 500 volts. We submerge the anode, a long hand held pole, into the water and run an elecetric pulse through it. This stuns the fish without killing them. They float to the surface, where we collect them in nets and place them in temporary holding buckets for sampling.
Waders: We use hip high and chest high waders to keep us dry as we collect fish in the stream. More importantly, they insulate us from the electric pulses discharged from the shockers, as well as the cold water temperatures, enabling us to work for long periods of time in relative comfort.
Hydro Lab: Another vital piece of equipment is this hand held device which measures water chemistry. Once submerged, it gives water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and water conductivity readings.
Having the right equipment cleaned, calibrated, and working properly allows the Department of Environmental Protection staff to accurately record and assess the quality of our streams and watersheds. As you can tell, instrument care and maintenance is an integral part of our monitoring program.
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