Nature and Environment Day Camp Activity Along Wildcat Creek.
The aim of this activity is to explore Wildcat Creek as it changes throughout its catchment. The program will engage participants in ecological field investigations to enhance their understanding of natural ecosystem and watershed processes, explore positive and negative impacts of humans on watersheds, and to see their potential roles as citizens and stewards in protecting natural resources.
The first day will be study of the upper reaches of the creek and the second day, the lower reaches. Field studies will be supported with side activities conducted at Camp Herms on other days, to explore watershed models and maps, erosion, pollution, creek organisms, and the water cycle.
The August 1 hike in Tilden will start at Vollmer Peak and follow Vollmer Peak Trail to Arroyo Trail, to Big Springs, continuing to connect with Wildcat Gorge Trail and end just past Jewel Lake. We will work in small groups of 12, each with 2 adult leaders as described above. Staggered start times and alternate routes (e.g. Lupine Trail to Big Springs) will be used to keep the groups separated. Stopping points will also be varied to avoid overlap, minimize impact, and allow close observation of a larger number of locations along the creek.
During the proposed hike, participants will observe how the habitat, structure, and water quality of the creek changes as they move down stream. Participants will stop at intervals along the hike to record observations on biotic and abiotic elements of the area around the stream including vegetation structure, wildlife, invasive species, human impacts, and physical factors such as light levels, air temperature, slope, erosion, and elevation. We will also gather data on the stream itself, including flow rate, temperature, substrate quality (grain size), erosion, width, depth, and pH. Observation points will be selected to afford clear access to the stream so that measurements may be made without disturbing the creek.
All measurements will be done to minimize disturbance to the creek. Temperature and pH will be done using thermometers and pH strips which can be dipped into the creek from stable points on the bank. Stream flow rate will be measured by timing the movement of dead leaves floating downstream over a fixed distance. Width can be measured with a ball and string that can be tossed across the creek and/or a stiff measuring tape. Depth measurements will be made from stable points on the bank or rocks.
We would also like to observe what kinds of macro invertebrates live in the creek. Each group would explore one point along the creek. Macroinvertebrate searches would include turning over rocks, looking for water striders, and using a 6” aquarium net placed on the creek bottom in the same way that a D-net is used to capture invertebrates kicked up from upstream. Captured organisms would be placed in a tub of water for observation and identification, and returned to the creek within 15-20 minutes.
The hike and observations of the lower reaches of the creek will be done the following day, along the Wildcat Creek Trail in Richmond and at the Wildcat Marsh and Landfill Loop Trail. Similar observations and measurements to those described above will be made where feasible.