Thank you Stream Team 2017!

Over the last few days we had an intrepid team of 10 volunteers join our stream team, rearrange their schedules to beat the oncoming rains, and conduct our 5th annual stream invertebrate survey of Vashon creeks. We finished exactly 1/2 an hour before the fall rains started!

Bianca holds a golden stonefly. Stoneflies are predators eating other invertebrates. They need cold, clean water and are one of the most important foods for salmon and trout. Some fishermen call these salmon flies. photo by: Laurel Saville

 Invertebrates in the creeks are like canaries in the coal mine for detecting the health of streams. They are food for salmon, trout, sculpin, and crayfish among others and different invertebrates are tolerant or intolerant to different stressors (for example temperature, pollution, desiccation). Knowing what animals are living in our creeks helps us know how to better take care of our watersheds. These surveys are long and involved and we absolutely couldn’t do them on the scale that we do without our community pitching in. Thank you!!!
Data for all past years is stored on:
We had many interesting finds this time and the stream teams were super fun to work with at all the creeks.
Here are some highlights:

–In Ellis, despite what looked like a good water level, a cursory look at the samples seemed to indicate very low levels of life. This was puzzling. We will see if this is true as we go through the samples more closely.

Pull! Pull! It’s all fun and games until someone gets their boots sucked off in the knee deep mud…well it’s still all fun and games really. This team was a hoot. photo by: Diane Emerson

–In Gorsuch, we were pleasantly surprised to find a healthy population of small trout. Rusty and Adria were able to catch one. Initially I labeled it a cutthroat as it had the distinctive slash on the throat. However, after turning a photo into the county fish biologist it appears there’s a chance it might be a cutbow which is a hybrid between a cutthroat and a rainbow. This would indicate that at some point this creek may have supported rainbows/steelhead or maybe still does.

It was THIS BIG! Say Adria and Rusty about the cutthroat trout they caught. While it is a little fish it is a super cool find. Last official record of trout in Gorsuch creek was 2001 so it’s great to know they are still around. Also, this might be a cutthroat/steelhead/rainbow trout hybrid as it has characteristics of both. This is significant because while there are stories from old-timers of steelhead in our creeks, there has never been a confirmed record. photo by: Bianca Perla

Small trout in Gorsuch creek. The slight orange chin slash identifies this as cutthroat. However the dorsal parr marks, the white tip of the dorsal that spans more than 3 fin rays, and the solid black outline on the adipose fin all identify this as rainbow/steelhead. Could we have a hybrid “cutbow”? This is a very small fish so it is really hard to tell but it is a possibility.

–In Judd, we found a lot of life! Many caddisflies and stoneflies. This was balanced out with a heavy load of black flies (probably due to the higher temps in the water this year). However, overall the creek looked pretty good. It has consistently improved in quality since King County put logs in this stretch. We also found sculpin, small salmonids (we couldn’t catch them so don’t know whether they were salmon or trout), and a native signal crayfish in a deep pool!
–Plants: we found a small knotweed infestation on Gorsuch (this is highly invasive). In our other stream surveys we found significant patches of morning glory and holly. We will notify the proper management agencies to see if we can get these removed. We might be calling on the community for help if agencies are too booked or under-funded to get it done.
The samples from Ellis and Judd will make their way to the 6th grade science classrooms this fall where Vashon Nature Center scientists will work with students to sort and classify the samples. After this the samples classification is verified by a professional lab and data is uploaded onto the Puget Sound Stream Benthos database (link in text above).  This stream survey work and the classroom unit is supported by Schools Foundation, PIE, King County Groundwater Protection Committee, and the Rose Foundation.
Here is a photo album with more from our time on the creeks. Enjoy!
Thanks again to everyone for a great and productive trip to the streams. We could absolutely not do this on the scale that we do without the help of our community. Thank you for helping take care of our streams. 
We do this every year. If you’d like to be involved please email:

2 Comments on “Thank you Stream Team 2017!

  1. Adria looks so darned pleased with herself and that trout! Way to go.
    Thanks to everybody who participated. And a big thanks to the Nature Center for helping to protect and nurture this remarkable island of ours.

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