FTTU held a volunteer appreciation day on Wednesday, June 29, on Linn Run and invited the local media to attend. A picnic lunch was the chapter’s way of thanking everyone who volunteered their time and services for the study. Demonstrations of electro-shocking and macroinvertebrate collection were conducted. Josh Penatzer, Project Manager for Loyalhanna Watershed Association donned the battery pack and electrodes and probed the waters while volunteers followed with nets. The sampling was abbreviated because the water was low and they didn’t want to stress the wild brook trout. More extensive electro-shocking will be conducted in the spring during higher water flows and fish will be checked for gill lice then released unharmed.
Andrea Kautz, Research Entomologist for Powdermill Nature Reserve instructed volunteers on how to use nets to collect trout bugs. Alongside the stream, she coached the volunteers how to sort and identify the bugs which are indicators of water quality. They captured an assortment of mayflies, caddis flies and stoneflies in a matter of minutes. Both Andrea and Josh supervised the volunteers on June 16th when they sampled 12 sections of Linn Run including the major tributaries.
FTTU received a grant through the Foundation For Pennsylvania Watersheds to do a comprehensive study of the Linn Run Watershed with the end result being a Cold Water Conservation Plan identifying problem areas that can be addressed to improve conditions for the native brook trout inhabiting the watershed.
With assistance from our partners at The Loyalhanna Watershed Association, DCNR/Linn Run State Park, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Powdermill Nature Reserve, Westmoreland County Conservation District, PA Fish and Boat Commission, The Ligonier Valley School District and our own citizen scientist volunteers, we have so far completed a visual habitat assessment, a macroinvertebrate survey and a water quality analysis. Look for the conservation plan to come out in 2022.
On Wednesday, June 16, FTTU volunteers gathered at the Grove Run Picnic area in Linn Run State Park to do a comprehensive aquatic macroinvertebrate collection and study of Linn Run and its tributaries. Andrea Kautz, Research Entomologist at the Powdermill Nature Reserve, and Josh Penatzer, Project Manager with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, were the professionals who supervised the study. Previously, Andrea conducted a macro identification training session for volunteers via zoom, and both Andrea and Josh demonstrated the use of kick nets, explained the collection protocol, and oversaw the identification, sorting and scoring process on site. FTTU members with previous experience in macro collection led teams that carried out the kick net collection at 11 different sites within the watershed. Each site had at least 200 organisms captured. The samples were collected in buckets and brought back to the Grove Run Picnic Area where they were counted and sorted to the Genus level and then returned to the stream. All this work was carried out between 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm thanks to the great response we had from volunteers and Andrea and Josh’s guidance.
The numbers and types of macroinvertebrates inhabiting a stream are great indicators of stream health particularly the “high quality” Genus’s of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.
The final report for the Linn Run Coldwater Conservation Plan will be produced in about one year. The study is to determine the overall health of Linn Run and the fishery. Next step, based on the information collected, is to determine if there are potential remediation projects we can undertake that might improve stream health and trout habitat.
FTTU has been wanting to do a comprehensive study of the Linn Run watershed for a long time and finally, it’s happening in 2021. President Larry Myers has assembled a team with FTTU and local conservation organizations including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Westmoreland County Conservation District, the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, the Powdermill Nature Reserve, DCNR – Linn Run State Park and FTTU citizen scientists and local volunteers to accomplish the work. The first step was to do a visual habitat assessment of the watershed which involved walking the entire length of Linn Run and its tributaries. FTTU and community volunteers were assigned “beats” and put boots-on-the-ground looking for impairments and scoring their sections in various categories including sediment deposition, channel flow, embeddedness, riparian vegetative cover, riffle-run-pool frequency and bank stability. The teams took detailed notes, photos and GPS coordinates.
Water quality was next. Samples were collected at various locations around the watershed and were tested for pH, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen and total dissolved solids at our on-site lab at the Grove Run Picnic Area on May 12. Other samples were taken in key locations for professional testing for nitrates, phosphates, acidity, aluminum and turbidity.
Up next will be a macroinvertebrate study and an electro-fishing study. Locations for these activities is to be determined.
Many thanks to our partners, Greg Schaetzle of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy conducted the habitat assessment training, Andrea Kautz of Powdermill will do the macro identification training and Josh Penatzer will handle the electro-fishing study.
The project is funded by a grant from The Foundation for PA Watersheds.
The results will be compiled into a Conservation Plan which will make it easier for us to acquire grants for future stream improvement projects.
Volunteers from FTTU were on hand for an educational day on the stream with local junior high school students. Becky Bell, a retired biology teacher with the group Graceful Aging, conducted the session at the Adams Falls area of Linn Run State Park. The kids learned about macroinvertebrates and how to conduct a leaf pack study. Leaves from various species of trees surrounding the stream are placed in mesh bags and anchored in the stream. Macroinvertebrates, which feed on leaf litter, take up residence in the leaf packs. After a period of 3-4 weeks, the students will collect the bags and analyze their contents. We are interested in seeing if the summer flash floods which scoured Linn Run’s stream bed, had an effect on the macro populations. For more info on leaf packs see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCeCj5qu4K4