WestSlope Chapter Trout Unlimited Members Jump into Citizen Science

By Deb Fassnacht and Aissa Wise, Watershed Education Network (WEN)

You may have seen a group of people in waders, with nets and stadia rods, wandering in Rattlesnake Creek over the last two years. That would be the Watershed Education Network’s (WEN’s) volunteer citizen science group, Stream Team. WEN has been fortunate to team up with Trout Unlimited to assist with the monitoring of Rattlesnake Creek before, during, and after the Rattlesnake Dam removal. Stream Team is made possible by the Open Rivers Fund, a program of the Resources Legacy Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Rob Roberts and Christine Brissette from TU have provided Stream Team with the necessary goals for monitoring Rattlesnake Creek in coordination with the dam removal and restoration.

Stream Team set out with trained community members to gather baseline data on Rattlesnake Creek, to measure overall health, and monitor changes over time. WestSlope Chapter Trout Unlimited member and trout enthusiast, Joe Toth, joined Stream Team in the Spring of 2019. Joe has remained a steady volunteer who is one of the first to sign up, always ready with his waders! Joe has contributed over 50 hours in the last two years and is one of WEN’s Rock Star Volunteers. Joe was essential in helping WEN achieve our Level 2 Stream Team goals (advanced monitoring specifically related to the dam removal) on Rattlesnake Creek.

One memorable Stream Team outing was during a warm, fall day in October. Stream Team, including Joe Toth and Big Sky Watershed Corps member Reyna Abreu-Vigil, who served with TU this year, headed out to the creek for macroinvertebrate collections alongside Stream Team Coordinator Aissa Wise, Stream Team Assistant Stephie Novak, and Communications Coordinator Cassie Sevigny. They were joined on the opposite bank by a medium sized black bear not 10 yards away, which seemed as surprised to see them as they were to see it. As the team stood at a safe distance and watched, the bear turned and wandered upstream to cool off in a more secluded spot.

WEN welcomes anyone interested to join Stream Team outings in 2021. To learn more, please visit www.MontanaWatershed.org

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