Cumberland County Stream Team Part 2 – Yellow Breeches!

In January, planning for two back-to-back Cumberland County Stream Team data interpretation meetings began. These meetings split the Cumberland County Stream Team volunteers into two sections based on their watershed: Yellow Breeches Creek, and Conodoguinet Creek combined with University Run. These meetings provided the opportunity for volunteers to see the story within the data they had been collecting at their site for over a year.

Over the winter holiday, preparations were underway involving the creation of maps and graphs, and the compilation of background information on stream designations, both of which would go into the extensive data interpretation workbook issued to Stream Team volunteers. This packet includes the information and tools needed to understand how their data were influenced by the local area and how they compared to the rest of the watershed. 

Isabel: I helped establish context for the Stream Team sites for both workshops by creating maps of the local land use as well as calculating the percentage of different types of land use and geology within each monitoring site’s watershed. Additional maps showing monitoring site locations, local geology, and impaired streams for each workshop were created by other staff members during this preparation time. 

Phoebe: To get the most out of the data the volunteers had been gathering, I pulled information from the Chesapeake Data Explorer and then worked on organizing and visualizing the numbers for each of the parameters. I used bar graphs to represent findings over time for each site which immediately began to show trends such as seasonal variations in temperature, or anomalous spikes in nitrate-nitrogen levels. Although the graphs were interesting in their own right, without the additional site specific context given by the volunteers, any trends or odd values would be left without a complete story.

Phoebe Galione ’21 discussing the data values and trends for different parameters measured at Children’s Lake along the Yellow Breeches Creek.

We both attended the Yellow Breeches Creek data interpretation on February 23rd, which was formatted to include a general overview presentation at the beginning, which provided context about how land use, geology, and other factors can influence stream chemistry. From there, the group went through each Stream Team site using the graphs alongside the maps to understand the connections between the two, especially in relation to the entire watershed. It was awesome to see the work we had been doing separately come together to help inform the story. The two of us helped facilitate the interpretation of two sites by briefly summarizing site characteristics as well as asked leading questions to guide volunteers and learn more qualitative information about their sites. Finally, we compared the sites in the Yellow Breeches Creek watershed to the sites within the Conodoguient and University Run watersheds which were the focus of the data interpretation meeting the week before. This provided the opportunity for further comparison and a better frame of reference for how their creek compared to the larger waters it flows into.

Being able to listen to the volunteers give the location-based context that the maps and graphs were unable to show on their own was definitely a highlight of the workshop. It was exciting to hear about the connections to their sites and familiarity with the full creek, including the sites of volunteers who were unable to make it to the meeting. Their passion for their local environment and waterways, as well as monitoring, was clearly apparent through how they spoke and presented themselves when curious community members asked about their actions. 

With the completion of this workshop, the monitors can now look forward to deciding what their new questions and goals are for their monthly monitoring, whether it be continuing with the same parameters, or adding on biological indicators like macroinvertebrates. We look forward to seeing what this Stream Team decides to do next!