Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Walking in the river
I have had this set of chest waders since October. As part of my job, I work with high school students surveying riparian and in-stream habitat.
These students are AH-MAZ-ING. They have to apply to participate in the program, and only a few new students are added to each team. They learn the protocol, and go out to do this work in ALL weather. It has snowed and rained on us. One time we had to send one student in the lead to break up the ice on the side channel we were surveying before the rest of the team could go through. Ice breaking students?! They had so much fun that day, even though we were all super cold.
We follow the Aquatic Inventories Project: Methods for Stream Habitat Surveys developed by Oregon State and ODFW. In simple terms, it means that we teach the students to assess the quality/quantity of the in-stream and riparian habitat based on an established protocol resulting in usable data for the council.
It also means that I get to walk in the river, climb up, around and over log structures, and really do my best not to fall on my butt in front of kids who are 22+ years younger than me. The first few times I went out with them, I felt like I was a million years old. I was so slow and clumsy. I'm a lot better now. Although, chasing after 15-18 year old students through the woods, streams, backwaters on a regular basis certainly hasn't hurt my physical abilities. I believe that it is more because I trust my own body to do the things I need it to do - stand against fast flowing water, stumble instead of falling, walk along a log covered with slick moss, jumping down onto uneven ground without hurting myself.
The school year is coming to an end, and although I'll have 2-3 more trips out with these kids this summer, I'm already looking forward to the next school year.