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No Muddy Waters for Stream Team

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

to keep it pristine. Someone has to step forward and say we're going to help out."

At the University of Missouri, Spohn organized a new Stream Team and plans to revive two other campus teams.

Last year, Spohn devoted more than 400 hours to working with the Stream Team and the school's "R Project." The unique recycling project turns 75 percent of the food and paper waste from the 2,200-student Columbia school district into compost that's bagged and sold at the local Wal-Mart.

For her efforts, Spohn was named last year as Youth Conservationist of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Spohn also was among the students who traveled last year to Washington D.C. to accept the President's Environmental Youth Award for the recycling project, one of 10 projects honored.

Watching the Waters

Stream Team members also develop important life skills, including teamwork, organization and public speaking. Although participation earns them an elective class credit, their work usually takes place before and after school, and on weekends. Activities include an annual float trip and camping expedition designed to heighten their appreciation of natural resources.

For monitoring water, they are guided by a detailed notebook provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It includes chapters on safety, trespassing and environmental laws. Students are trained to monitor the biology of a creek by recording observations of macroinvertebrates, such as dragonfly larvae and snails.

"This is another way to indicate the health of a stream," Lewis said. "If all they find is leeches," Lewis said, "you know right away that the stream has a problem."

After collecting water samples, students return to the school's laboratory to conduct tests for eight other indicators of stream health: fecal coliform, pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, living organisms and clarity. If they find levels of fecal coliform that exceed safety levels specified by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, they alert officials from the local health department and the DNR.

The information collected by the students over nearly 10 years now comprises a database that will enable future generations to track the creek's health or decline, Lewis said.

Watching the Lawmakers

Besides monitoring streams, Stream Team students also monitor water quality issues in the Missouri legislature. Each year, they travel to Jefferson City to have breakfast with local legislators, and then they go to the Capitol to lobby legislators sponsoring bills of interest. Sometimes,

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