Chillicothe Middle School students “pay it forward” through water-quality monitoring, stream cleanups and especially through educational projects that communicate their love of north-Missouri streams. “Through the years and all the presentations that we have done, I know we have touched thousands of younger students,” said math and science teacher Nancy Elliott, who founded and still leads the group. Under her leadership, students have earned state and national honors. Grants have helped them buy canoes and a trailer-mounted stream table that carries lessons about streams and watersheds over a wide area. Students earn points for participation, and those with the most points go on a camping or float trip each spring. Does all this make a difference? It did to one student, who told Elliott he would have dropped out of school had it not been for Stream Team. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” she said.
Freshwater mussels make life better for Missourians several ways. They remove mud, bacteria and algae from water. They are food for otters, birds and fish, and their sensitivity to pollution serves as the basis for water-quality regulations. Ten of Missouri’s mussel species are endangered. The Conservation Department, the Kansas City Zoo, Missouri State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have released more than 3 million captive-reared mussels into the wild since 1999. This is only a temporary solution, however. Habitat restoration, protection from poaching and pollution control are the keys to long-term mussel recovery and stream health.
The Missouri River is home to dozens of fish species that few people ever see. Missouri’s stretch of river alone is home to 50 or so palm-sized or smaller fish species. These include bluegill, green sunfish, crappie and white and yellow bass. Anglers use creek chubs, fathead minnows, golden shiners, gizzard shad and goldeye for bait. Less familiar is the ghost shiner (Notropis buchanani), a shimmering silver wraith barely 2 inches long that is so prolific it can double its numbers twice a month under favorable conditions. The eastern mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) is a voracious predator of mosquito larvae and bears live young instead of laying eggs. These and other small Missouri River fish are at risk due to competition from invasive Asian carp, which grow much larger but compete for the same microscopic food. No one knows yet how this competition might affect larger fish, such as catfish, that rely on the Missouri River’s little fish for their own food.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler