January Water Quality on the Rio Chama

Today was a fantastic day on the Rio Chama! Since December, we have acquired 8 new students in River Classroom, and today was their first day on the river. These students made up one full group, so they got a thorough introduction to the riparian ecosystem that we monitor and explore.

Our three groups had separate missions. One group tested water quality on the Rio Chama. One group surveyed benthic macroinvertebrates. One group went for a hike to search for animal tracks.

Testing the water for phosphates
New students learning to use a kick seine
Two of our new students search for benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick seine
Examining benthic macroinvertebrates under a microscope

We had an exciting last minute addition to our schedule today when New Mexico Game and Fish brought a load of rainbow trout to stock the river. They graciously allowed our students to watch the trout fly out of the truck into the river.

A representative of NM Game & Fish explains his job to the students
Students watch as fish fly out of the truck and into the river
Splish, splash! Into the Chama!

A few adventurous students even helped move the fish around!

A student carefully releasing a fish into a more favorable part of the river

It provided a great opportunity to talk about why stocking is necessary, why we know the river will support the fish (since we tested water quality and surveyed benthic macroinvertebrates), and the importance of limits to how many fish you can keep. Apparently as long as the water isn’t icy (today it was 4.1 deg C), the fish can be stocked, but the colder water can be shocking.

It was a fantastic day on the river. We are so happy to have a few new students, and we have a great spring planned!


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