Boots on the ground: AmeriCorps members conduct water quality surveys with Snoqualmie Tribe

Our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) restoration crews focus on restoring important habitat along the banks of Washington’s rivers and streams. By planting these riparian zones — the places where land and water meet — with native trees and shrubs, members gain hands-on experience while improving ecosystem health and water quality throughout the state.

Partnering with the Snoqualmie Tribe

Among nearly 100 non-profit, local, state, federal, and tribal partners, one of our WCC field crews is dedicated to supporting projects for the Snoqualmie Tribe, such as removing invasive plant species and installing native trees and shrubs. Recently, this crew got the chance to put on muck boots and head out with the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Environmental and Natural Resources (ENR) Department to help conduct water quality surveys. Through this project, members were able to gain experience by collecting and analyzing data. 
Kelsey Taylor, the tribe’s Water Quality Manager, conducts monthly water quality surveys, helping ensure water quality complies with tribal code to protect the health and resources of the Snoqualmie River and its tributaries. The tribe has authority to manage and regulate the waters within its jurisdiction and receives grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor reservation waters. 

Gearing up and collecting data 

In March, with a water probe slung over their shoulders, AmeriCorps members set out for Kimball Creek, a tributary of the Snoqualmie River. Kelsey taught the crew how to set up and calibrate the probe. Using the device, and an accompanying phone application called VuSitu, they checked different water quality measures including temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, turbidity, and salinity of tributary streams passing through tribal land. 
A person wearing a bandana over their face holds a cup into a stream to collect a water sample.

AmeriCorps member Antonio Flores collects a water sample.*

They also checked the tribe’s data loggers — instruments permanently installed in the water to record data such as temperature and dissolved oxygen throughout the year. Recording the data helps illuminate how these qualities change with the seasons.
“It’s exciting we have this opportunity and shows how open the Snoqualmie ENR team is to providing training for the crew,” said AmeriCorps member and assistant supervisor Antonio Flores.

Water quality impacts reach far

This sort of project is important on many levels. People and wildlife depend on rivers and the resources they support. It's important to protect these waters for current and future cultural, ecological, and recreational use. The tribe monitors the water that flows through its reservation to ensure it meets or exceeds federal water quality standards. 
Data measured through water quality surveys supports the longevity of healthy salmon runs. When temperatures are too high or pH levels are outside normal ranges, salmon are likely to struggle to thrive in the streams. For example, the field crew found the water in areas with bare riverbanks and little tree cover was warmer than ideal for salmon. Warmer water also results in less dissolved oxygen for fish and other aquatic wildlife species. Riparian restoration projects that WCC crews conduct will create shade, cool the stream, and help make it more habitable for wildlife and salmon. 
A person wearing a face mask kneels near a stream, holding a probe in their left hand and a phone in their right hand for data collection.

AmeriCorps member Josh Gest uses the probe to record data on temperature, dissolved oxygen, PH and more. *Photos by Kelsey Taylor.

In addition, AmeriCorps members gain new skills and experience through projects like this, helping inform their next steps beyond WCC. By conducting water quality surveys, the crew got to learn even more about the scope of the environmental restoration field.
“Surveys are a great way for members to get applicable environmental monitoring experience,” said WCC crew supervisor Carly Perez. “It gives them a chance to see the impact of their hard work.”
Learn more about how Ecology also supports water quality statewide on our website.

Interested in joining the WCC?

Four people stand around a smolt trap in the shallow part of a stream, one is holding a clipboard and one a net.
We are now recruiting for AmeriCorps positions on WCC field crews statewide! Visit our website to learn more and apply. With 51 field crews and an individual placement (internship) program, this is an exciting chance for young adults (18-25) and military veterans to gain hands-on experience in habitat restoration, trail building, education, environmental monitoring, and more.