Taking a Closer Look

For a lot of people, Thursday mornings start the same way. Wake up, shower, grab some McDonald’s, and head to work. For me though, this Thursday was special: my fellow Youth Ambassadors and our supervisors were starting the day off by setting some turtle traps. Although the Chadakoin River flows only a few yards from the busy streets of Jamestown, its like entering a completely different world. One minute, I was finishing off a breakfast sandwich, and the next minute I was waist-deep in the cool water of the Chadakoin helping set up the nets that will help us learn more about these interesting animals. This is the kind of experience that can be found right in the center of the city, and anybody can enjoy.

Adolf with Net

Within the river itself, it was surprising what kinds of wildlife can be found by just taking a second look. After we finished setting up the traps, our group did just that: we walked downstream from the North Main St. bridge to see what we could find. If you just glance at the River from the road, you would just see some piles of old bricks dumped into the river after the roads were paved over with asphalt. Take a few steps closer, and you might notice that someone dropped an old ball into the water, carried by the current and deposited on top of the brick pile. Its not until you actually get in the water that you realize that the “ball” is actually a freshwater bryozoan, an incredible animal that helps filter the water.

Magnificent bryozoan

It is discoveries like that that make visiting the Chadakoin so interesting. To find such a unique animal among old debris was an amazing moment, and I’m sure that rest of our group was just as impressed as I was that wildlife such as that can be found in an urban environment.

However, finding small animals in the rubble is still just scratching the surface of the life that flourishes in the river. After exploring the river for a while, we then learned how to take a macro-invertebrate survey. Basically, this consists of stirring up the river-bed and collecting the organisms than live on and under the rocks.

It was fascinating to see how many of the little guys could be found right where we had been walking without even thinking about what was under our feet. Within about 15 minutes, we had collected 100 specimens, which can then be preserved and sent to a biologist for further study.

The purpose behind the macro-invertebrate survey is to get an idea of the water quality of the river. Certain species can only survive in water with very little pollution, so by finding and identifying these you can determine that the river is healthy. Finding some of these indicator species, as well as the presence of freshwater bryozoans and soft-shelled turtles, is definitely a good sign that the Chadakoin is capable of supporting a variety of life.

Spiny softshell turtle

Although the day started out like any other, it turned out to have more eye-opening moments than any day yet visiting the Chadakoin. Although we didn’t end up catching any turtles, it was awesome to see that such much bio-diversity can be found by just taking a closer look at the waterway running through Jamestown.

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