UMW science participates in youth field day

UMW News Bureau

With the help of University of Montana Western science professors and students, youth in the Big Hole basin got a first-hand scientific look at their river’s ecosystem at the first Big Hole Youth Field Day on Oct. 21, 2009. With the help of University of Montana Western science professors and students, youth in the Big Hole basin got a first-hand scientific look at their river’s ecosystem at the first Big Hole Youth Field Day on Oct. 21, 2009. The event was organized by the Big Hole Watershed Committee (BHWC), the Big Hole River Foundation (BHRF),  and Montana Tech of the University of Montana’s Clark Fork Watershed Education Program (CFWEP) and funded by BHWC’s Department of Environmental Quality 319 grant. University of Montana Western Departments of Biology and Environmental Science faculty and students volunteered their time and expertise to teach local youth about the biology of the Big Hole River ecosystem. The field education program featured stops at several stations along the Big Hole River at the Kalsta Ranch spring creek restoration project site where over 70 students from the Big Hole basin’s schools participated in authentic scientific experiments and studies. Montana Western biology professor and Big Hole River Foundation member Michelle Anderson operated a station entitled, “High Quality H₂O.” Students at Anderson’s station monitored and discussed water quality variables such as temperature, pH, oxygen and nitrate levels in the Big Hole River. By giving the students a chance to take a closer look at the river ecosystem, Anderson said they were given both a sense of empowerment and a better understanding of the very unique environment in which they live. “The kids did a great job of recording the information they collected on their own data sheets and liked being able to do the tests themselves,” Anderson said. “These important events bring together members of rural communities, young and old alike, to share their knowledge about a vital natural resource we all depend on.” Biology professor Linday Lyon and students from her environmental interpretation class also participated in the field day. Matt Vincent, CFWEP program director, said the program will have an impact on the children and environment far beyond the day’s events. “These types of programs are proven to help students learn science better and to give them a greater understanding and appreciation of the world around them,” Vincent explained. “By learning more about science, individuals can become better ranchers, better teachers, better miners, better anything – just better, plain-old citizens.” Other stations included studies of floodplain function and river morphology; watershed vegetation; aquatic macroinvertebrates; fisheries biology; and the diet of owls and their role in the ecosystem. To learn more about the Big Hole Youth Field Day, or to learn more about the Big Hole Education Program, contact Jami Murdoch at 406-835-3302; BHRF’s Mike Bias at 406-684-5564; or BHWC’s Noorjahan Parwana at 406-490-4364.