Eel River Recovery Project
Have you wondered about the algae that grow in the Eel River and what makes the South Fork and lower branches turn toxic in dry years? On Saturday, Sept. 14, in Phillipsville, University of California doctoral candidate Keith Bouma-Gregson will be on hand to explain how to identify algae, which types may be dangerous, and what he is studying to get his degree.
The event is sponsored by the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), and Keith is leading this year's algae monitoring efforts with assistance from volunteers throughout the watershed.
Toxic conditions in the Eel River basin have only been occurring for a little over 10 years, and local communities and public health officials are not out in front of the problem. Part of the ERRP's mission is to help the community understand the ecological condition of the Eel River and repair the river so it is once again fishable, swimmable and drinkable. As we explore questions about what has caused the Eel River to experience toxic blue-green algae proliferation, we may also learn how residents within the watershed can help restore the river's balance.
_Keith Bouma-Gregson is part of the Mary Power Lab in the Department of Integrative Biology at U.C. Berkeley. Most of UC's studies in the basin have been directed at answering questions about ecological functions in the relatively intact upper South Fork watershed within the UC Angelo Preserve. Working with ERRP is now helping them expand their focus.
ERRP and Bouma-Gregson are in close coordination with the Humboldt County Department of Public Health, which is awaiting results from his tests for blue-green algae toxins. Keith has placed resin devices in the river that can absorb these toxins in order to quantify concentrations. Small water districts along the South Fork and lower Eel River also have strong interest in the toxic algae problem and support grant initiatives by ERRP to get them more technical support to learn how to deal with it.
ERRP is a broad-based grassroots movement that operates under the fiscal umbrella of the Trees Foundation. People wishing to participate on Saturday, Sept. 14 should meet in Phillipsville at 11 a.m. between the post office and Deer Horn Market before proceeding to the South Fork Eel River for the training.
For more information call 943-1750.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF EEL RIVER RECOVERY PROJECT
1. Keith Bouma-Gregson examines algae species on a rock at Swimmer's Delight, on the Van Duzen River on June 22, 2013.
2. Retired Ferndale High School teacher David Sopjes collects a sample as Keith takes notes at a monitoring location above Fernbridge in lower Eel River on July 13, 2013.
3. ERRP volunteers assist UC doctoral candidate Charlene Ng (second from right) and Dr. Mary Power of UCB (second from left) as they take the last algae sample of the season in the lower Eel River. Also pictured are volunteer Sage Halvorson (right), Diane Higgins (center), and ERRP volunteer coordinator Pat Higgins.