Perfect pitch: simple map tools for estimating stream gradients in volunteer monitoring projects

Thomas Tisue
White River Watershed Partnership and Muskegon Community College
Dr. Thomas Tisue holds a B. S. from Beloit College and a Ph. D. (Chemistry) from Yale University. He has been involved with studies of natural water systems since 1970,often supported by competitive grants and leading to several dozen publications in the peer-reviewed literature. Besides his academic career, Dr. Tisue was involved for two decades in work for the UN on sustainable development projects. For the last 7 years, he has worked with three west Michigan volunteer water quality monitoring groups as a technical adviser, while teaching part-time at Muskegon Community College.
The density and diversity of macroinvertebrate communities are commonly used metrics for assessing the health of stream ecosystems. The indicators depend on water quality, of course, but also on the abundance and diversity of in-stream habitats. Stream gradient is a major determinant of hydraulic diversity and therefore also of habitat diversity. Volunteer monitoring programs often lack the resources and know-how to employ sophisticated methods for determining stream gradients, leaving them without the means for selecting sampling sites that are representative with respect to the range of gradients exhibited by the stream under study. This poster demonstrates two simple open-source software tools that effectively solve this problem using Google Maps data. Applications to wadeable streams in the White River watershed confirm the method's validity.
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