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Last updated:

May 15, 1999

UW-RF to Inventory Kinnicknnic River Watershed

By Mike Gugala

UW-RF News Bureau

The net is put in the river, the bottom is kicked up and the contents are sifted to find all available specimens.

No, this is not a gold rush but an inventory of aquatic insects in the Kinnickinnic River watershed being performed by UW-River Falls biology Professor Clarke Garry.

Garry has been collecting samples from the Kinnickinnic River since February and will continue to do so throughout the remainder of this year, producing an inventory. The following year he will gather samples from other subwatersheds and tributaries including: Nye, Ted, Kelly, and Parker Creeks, as well as the Lower, Middle and Upper Kinnickinnic, South Fork and River Falls.

By gathering this information Garry hopes to create a baseline for what insects are in these waters, such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. The inventory could then be used to detect possible changes in the watershed in the future.

The "Kinni," as it's affectionately known to local residents and trout fishers, is consistenly labeled as one of the best trout streams in the Midwest, with more than 6,000 fish per mile. But the stream's watershed is undergoing continous change from the development associated with its location in Pierce and St. Croix counties, which are part of the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The two counties are among the fast growing in Wisconsin.

Garry explained that when the population goes up, more houses are built and less water goes into the ground. This produces more run-off, which may decrease the life of insects and fish. Garry said the problems related to run-off are temperature changes, sediment or erosion and pollution. By studying the insects in the river, problems such as these could be monitored based on insect populations.

Garry brings extensive field experiences to his research. He previously was funded by the National Geographic Society to study insects in the Canadian tundra and boreal forest because of its similarity to the Upper Midwest's geology before the last ice age, some 25,000 years ago. His work studying insects is being utilized by other scientists as a yardstick in their efforts to accurately date other geological and anthropological discoveries in the region.

The cost of the Kinnickinnic project will be around $1,500, with Trout Unlimited providing most of the funding. The Hudson Kiap Tu Wish chapter has contributed $965 to partially fund a student assistant for the first year's work. That student is Eric Secrist, a UW-RF senior biology major from River Falls. Garry also received a $500 grant from the Lois Almon Small Grants Program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.

The University's department of biology will provide lab space, maps, nets, microscopes and office services.

Garry is donating his time and travel for this effort. He became interested in the complete inventory project as a result of using the Kinni and its South Fork, which runs through the campus, as a classroom over the past six years for his UW-RF entomology classes to determine water quality.

"I'm naturally curious. I love to go down to the stream. It's one of the greatest environments to stand in and just look around at what's there," said Garry.

The project will consist of continuous sampling and identifying. This includes collecting samples 1-2 times per weekend and spending 2-3 nights a week at the microscope examining the specimens. Garry will prepare a final report that will be presented to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for its use.

This project may be just the beginning for Garry who wants to eventually do a more extensive study.

"Many people don't have the patience or the inclination for a project like this. I hope to bring a technical look to it. You have the outdoor experience, plus bringing the science to it. Hopefully it will help preserve the stream," said Garry.

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