Our Activities

The power we have to protect the Stoney Creek watershed depends heavily on our volunteers. The SCEC takes on a variety of streamkeeping activities throughout the year, and we encourage both members and non-members to find their interests, come out, and Get Involved!

A few of the things we do are outlined below. Scroll down for more information. Links provide some additional/historical info.

  • Water quality monitoring
  • Spawning salmon counts
  • Juvenile fish survey
  • Invertebrate survey
  • Bird walks
  • Invasive plant removal
  • Native plant restoration
  • The Great Salmon Send-off (GSSO)

Check out the Calendar to see what activities are coming up. If you don’t find what you are interested in you are welcome to [Contact Us] – it could be that we just need your interest to get something started!

To learn about the benefits of volunteering with the SCEC and what to expect, please visit our Get Involved page.

 

Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality has been monitored in Stoney Creek since 1998 to help identify sources of stream pollution, as well as evaluate changes in the creek’s water quality over time.

This activity takes place year-round. Samples are collected at key locations or set stations by individuals on a regular basis and analyzed for physical and chemical parameters back at the Jennifer Atchison Environment Centre. As salt contamination has been an issue of concern in Stoney Creek, a [Study] was done to correlate our measurements with the water’s salt content, which results from road salt storage and use at SFU.

We are also in the early stages of bringing a data-logger online which will allow us to monitor the water quality at a set location on a continual basis! With success, we hope to bring in additional data-loggers to provide coverage of key areas on the creek and its tributaries.

Sampling August 2011 at Station 1 (Brunette confluence). Photo credit: Matthew Bodnar

Sampling August 2011 at Station 1 (Brunette confluence). Photo credit: Matthew Bodnar

To learn more about issues around water quality, refer to our [Challenges] page – coming soon.

The main parameters we monitor include temperature, pH, and conductivity (related to salt concentrations). Additional parameters that may impact Stoney Creek include turbidity, and to a lesser extent dissolved oxygen.

 

Spawning Salmon Survey

Witness our mature salmon runs returning to Stoney Creek. It is truly amazing to see this small creek full of large fish completing a natural cycle that takes place so close to home! It just takes the first heavy rains of the fall to bring up the water level, which provides the signal to return to spawn the next generation.

Six salmon species can be found in Stoney Creek: Chum, Coho, Pink, Steelhead, and both resident and sea-run (anadromous) Cutthroat trout. Our fall surveys generally target the returns of Chum, Coho, and Pink salmon. Spawner ID Chart

Salmon are particularly good indicators of stream health because they require good water quality and good quality habitat conditions for survival. Monitoring the return and successful spawning of salmon every year helps the SCEC to maintain an overall idea of the health of the Stoney Creek ecosystem.

Surveys are conducted between September and mid-to-late December. Come out and learn to identify the different salmon species, or just to appreciate the spectacle and connect with our creek.

Some info on our returning spawning salmon follows:

Chum2015

In the graphs above and below, you can see that in 2010, Stoney Creek had an increased Coho run, but a smaller Chum run. Interestingly, this situation was reversed in 2012, when record Chum were observed throughout the Lower Mainland. Is there something to this apparent inverse relationship between Chum and Coho salmon, or is it just a coincidence?…

Coho2015

Pink counts appeared to be declining in recent years in Stoney Creek. However, our creek is only a small part of a larger watershed, and we are cautiously optimistic about interpreting these results alone. Indeed, we were glad to see a return of Pink salmon in 2013, and delighted even to see that they were spawning in the pools behind recent weir additions to the creek (more info on this habitat improvement project can be found on the [Projects] page – coming soon).

Pink2015

Juvenile Fish Survey

To monitor the health of young salmon and smaller species like the cutthroat trout that are not easily viewed otherwise, small minnow traps are used to temporarily catch these fish. We record the species, numbers of fish trapped, their sizes, and also collect water to check its quality at the time of the survey.

From the time the fish are transferred from the trap into a clear bag, the work is done quickly to minimize the stress on the young fish.

These coho (small, vertical stripes) and cutthroat (larger, spotted) were trapped, counted, measured, and released in September 2013. Photo credit: Jennifer Cook

These coho (small, vertical stripes) and cutthroat (larger, spotted) were trapped, counted, measured, and released in September 2013. Photo credit: Jennifer Cook

 

Invertebrate Survey

Aquatic invertebrates have an important role in the ecological functioning of streams. They help break down organic matter such as woody debris which provide usable nutrients to other aquatic life. They eat microscopic plants, and are the primary source of food for fish and some birds, amphibians, and small mammals that live in the area. Aquatic invertebrates include insects which live part of their life cycle in the water and crustaceans such snails, and crayfish.

Aquatic invertebrates are being more extensively used by researchers as a way to monitor stream health. If water quality is poor, pollution sensitive invertebrates perish, while others which are pollution tolerant increase in numbers. They are also sensitive to physical changes such as increases in siltation or water temperature. In addition, catastrophic events such as chemical spills can often be detected by a complete absence of stream invertebrate populations. By measuring the presence, absence and abundance of different species, habitat problems can often be detected.

Invertebrate monitoring has been an on-going activity in Stoney Creek since 1997. We compare invertebrate populations between locations, season, and monitor changes in these populations over time. In the future, invertebrate sampling may also be used to monitor areas where periodic poor water quality has been reported.

IMG_20130660

Volunteers collecting invertebrates to take back to the Centre for sorting and counting during summer 2013 (live bug-wrangling anyone?). Photo Credit: Matthew Bodnar

 

Bird Walks

Riparian zones are important refuges for bird species; especially in urban areas.  Stoney Creek currently has two groups doing regular bird surveys to assess the health of our bird populations.  These surveys also serve as an indicator of the overall health of the Stoney Creek Corridor.

At the moment volunteers walk one of three survey circuits varying in length and habitat.  Each circuit has been broken up into sections, or stations, to help pinpoint bird sightings.  Birders record what they see and hear:

  • bird species
  • number encountered
  • male or female
  • adult or juvenile
  • station number
  • any unusual activity

Two people must verify visual or audible sightings for accuracy.  This data is then entered onto an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis.

 

Invasive Plant Removal

Stoney Creek works hard to reduce the impact of invasive species in the watershed. This activity is also one of the simplest to organize and can take place at pretty much any time of year. Mostly we have dealt with removal of English Ivy, but the list of invasive plants around us is much larger:

  • English Ivy
  • Himalayan Blackberry
  • Policeman’s Helmet
  • Yellow Archangel
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • and more…

There are a variety of plants that have been introduced from other parts of the world to Burnaby and the Lower Mainland. Many of these are very familiar to us, but we may not know that they are not a natural part of the ecosystems here. A plant species is only called invasive if it thrives in it’s new environment, and often out-competes native species for room to grow. Some invasive plants are also very innovative in their methods and ability to reproduce (for more information see [Education] – coming soon).

Come learn about these invasives and how to effectively and safely remove them from our environment!

 

Native Plant Restoration

This activity is generally conducted following the invasive plant removal in an area. In the past we have received donations of native plants from local nurseries, or they have been salvaged from other areas prior to developments going up, and kept healthy by volunteers until we have the resources in place to give them their new home.

Planting activities are best done during the fall, when rains are available to keep the plants watered while they become established in their new environment. Once established along the creek, native plants provide the ideal habitat for other animals and also provide shade and shelter to the creek.

The SCEC thanks the Lower Mainland Green Team for partnering with us on multiple planting projects. These activities take a fair amount of person-power to transport plants and gear down the trails, and to dig the planting sites.

Some of the species that we will plant include:

  • Huckleberry
  • Red Osier Dogwood
  • Thimbleberry
  • Vine Maple
  • Alder
  • Sword Fern
  • Salmon Berry

 

The Great Salmon Send-Off (GSSO)

This event comes around every year in the second week of May.

The GSSO is a fun, family-oriented day of activities and booths, with the main attraction being the release of thousands of new salmon fry or smolt into Stoney Creek.

Come out to learn from all the groups in attendance, and help your kids connect with nature by personally releasing salmon into the creek.

For more information on the GSSO, please check out the GSSO page.