Friday, 19 August 2016 14:29

Is Rock Snot clogging up our rivers and streams?

Written by Michael Short
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Ok, sorry for the juvenile headline, but I didn’t think Didymosphenia geminata is all that catchy, besides Rock Snot, is the common name believe it or not. Some folks also call it by its shortened name of didymo.

Recently Alberta’s top biologist for Trout Unlimited Canada, Lesley Peterson hosted a training evening for some citizen scientists who will be heading out testing for this type of algae that may be expanding its range.

Shoreline covered in didymosphenia geminata

As these algae will attach itself to rocks in a river or stream, and as it grows it can form a large thick mat which can have an impact on spawning fish and even have a bearing on the insect life for that section of a river. Typically we associate algae blooms to lakes or streams that are nutrient rich — not so for the didymo — it prefers colder water and fewer nutrients to prosper.

Alpine lake with didymosphenia geminata bloom

Individual field testing kits and even an app are all part of the toolkit volunteers will need to record and collect samples.

While didymo may actually be a native species here in Alberta, there is concern that changes in environmental conditions may be causing it to “bloom” and cause problems for habitat. Samples collected by volunteers will provide valuable information to help researchers.

Some the volunteers are anglers, and that's a good fit as these folks tend to cover a lot of ground over the course of a fishing season. Trout Unlimited can also save a fair amount of money using volunteers.

Current funding is for just this year, and TUC is running the project as a pilot. Expansion to other provinces may be possible in the future. Anglers are being asked to collect their samples during the summer/fall so that the lab analysis may be completed during the fall/winter and a report is ready for next spring.

Screen view of the app - part of the toolkit volunteers will need to record and collect samples

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