Much like Oscar Wilde “I can resist anything but temptation,” and even though I am currently labeled as a biologist my heart belongs to hydrology, which is why I could not resist the opportunity to volunteer with the Elkhorn Slough’s Water Quality Research. With my loyal hiking booths on, my trusty green NorthFace jacket, and my rookie Elkhorn Slough hat I headed out with the Slough’s Water Ecology, Rikke Jeppesen, to collected water samples from twelve of the twenty-four water quality stations.
The twenty-four stations at the Slough are analyzed for night-time dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and nutrient concentrations, macro-algal coverage estimates and light penetration. These parameters are essential for the Slough’s health because they dictate the type of organisms that can live in the Slough’s water and the data can also provide justification for future restoration projects. The water quality of the Slough is a reflection of the heavy human manipulation that it experienced during the early days and the effects of the various industries surrounding the Slough today. Some of the sites we visited have very little tidal interchange and therefore have very stagnant water. This creates a prime habitat for algal growth, which absorbs and liberates oxygen from the water during the day but continues to absorb but not liberate oxygen during the night. This produces areas that have extremely low oxygen levels during the night. Some organism such as a clam can close up and ride out the stress but numerous other organisms can’t cope with extreme changes in oxygen levels.
After collecting the water samples I headed out to the Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) where I met with John Haskins, the Slough’s Water Quality Monitoring Scientist who studied Oceanography at MLML. At the lab we filtered the various water samples in order to analyze nutrient concentrations and filter out the algae to do a chlorophyll test. Though it was a long day that involved stepping in unbelievably muddy places, one in which I momentarily lost one of my not-so-loyal-anymore hiking boots after it got stuck in the mud, it was an incredibly fun day that reinforced my desire to study hydrology. After all, studying water science comes from a great thirst for knowledge.