– Guest blog by Ellen Squire, DOC Community Ranger
Textbook results and real-life backyard science made for a fun day out last month with Waitara High students. Close to 40 year 10 students collaborated with two Rangers from the Department of Conservation, the local education officer from Taranaki Regional Council, along with Otaraua Hapu and Waitara Alive, to explore the Mangahinau Stream.
This stream has been an ongoing project for the local Taranaki office and the Waitara community, with pest plant and rubbish clearing, and extensive planting and fencing being carried out over the past seven years.
This stream provides a great example of riparian planting and fencing (and lack of it) and the influence it has on both native and pest fish as well as instream habitat. Students worked together to check a series of gee-minnow traps along the stream and to also record basic information such as temperature, stream bed composition and water clarity.
The results were textbook! It was amazing how clear cut the students’ findings were, with only galaxiids and bullies found in the cool, shaded riparian planted areas, and gambusia in the un-fenced area! The water was also a couple of degrees warmer in the un-planted area, with water clarity reducing significantly the further we went from the native planted area.
The students, who were a bit hesitant about traipsing along the stream bank and looking at fish, became really engaged as the day progressed. Going from a class session the day before, to carrying out real science in their own backyard was great for the kids, and it was awesome to see how they got stuck in.
The students will now analyse their results and present them to the Waitara community in an information evening coming up next term. The land owner’s granddaughter was one of the students who participated, so watch this space! This was a great, easy to teach example of how we can improve in-stream habitats in urban areas and how easily we can influence local environments.