Guest Post by Mykaela Barnes
The University of California, Berkeley campus sits in the middle of the bustling East Bay. Within this city campus however is an environmental oasis: Strawberry Creek. The creek shapes the campus, with parts of the stream running underneath the city of Berkeley leading into central San Francisco Bay. As one can imagine, a creek surrounded by 30,000 students is at risk for impact. Before the university, Strawberry Creek served as migratory fish habitat. Steelhead salmon were frequent visitors in the 1930s, but as channelization for storm drainage changed the stream’s morphology, fewer fish were reported in the creek.
To add to the human structural changes, point source pollution altered the creek’s chemistry, no longer providing the conditions necessary for fish migration. In 1989, following the implementation of a restoration plan, three-spined stickleback were introduced to the creek to reinstate the fish population. The rise of the environmental movement inspired the campus community to clean and restore the creek, yet fish populations never stabilized.
As part of my studies here, I surveyed the creek for fish as well as monitored the water in 2018. The parameters measured were dissolved oxygen, stream width and length, temperature, pH, and depth. These measurements tried to identify if there was a correlation between stream morphology, water quality, and fish presence. Additionally, we compared these metrics between north and south forks of the stream. Throughout the surveying, no fish were found. As an EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador, I am monitoring the north fork of Strawberry Creek once again for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and turbidity. I compared data from 2017 and 2018 to what I have collected thus far at the north fork to see if there were any significant changes; the temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels are similar across all years.
The lack of change in the chemistry of the water in Strawberry Creek combined with the absence of fish seems to suggest that Strawberry Creek may no longer be an ecosystem suitable for fish. Continued monitoring efforts and scientific research can help find what conditions are considered healthy for both Strawberry Creek and future fish introductions. In the meantime, I will keep testing the water quality of Strawberry Creek and I hope to share these efforts with the surrounding community.
Editor's Note: Mykaela Barnes is an EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Conservation and Resource Studies and minoring in Theater and Performance Studies. To learn how you can join Mykaela in taking action to protect waterways in your community, check out the EarthEcho Water Challenge Action Portal.
Data courtesy of monitorwater.org