Students In Action Stream Monitoring in Morrell Creek

The water quality of the Clearwater River Basin, particularly the large, low elevation lakes that are a backdrop to the community, has been a concern for several decades. Our lakes are directly influenced by the condition of the surrounding watershed, but there has been very little new information about the condition of the streams draining those watersheds since earlier work in the 1970s and 80s.

Local schools and CRC have been working to fill that gap.  Patti Bartlett and Seeley Lake Elementary 7th and 8th grade students have been monitoring conditions in Morrell Creek for more than a decade.  In 2011 the Seeley-Swan High School joined with CRC to initiate the “Students in Action Morrell Creek Water Monitoring Project” to expand that work. Morrell Creek is an important stream for bull trout and other species, an important aesthetic resource flowing through two housing developments and a resort golf course, and the site of an ongoing “Riparian Classroom” supported by local schools, natural resource organizations and the Seeley Lake Community Foundation.

The goal of the work is to engage students in real world science relevant to their community. The objectives include development of high quality information on stream flows and nutrients that directly influence our lakes. They also include monitoring of local fish populations.  Morrell Creek has become a “hands-on” learning opportunity linking hydrology, ecology, chemistry, climatology, statistics and mathematics to a local stream. It is providing important new information relevant to changing climate, a baseline for long-term monitoring, and a calibration point leveraging work across the larger Clearwater Watershed and with a network of schools and volunteers in neighboring communities.

The project has received funding through the Seeley Lake Community Foundation, the Plum Creek Great Classrooms Program, the MT DEQ Volunteer Monitoring Support Program for water quality, the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC), The Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent, and the Seeley Lake Sewer Board.

Links to reports and other materials from this work: