Avery Middle School’s eighth-grade science classes participated in Water Quality studies on Sept. 16 and 17 at the RiverWalk Park in Newland. The students rotated through four stations focusing on various indicators of water quality. Grandfather Mountain naturalists Gabe and Laurie focused on the bioindicators of water quality by doing a count of macroinvertebrates. Students used kick-nets to find, identify and count macroinvertebrates under rocks.

Students also accessed bioindicators by visiting Felix Smith, Toe-Cane Watershed Coordinator for Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development. Students used nets to catch, count and identify various fish. Students also learned lessons about aquatic ecosystems.

Students also visited Appalachian State University’s Geobago Mobile Science Lab from the geology department. Professor Marta Toran conducted salinity, total dissolved solids, pH tests and streamflow/discharge with students. Lessons were taught about how road salts applied in the winter can have a direct impact on water quality in mountain streams and rivers.

Eighth-grade science teacher April Cheuvront led students on taking dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, nitrates and turbidity levels of the stream. Lessons were taught on how these chemical indicators can affect life in the stream. Points were addressed on how human actions could change the healthy levels in the stream.

RiverWalk Park plays a vital role in keeping the North Toe Watershed’s waters healthy. The wetland and surrounding vegetation acts a natural filter, filtering out pollutants such as gasoline and oil from the roadways before it goes into the stream. Newland sits on the Eastern Continental Divide, meaning that it is at the headwaters of rivers. It is important to keep the water at a high quality level because it affects all water downstream.

Even though the water level of the stream was extremely low, the students recorded the water quality to be very healthy. The chemical indicators were all at healthy levels. A high biodiversity of life was also recorded.

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