By Watershed Protection Program Director Lauren McGrath
Welcome to Willistown Conservation Trust’s 2023 Creek Week! We are so excited to have you join us on a meandering exploration of stream ecosystems — from the tiniest single-celled member of the biofilm to one of the largest rodents on the planet — there is so much to learn about in the Watershed Program’s favorite ecosystem.
This year, we begin with one of the most critical pieces of determining a stream’s health and function: water temperature. Water temperature dictates the ability of stream life to survive and thrive, and as stream temperatures increase, so does the stress level of sensitive species, like brook trout and macroinvertebrates; a perfect segue to day two of Creek Week, where we will be learning more about the life cycles of different stream insects! Dragonflies, mayflies, and riffle beetles all play an important role in ecosystem health in all of their life stages.
On day three, we look at what powers the insect base of the food chain: Biofilms! These microscopic ecosystems are all around us and play important roles in transforming light and chemicals into energy, often without much celebration. Learn more about how biofilms are present all around the world — even within your own body.
While we love to celebrate the diversity of endemic, or native, macroinvertebrates, we would be remiss if we did not dedicate a day to learn about one of the newest arrivals to local streams: the New Zealand mudsnail. Join us on day four to take a deep dive into a potentially disruptive new arrival, which has been documented around southeastern Pennsylvania in the last several years. These little snails can form populations so dense that they remove the biofilm from a stream completely!
While invasive species can be very small like the New Zealand mudsnail, invasive species can also be quite large. Day five brings us face to face with the infamous Northern snakehead, an Asian fish that was first discovered in 2004. Learn more about this frightful predator’s unique adaptations that make it difficult to fully remove from a waterway.
Finally, we end with the colorful Tale of Charlie Woodscomb: a True Beaver Pioneer. Learn more about the behaviors of beaver through the eyes of Charlie, known fondly as Chompy, as he explores his environment looking for a healthy ecosystem to build a life.