Freshwater Ecosystems at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center

posted Apr 10, 2016, 6:44 PM by Mary Waters
 

Early on a cool spring morning, the naturalists-in-training arrived at Jesse H. Jones Park eagerly awaiting the day’s activities. Located on the northeast side of Houston, the park was designated a nature preserve by Harris County, with over 300 acres of hiking, biking and canoe trails along Spring Creek. Once the park rangers arrived, the class was split into two groups. The first group began with a pontoon tour of Spring Creek while the second group evaluated the health of a nearby freshwater pond.

Aboard the pontoon boat, the morning sun peaked through large pines and river birch standing tall along the creek. Although recent heavy rains washed down debris and large dead trees, the water level remained normal, according to our guides. Birds of all species were active along the waterway, including several Great Blue Herons, an American Kestrel, and an immature Bald Eagle. The nesting Kingfishers flittered across the water ahead of the boat. The chilly morning air kept us packed together for warmth, while we embraced the heat of the rising sun.

Back at the pond, we learned about using Rapid Bio Assessments to determine the health of a freshwater ecosystem. Park guide Kris Lindberk taught a technique known as dip netting to safely scoop for aquatic species. We broke into pairs and waded along the shallow edges of a pond, fishing for aquatic life. The class collected an array of species from tadpoles, fish and shrimp to worms and aquatic insects. Later, in an outdoor classroom, we viewed our specimens under microscopes and discovered floating globe algae in the pond water. Our diverse collection of aquatic life indicated a healthy water environment with a variety of nutrients, plenty of dissolved oxygen and a balanced pH.

By midday, the sun was shining and the naturalists were enjoying the park, along with many other visitors who were biking, fishing, playing and stopping to smell the wildflowers.

 

 

Story by Jennifer Trandell, pictures by Jennifer Trandell and Linda Cook.

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