New Stream Monitoring and Stewardship Handbook Supports Participatory Science in the Basin

By Caroline Mckelvey and Ashley Eaton
November 21, 2023

The Stream Monitoring and Stewardship Program was the original educational activity offered when the Watershed Alliance (WA) program began in the early 2000’s. WA is a Lake Champlain Sea Grant and UVM Extension education program designed for K-12 students and their teachers throughout the Lake Champlain basin. Our goal is to increase awareness and knowledge of watershed issues in youth throughout Vermont and New York. 

While Watershed Alliance has evolved over time, the Stream Monitoring Program continues to be a cornerstone in the Lake Champlain Sea Grant educational offerings. Through the Stream Monitoring Program students explore the biological, chemical, and physical parameters of local stream sites to understand the health of their local waterways. Students use hands-on models to visualize watersheds and run simulations to observe how human activity impacts water quality. Students also explore solutions using best management practices. Many classrooms pair this stream study with stewardship and outreach activities such as raising brook trout or salmon in the classroom and using their stream monitoring data to determine where to release their fish. 

Stream monitoring is a systematic way to assess a waterway’s ecological integrity and understand how humans may have impacted it in the past and how our actions on the land continue to influence water quality today. Through monitoring, we can compare the current state of the study area to that of water quality standards. Then, predictions can be made about the surrounding watershed’s health. Knowing this, we can design solutions to water quality issues and advocate for better water quality management practices in and around the stream. Furthermore, water monitoring and engagement in stewardship projects allows students to make connections between humans’ actions and the health of the environment, which helps to foster future generations of environmental stewards. 

While informal handbooks have been used internally for the Watershed Alliance program, the popularity and success of this participatory science program called for a shareable resource that could be utilized across the basin and beyond. The education team spent the last few years writing, editing, and piloting the new handbook. Through a contract with Methodikal, Inc., a local graphic designer in Burlington, the team created a professional handbook codifying the Stream Monitoring Protocols. The Handbook is intended to be used by a multitude of personnel from participating teachers and their students, Watershed Alliance staff, undergraduate student interns, volunteers or outside organizations looking to build their own stream monitoring programs. 

Ashley Eaton, Watershed and Lake Education Coordinator at Lake Champlain Sea Grant, states “we are so excited to have print copies of this handbook available to share with partners and schools. This is a fantastic resource for folks looking to engage in educational stream monitoring throughout the Lake Champlain Basin and Vermont.”

We are excited to share the launch of our new Stream Monitoring & Stewardship Program Handbook. The education team will be developing the online webpage and virtual resources this winter, so check back this spring for more supporting resources! 

This handbook was designed to support Watershed Alliance’s Stream Monitoring and Stewardship Program, but can also be used as a standalone handbook for those looking to start their own stream monitoring programs. It provides background information on water quality monitoring in an educational context along with directions on how to lead a stream monitoring program. The Stream Monitoring and Stewardship Program is divided into multiple experiences including classroom, field, and stewardship components. Although the time commitment for each component varies depending on your specific program objectives, all three are integral to the overall success of the program. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to watershed.alliance [at] to inquire about becoming involved in our Stream Monitoring program.