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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Roaring Fork Conservancy Uses Citizen Science To Collect Water Temps

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Low river flows and hot weather could be particularly tough on area fish. A local organization is asking boaters and anglers to chip in on a science project aimed at protecting trout.

 

Drought years with shallow waters often mean warmer temperatures in rivers and streams. There’s less oxygen in warmer water, which causes stress for all kinds of aquatic species, including fish.

Roaring Fork Conservancy is asking citizens to help monitor river temperatures in the Roaring Fork Valley. The project is called Hot Spots for Trout, and it’s pretty simple. Anyone can stop by and pick up a thermometer and basic directions, and take the temperature of local waters. They can then enter that data into an app on a smartphone.

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Credit Courtesy of Roaring Fork Conservancy
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Courtesy of Roaring Fork Conservancy
Anglers fish on the Crystal River in the last significant drought year, 2012.

Watershed educator Kristen Doyle said it’s convenient for boaters and anglers to help collect the data, and it can inform fishermen about their own impacts, too. If water is too warm, catch-and-release can be the final straw for fish that are already under strain.

 

“At those higher temperatures, a lot of those fish, even if they’re alive, when they’re released, don’t make it," Doyle said. "They’re just so stressed out.”

If the Conservancy sees temperatures above 68 degrees for extended periods of time, they may alert anglers to fish early in the morning, when rivers are cooler, or to avoid certain locations.

They will be collecting data through the end of the summer.

 

Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.