Roaring Fork Conservancy Uses Citizen Science To Collect Water Temps

Jun 20, 2018

Lower streamflows can mean warmer water temperatures, and that's tough on fish. Roaring Fork Conservancy is asking local anglers and boaters to help collect data on stream temperatures.
Credit www.instagram.com/packywestfeldt

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.

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

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.