NS200 Watershed Ecosystem Analysis

Sterling College        Summer 2011

Instructor:        Farley Anne Brown                        Phone: 586-7711 ext. 156        

                                                        Email: fbrown@sterlingcollege.edu


Class:                Tuesdays and Wednesday

Course Description: 

The course will provide students with an understanding of the ecological, social, and political aspects of a watershed.  Combining a study of stream ecology and land use, we will gain a better understanding of the multifaceted ecosystems within a watershed and our relationship to these ecosystems.  Throughout the course, we will read and discuss watershed issues, as well as collect and analyze biological and cultural resources field data.   Each student will participate in the Black River Bioassessment, resulting in a comprehensive written report.

Course Objectives:        

1. Understand watersheds and riverine systems.

2. Compare the relationship of aquatic, terrestrial and cultural systems within a watershed.

3. Understand the tools and protocols to measure and interpret these resources within a watershed.

4. Understand the land use issues within a watershed.

5. Understand the policies surrounding watershed planning.


Active participation in class

30 points

Wildbranch River Bioassessment

  • Weekly reports (30 points)
  • Final Report (20 points)

50 points

Final Exam

20 points



(Highly Recommended)

(On Reserve)

Students bring a variety of learning styles to class.  We will be using a variety of oral, written and technical skills.  If you have a learning problem or documented disability, please check in with Leland Peterson, Sterling College’s Learning Support Coordinator.  Leland can help you determine what accommodations would be helpful for you in this course.  I can meet with you and Leland, or simply let me know what you and he decide.





Tues 5/31

All day

Introduction to the Course


  • What is a watershed?
  • Delineating & Dissecting a Watershed
  • Watershed Components


  • The River Continuum Concept
  • Fluvial Geomorpholgy
  • Exploring a local watershed

Wed 6/1


  • Discussion of reading: Entering the Watershed 

  • Biological Assessment: Macroinvertebrates and their Habitat

  • Introduction to Wildbranch Watershed Project

  • Discussion of the project assessment tools

Fieldwork: Establish research points within the Wildbranch watershed

Entering the Watershed (on reserve, Part 1: Forgotten Waters, Chap 1 & 2, pg. 1 – 30))

 Vannote, Minshall, Cummins, Sedell, Cushing (1980) The Rive Continuum Concept Canadian Journal of Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37:130-137

A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates (Section I, pg. 9 - 26)

Tues 6/7


  • Discussion of reading:  Water: A Natural History

  • Introduction to Benthic Macroinvertebrates and their habitat needs


Field – Biological Sampling in the Wildbranch

Water: A Natural History 

(Introduction and Chaps. 1 & 2)

River Watch Network, Living Waters: Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Habitat to Assess Your River’s Health:

  • Section I – Introduction
  • Section II – A Closer Look at Benthic Macroinvertebrates

A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates (Section I, pg. 27 -75)

Wed 6/8

Continue with Benthic Macroinvertebrates

  • Specific Families of Macroinvertebrates

  • Understanding the Habitat Requirements of Macroinvertebrate Families

Field - Biological Sampling in Wildbranch

Water: A Natural History 

(Chaps. 3 & 4)

Assignment:  Using A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates, choose one family of the orders Emphemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, Megaloptera, and describe the habitat needs of each family.  Are you finding this habitat in the Wildbranch watershed?  If so, describe the habitat.

Tues 6/14


  • Discussion of reading: Water: A Natural History

  • Historical Land Use throughout the Watershed – Legacy Soils


Fieldwork: Biological Assessment at Research Points

Water: A Natural History 

(Chaps. 5 & 6)

Montgomery (2008) Dreams of Natural Streams Science 319:291-292

Wed 6/15

Treatment of Wastewater in the Watershed

Water (chaps.7 & 8)

Johnson Wastewater Treatment Facility Brochure

Tue 6/21

Wed 6/22

Land Use Policies in Watersheds

Reading for this class: Water (9 – 11))

Tues 6/28

Understanding the Role of Wetlands within the Watershed

Mic Metz - Wetlands Ecologist, Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Agency of Natural Resources

Reading for this class: Vermont Wetlands Rules

Wed 6/29