1st Onondaga Creek Synoptic Survey

a.k.a. EcoBlitz

September 22, 2007



(image source - http://www.ourlake.org/html/onondaga_creek1.html)



Most watersheds show spatial heterogeneity in many biophysical parameters, but rarely are they quantified simultaneously. We had a rare opportunity to take a holistic look at our local watershed, the Onondaga Creek. This diminutive (320 km2) catchment is the largest contributor within the Onondaga Lake basin, and contains a fascinating mixture of land use and hydrogeochemical gradients. Arising in headwaters of mixed farm and forest land cover, the Creek flows northward through cropland, then the Onondaga Nation, and finally into the City of Syracuse. It represents a strong rural-to-urban gradient, but also interesting hydrology and geochemistry.


About 60 SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students (including an alumnus), faculty, and staff convened on a warm, hazy Saturday in September 2007 to undertake the largest synoptic survey of this watershed to date. Ten water teams (including a chemical methods class) headed out with meters, yardsticks, and sample bottles to assess the chemical characteristics at 40 sites. Three fish teams assessed the fish communities at a dozen sites around the watershed, making the largest one-day assessment of this kind. Invertebrates were collected at most of these sites as well. A riparian vegetation team looked carefully at five sites, and a special study was done of a high-sulfur wetland. In addition, a GIS class accompanied the water teams in a geo-spelunking exercise, in which they verified land use classifications. Pizza and drinks were a welcome reward in the aftermath!




We present below some down-loadable resources for your examination and use. These include a map and accompanying description of the sampling sites, results, and a couple of maps showing some of the chemistry.


We thank the following folks for their help: Don Leopold for financial support and encouragement, Joyce Buczek for arranging the food, Laura Lautz, Ken Hubbard, Myron Mitchell, Pat McHale, David Lyons, Joyce Green, Deb Driscoll, Art Stipanowicz, and the Upstate Freshwater Institute for running chemical analyses gratis, Meredith Perreault, Tom Hughes, Al LaBuz, and Jeanne Shenandoah for arranging permission for us to sample in restricted areas, and the Ben Meadows Company for donating a dissolved oxygen meter. We also thank the many participants and lenders of gear for that day, and the Physical Plant staff who did emergency repairs on incapacitated vehicles.


Enjoy! And send feedback to klimburg@esf.edu.


Map (pdf, 1 MB)

Site descriptions (pdf)

Land use areas by sub-basin, % impervious surface (Excel file)

Conventional water quality and discharge (Excel file)

Chloride, Nitrate, and Sulfate anions (Excel file)

Total N (Excel file)

Dissolved Organic C (Excel file)

Total P (Excel file)

Cations (Excel file)

Fish communities (Excel file)

Comprehensive chemistry of 15 sites (FCH 515 class project, 2 MB)

Riparian plant community data (5 sites, Excel file)

(more may come, so stay tuned!)