Up a river without a paddle

Accounts from this year’s ever-popular rivers course, taught by Center for Watershed Sciences staff, read more like the Chronicle for Drier Education — thanks to this fourth year of extreme drought.

The spring 2015 class had to forgo plans to reach study sites by rafting the Wild and Scenic section of the Tuolumne River (“Wild” as in Class 4 and 5 rapids), because of reduced flows from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. They otherwise immersed themselves snorkeling.

Peter Moyle, Sarah Yarnell and Carson Jeffres taught this year’s class, which culminated in a 7-day educational journey along the Tuolumne, including its upper watershed in Yosemite National Park.

Each student is part of a team that surveys a reach of the river, collecting data on aquatic insects, fishes, sediment and river habitat.

This is a “capstone course” for juniors and seniors that ties together pieces of environmental science they learned in introductory courses and applies them holistically to a watershed — so they see, usually for the first time, how they fit together.

The interdisciplinary emphasis is reflected in the course’s formal über-syllabic name, Ecogeomorphology.

Photo: UC Davis student Mariah Quintanilla snorkels in the Tuolumne River, June 2015.