A comparison of assessment methods used to determine stream restoration success on surface coal mines.

Raised of $5,490 Goal
Ended on 9/01/18
Campaign Ended
  • $346
  • 7%
  • Finished
    on 9/01/18

About This Project

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for a restored stream measure the physical attributes of a stream, assuming the physical attributes indicate the natural fauna will return. Some methods rely more heavily on riparian attributes than in-stream structure. My hypothesis is that physical attributes of a restored stream and/or riparian zone do not indicate the presence of the key invertebrates. This project tests this assumption.

Ask the Scientists

Join The Discussion

What is the context of this research?

Traditional stream restoration on surface coal mines involves restoring the physical properties of the stream and riparian zones such as water, rocks, banks, and plants. The two commonly used methods are the Rapid Bioassessment Protocol (RBP) and the Hydrogeomorphic Approach (HGM). The RBP and HGM methods consider a stream restored by measuring the physical characteristics of the stream and assume animals such as bugs, crayfish, and fish, will return. The reality is we do not have any data that suggests that the animals have returned to a physically restored stream. My project compares the macroinvertebrate fauna of the restored streams to reference streams. We analyze whether the two most popular methods of assessing streams are also accurately predicting stream fauna success.

What is the significance of this project?

This project is significant because we do not have data on the macroinvertebrate population and diversity in restored streams. Absent indicator species may suggest water quality is impaired, even though the physical attributes of the stream are restored. Measurement of macroinvertebrates, such as mayflies, are an accurate indication of the health of the stream food web. Macroinvertebrates break down leaves and plant matter, so it can be consumed by other members of the stream ecosystem. They also provide food for fish and other animals. The presence and behaviors of macroinvertebrates is an indication that the health of the immediate environment and downstream ecosystem.

What are the goals of the project?

My hypothesis is that physical attributes of stream restoration do not indicate macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity in restored streams. Data will be collected seasonally for a year. Our goal is to compare the macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity of restored streams to the abunance and diversity of natural streams. The restored streams are considered restored by the two most common methods for evaluating physical attributes, the RBP and the HGM. Both the RBP and the HGM methods assume that physical restoration will lead to macroinvertebrate restoration. This study will test this assumption.


Please wait...

The listed items are necessary for field collection and identification of macroinvertebrates used to determine stream quality, and for evaluating streams using current stream assessment methods. Travel expenses were estimated by using the mileage rate that the university uses to reimburse travel, i.e. $0.47/mile.

Endorsed by

This project addresses an important question in stream restoration: When physical restoration is complete, does ecosystem restoration necessarily follow? Michelle is well qualified to perform this research as she has several years’ experience assessing streams after restoration work. Her methods are sound and sufficient to answer the research question posed here.

Project Timeline

The project will take approximately one year. Field visits will occur every three months during that time. The first visit has already occurred. The second one will happen in August, then November, and the final one in February. I plan to publish the data the following summer.

Aug 02, 2018

Project Launched

Aug 31, 2018

Field collection

Nov 30, 2018

Field collection

Feb 28, 2019

Field collection

Apr 30, 2019

Present at the Appalachia Student Research Forum

Meet the Team

Michelle Osborne
Michelle Osborne

Michelle Osborne

I am a graduate student at East Tennessee State University pursuing my M.S. in Biology. I also have seven years experience working as a consultant designing stream restoration projects for coal mining companies. I have always been curious if restoring physical attributes to streams results in restored fauna. This question is what prompted me to go back to school to get a Master's of Science.

Project Backers

  • 9Backers
  • 7%Funded
  • $346Total Donations
  • $38.44Average Donation
Please wait...