Survey Your Site

How can your project help a freshwater ecosystem in your community?

You've explored how your species is impacted by poor water quality, and examined your species’ relationships with other living and nonliving things in its ecosystem. It’s time to make a plan to help the animal you have chosen. The first step in designing your project is to decide where it will happen. Depending on how close you are to a river, lake, or wetland, you can either directly improve the health of that freshwater site near you by conducting a Site Project, or you can help the larger watershed you live in by conducting a Watershed Project.


Questions to Consider

  • Where might your species choose to live near you?
  • Which freshwater sites match the habitat needs of your species? 
  • Are you able to visit the site(s) and get permission to do a project there?

If you are not able to find or visit a site that your species could live in, consider choosing a watershed project. This project will help your species and many others by improving the health of your larger watershed!

Site Survey

If you are near a site that your species might live in, you can design and do a Site Project.

If you are near a site that your species might live in, you can design and do a Site Project. Select a freshwater ecosystem near you that could be home for your species. You may perform a site survey on one or more sites. Below are some examples:

  • Bodies of water on or near your school grounds
  • Water at a nearby park 
  • Small streams or creeks alongside roads, sidewalks, or other developed areas 
  • A nearby pond, lake, or river
  • A cattail patch 
  • Swamps or other wetlands 

Survey the site(s) to find signs of your species and what it needs to survive and thrive in its habitat. Note signs of water quality and human impact. Make sketches, or take pictures or videos of the area. Talk with people who use the area to begin piecing together clues for why the ecosystem is unhealthy for your species. 

Map your site as you conduct your survey. Add labels and notes that describe what you see, such as plants and animals, habitat features, or human impacts and interactions with the site. Mark one or more places where a project could occur. 

Repeat Step 1-3 at other sites you want to consider, compare survey results, and choose your  project site.

Heads-up! Make sure you get permission to work in that space before you consider it for a project.

This site survey will help you define the problem you want to solve at your site.

Watershed Survey

If you are not near a site where your freshwater species could live, you can do a Watershed Project to improve the health of your community's water ecosystems by raising awareness and encouraging positive action in your community!

If you are not near a site where your freshwater species could live, your project might focus on changing a specific type of activity in your community that is harmful to the watershed and species living there. You would become experts on this human impact and raise awareness about it in your community with people who could help create positive change. The effects from your Watershed Project would make their way to your local rivers, lakes, and wetlands, and help the species that live there. 

Survey the site to track the path of water from where it falls to where it moves through the watershed. All water that falls on your school grounds, home garden or community park becomes part of your local watershed. Track the path of rainwater that falls on your watershed site during rain shower or while the area is being watered with sprinklers or a hose.

  • If the water runs off the grass or soil, where does it go? Follow it until it disappears. 
  • Follow the water through a parking lot, down sidewalks or roads. (Walk along the side of the road and with permission and safety in mind.) Where does it go? Where does it disappear? 
  • Find the storm drains in your project site. What are they? Why are they where they are? Where do they go?
  • What human activities could add harmful materials to this rainwater?
Map the site to show the path water takes after it falls on the site to move into the watershed and possibly on to a nearby river, lake, or wetland.