The Salmon Watcher Program is one of the “Climate Steward” examples provided in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Change, Wildlife, and Wildlands Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators. The program trains volunteers to collect information on spawning salmon in streams and rivers throughout two Washington counties; these monitoring efforts help scientists determine natural and climate-based fluctuations in populations.
Many salmon species in Washington State have been designated as threatened or endangered. Populations have declined due to disease, overfishing, and dam construction; climate change is also a threat. Earlier snowmelt and increased precipitation rates will alter flow patterns of the streams and rivers that salmon use; warmer waters may also affect salmon physiology and alter behavior. The Salmon Watcher Program, founded in 1996, trains citizen scientists to monitor the status of salmon populations in streams and rivers throughout King and Snohomish counties. This project is one of the case studies in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Change, Wildlife, and Wildlands Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators, developed to aid educators in communicating how climate change will affect the environment and how people can become “climate stewards.”
The Salmon Watcher Program trains volunteers to identify different salmon species, including Chinook, coho, sockeye, kokanee, and chum. Volunteers monitor salmon populations at assigned streams twice a week between September and December (spawning season). Information is also collected on any barriers to salmon passage in the water. The information collected is then passed on to scientists so that they can determine fluctuations in populations; scientists can then use these data sets to identify variability. The program is conducted with support and cooperation from the Bellevue Stream Team, Redmond Stream Team, and the cities of Seattle, Bothell, Kirkland, Renton, and Woodinville.
The Salmon Watcher Program is an ongoing citizen science effort to monitor and provide information that may help identify the effects of climate change on different commercially and ecologically valuable species in Washington State.