Community Matters: people who bug us, but in a good way | SierraSun.com
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Community Matters: people who bug us, but in a good way

Lisa Dobey, Sierra Sun columnist

It’s the little things that bug you.

Every community is probably a bit buggy. Truckee North-Tahoe is no exception. We have the Truckee River Aquatic Monitoring Group (TRAM).

Get this: TRAM is comprised totally of volunteers who think it’s fun to collect insects out of the Truckee River and look at them through a microscope so they can identify which ones are living in the river.

Growing up in Houston, I know bugs – the ones that fly, the ones that bite, the creepy crawly ones. It’s hard to imagine that regular folks would go out of their way to look for bugs. They even look for ones so small you need a microscope to see them. My mother used to say “There’s someone for everyone.” In our community we can say “There’s a volunteer job for everyone.”

We’re glad TRAM is around. Everything we do in the Tahoe basin impacts the Truckee River – growth, erosion, re-vegetation, and water reclamation and recycling. What’s needed, though, is a way to determine what impact these activities have. TRAM provides baseline information and ongoing monitoring that examines the long-term health of the Truckee River.

Volunteers take insect samples from a variety of streambeds using the California Stream Bioassessment Procedures developed specifically for citizen monitoring groups by the California Department of Fish and Game. I guess we’re not the only community of bug-loving people in the state. Can you imagine what a statewide gathering of these volunteers might look like? It might make the Comdex convention look positively normal.

After the insects are collected in the summer, volunteers spend the winter analyzing their collection. The end result is an index rating for each creek sampled. Over time, we can see whether the river’s health is getting better or worse, demonstrating positive as well as negative actions in our region.

One of my friends refers to the United States as a nation suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder: as a country, we run wildly this way and then wildly the other way. Taking the time to identify problems, develop long-term solutions, and stick with a promising approach has never been our nation’s strong suit.

Organizations such as TRAM are a form of Ritalin for our country: they are comprised of volunteers who have a vision and the ability to stay the course. They become the environmental historians for our region. Sir Winston Churchill once said “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” TRAM volunteers are writing a history of our community for all of us: let’s hope the lessons learned are kind.

Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation helps support TRAM by providing funds to purchase equipment such as microscopes, fiber optic lights, and a variety of meters. We recognize the need to be able to evaluate what’s occurring in our region.

If you are interested in learning more about Truckee River Aquatic Monitoring, call Jill Wilson at 587-5885 or Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation at 587-1776.

Lisa Dobey is President of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. She may be reached at 587-1776 or at lisa@ttcf.net. TTCF’s goal is to grow local philanthropy to meet community needs and opportunities.


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