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Washington State University
WSU Puyallup Ornamental Plant Pathology

2021 Volunteer Stream Monitoring Project

Starting Spring 2021

Starting Spring 2021

Starting Spring 2021


Welcome to the project page for our 2021 Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program! The purpose of this webpage is to introduce the project objectives and its importance, then explain how you can contribute. You can learn more about stream monitoring here.

We are excited to announce: we are expanding our monitoring efforts to streams on the east side of the Cascades this year. See below for more details about the project and opportunities.

This project was made possible through support from the 2019 USDA Forest Health and Protection Emerging Pest funding call.



The purpose of our Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program is to monitor streams throughout Washington for microbes that can potentially harm plants.

What are we monitoring for?

Specifically, we are monitoring streams for a group of microbes that produce swimming spores known as Phytophthora (fy-toff-thor-uh). This group is responsible for many plant diseases around the world and threatens the health and sustainability of many of Washington’s natural resources and plant-based economies. Read more about Phytophthora here.

Why are we monitoring Streams?

Monitoring streams is a great way to capture the swimming spores produced by Phytophthora. In general, by ‘fishing for Phytophthora‘, we can collect baseline information about all of the Phytophthora species present in a watershed. The methods to ‘fish for Phytophthora‘ are described more below. Read more about stream monitoring here.

Stream bait bag

2021 Monitoring Project

The 2021 stream monitoring project is unique because we aim to monitor areas near populations of Western Larch.

Western Larch

Western larch (Larix occidentalis) is a sun-loving and fire-tolerant species that is culturally and economically important in the inland Northwest.

Western Larch and Phytophthora

Surprisingly, western larch is highly susceptible to Phytophthora ramorum, the species that causes Sudden Oak Death. This is evident in Britain, where P. ramorum has devastated vast areas of Japanese larch grown in plantations.

In addition, P. ramorum is known to produce enormous amounts of spores on larch, thereby putting other nearby species at risk if infected.


The objectives of the 2021 stream monitoring project are to reveal the Phytophthora species present in watersheds close to western larch populations on the east side of the Cascades.

We aim to: monitor between 10 to 20 stream locations over about 2 months during the late spring and early fall.

We need: Citizen scientist volunteers to help collect samples. Please sign up below if you’re willing to contribute or interested in learning more.

Target Monitoring Locations

Target Areas

In general, we are interested in sampling streams near the following areas because of their proximity to larch, tourism, and or urban development:

  • Rimrock/Silver Beach
  • Leavenworth
  • Wenatchee
  • Cle Elum/Ellensburg
  • Trout Lake
Google Map of Idea Sampling Areas
Click on the map to view the target areas.

Why Monitor Near Urban Development?

Phytophthora species are often accidentally spread via the trade of plants. For example, APHIS recently confirmed the accidental shipment of infected rhododendron plants from Washington and Canada to other parts of the country. Therefore, new urban developments that have had changes in landscaping or other restoration activities, may have introduced more Phytophthora species into those areas.

Why Monitor Near Recreation Areas?

Phytophthora species can be spread via any means where moist soil or plants are moved. Therefore, Phytophthora species can be accidentally spread on the tires of machinery or off-road vehicles, and even hiking boots. Because of this risk, we ask that you brush off and disinfect your boots or tires before traveling to new areas or forests. Similarly, it is for this reason that we’re are interested in monitoring areas that receive high levels of tourism and recreation, or areas where plants may be occasionally dumped. Please let us know if you know of any sites in the general areas that meet these conditions.

Sampling Design

In recognition of possible unintended consequences of urban development, we are interested in sampling areas before and after recent urban development. This will help us determine if the urban area is a possible source of Phytophthora species we should be concerned about.

How to Contribute!

You can contribute to this research by following the steps outlined below.

Steps to Contribute

  1. Sign up to let us know you’re interested in participating.
    1. Indicate the general area you’re willing to sample.
    2. Indicate the number of locations you’re willing to sample (e.g. two locations would consist of one location before and one after urban development, ideally).
  2. After we communicate, we will send you sampling supplies (sample bait bag, bait leaves, return envelopes).Stream bait bag
  3. Place the bait bag and leaves in the stream at your location(s) for 14 days.
  4. Collect and exchange bait leaves, continue to ‘bait’ the stream.
  5. Send old bait leaves back to our lab using mailing supplies we provide.
  6. Track the results of your leaves as we process them to see what you caught.

Sign Up

Interested in Contributing?

Please fill out the webform to the right or contact us for more information. We will get back to you shortly with more information and instructions.

More Information

Stream Monitoring

More information about stream monitoring and the value of this method for early detection is available here.

Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program

More information about the WSU Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, including results from previous years, is available here.