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Deer Creek offers restoration and training projects

Deer Creek offers an endless supply of restoration and research projects. Photo by Justin Wood.

Kelly teaching in the outdoor classroom of Deer Creek

Deer Creek also makes an excellent outdoor classroom. Here, Kelly teaches a group of homeschool science students.

Programs of Sierra Streams Institute

With expertise developed in the course of our work in the Deer Creek watershed, we offer a variety of services and programs to local students and their families, regional watershed groups, and government agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

Trainings are available in all aspects of restoration and monitoring program development and implementation, with the goal of increasing regional stewardship capacity. While the state of California has expressed the need for increased capacity, it is no longer able to offer the training that is needed for the development of successful monitoring programs.

Sierra Streams Institute trainings are customized according to the needs of the organization, and adhere to state protocols so that the resulting data can be shared statewide. Trainings are offered in the following areas: organizational capacity building; volunteer recruitment, training and retention; protocol development and adoption including chemical, physical and biological parameters; data analysis; regulatory compliance; research; and grant writing/fund development.

Sierra Streams Institute is delighted to be one of the training sites for the UC California Naturalist Program. Students in the program will become part of a committed corps of volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists, equipped with the skills needed to take an active role in local natural resource conservation, restoration, and education. The ten-week course combines science instruction with guest speakers, field trips, and project-based learning to explore the unique ecology and natural history of the northern Sierra foothills.

The 2017 spring program is full! If you would like to be placed on a wait list, please sign up on the California Naturalist Program Interest Form.

Active Project

California Naturalist program

Follow the link above to learn more!

Training on how to use the Bug Book

Bug Book training.

Watersheds throughout the Sierra Nevada have suffered impacts to their health, water quality and ecological function as a result of gold mining, residential development, road building, agriculture, diversions, and other activities. Our restoration programs are aimed at correcting these problems, with efforts that include the following: abandoned mine remediation, salmon habitat restoration, invasive non-native species removal, restoration of native vegetation, geomorphological restoration, and integration of traditional native practices.

Our work is focused in the Sierra Nevada, with the goal of increasing stakeholder participation in the restoration process. We have undertaken extensive restoration efforts in our home watershed of Deer Creek; to learn more about this restoration work, visit the Friends of Deer Creek page. We have also established the Bear River Watershed Group, which is dedicated to doing restoration work in the Bear River watershed.

native plant revegetation

Revegetating with native plants.

To meet the need for rigorous and engaging science instruction, particularly in charter and home school settings, SSI offers science education programs with an emphasis on outdoor learning. We work with local schools, homeschool students, Sierra College, and the California State University system to offer instruction in watershed science, both in the classroom and in the field. We develop science curriculum for all levels and abilities, and offer classes for organizations and the general public. Students have the opportunity to assist in actual field restoration and monitoring projects, exposing them to careers in restoration ecology, hydrology, conservation, fisheries management, and wildlands management.

Our science education program has three underlying goals:

  • Provide students with a basic understanding of scientific principles through hands-on instruction in our watershed.
  • Promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers for rural youth.
  • Create a new generation of environmental stewards.

The Science Education homepage offers detailed information about our many science education programs.

hands-on watershed science education

Observing benthic macroinvertebrates collected from Deer Creek.

  • The Nature of This Place, an outdoor science K-8 curriculum guide we developed in collaboration with The Yuba Watershed Institute, is available for sale or free download from Flicker Press. More information

Sierra Streams Institute is engaged in research in all aspects of watershed science, in an effort to expand our understanding of how to protect and improve watershed health and to protect the health of the people who live in specific watersheds. We undertake studies, publish papers, present at conferences, and share data with universities and agencies. Published reports are available on our Publications and Reports page. Spreadsheets of data can be downloaded from our Stream Science page.

In one research project, we are investigating how the waste left from historic gold mining in Nevada County may be affecting breast cancer rates among the women living in the county. To learn more about this research, follow the link in the Active Project box below.

Active Project

Community Health Impacts of Mining Exposure

Follow the link above to learn more!

Another of our current research efforts involves establishing the foundations for using algae as a bioindicator of stream health. To learn more about this pioneering research, follow the link in the Active Project box below.

Active Project

Using Algae as a Bioindicator

Follow the link above to learn more!


Installing a stream-flow gauging station for the Sierra Water Trust project. Photo by Justin Wood.

Sierra Streams Institute has a comprehensive laboratory services program offering various analyses at low cost and in a timely manner to other organizations and agencies. Our services include water quality monitoring, chemical assays, benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and identification, and analysis of mercury and other heavy metals. Duplicate sampling by local and state government laboratories in the course of several collaborative studies has confirmed the validity and consistent reliability of our laboratory data.

lab photo

Testing samples for Mercury content. Photo by Josh Miller.