Aquatic Life Update

Hello, I am Dominique Willis, and I have been researching the Dell Pond’s aquatic life with Emily Paul. After talking with Jeffrey Sitler, hydrogeologist and environmental compliance manager at UVA, Emily and I learned more about the aquatic life and general function of the Dell Pond.

First, the Dell Pond was designed as a stormwater management system. The Dell filters the water, traps sediment, and lowers the amount of runoff that flows into the Rivanna River system. The Dell accommodates 2-year storm events being able to detain up to 1,451,220 gallons of stormwater. If there is any extra runoff, there is another facility to accommodate it.  The Dell also retains stormwater runoff, allows the water to rise to its natural slope, and then slowly releases the water once it has reached a certain level. This is helpful in reducing rapid runoff, and allows sediment to settle as well.

The Dell, before and after.

Interestingly, the Dell was designed to be a native botanical garden, so 99% of the plants are native to Virginia. This leads to native species returning to this area and thriving. Additionally, the native plants are an important food source for the returning native species. Due to this project, a significant portion of the wetland forest has been restored. Also, UVA students studied the water quality before and after the Dell was built. Their findings show that the water quality is significantly better with reduced levels of phosphates and sediment and low levels of nitrate. There are three zones of the Dell: the upland Mountain zone, the intermediate Piedmont zone, and the lower Coastal Plain zone.


Although the initial purpose was to slow stormwater flows, the Dell has become a habitat for aquatic life. Jeffrey Sitler comments on the aquatic life of the Dell, “It has been stocked with fish on at least three occasions, none of which were sanctioned or directed by UVa.  In the first year of operation, some unknown group put goldfish in the pond.  A few years later, someone put in a mix of native fishes and last year someone put in a couple of Koi.  In addition to these, native minnows, snakes and turtles have been spotted.  Of course we see frogs, crayfish and other natives.”

While I preliminarily took a count of the different aquatic species of the Dell, I witnessed a turtle, ducks fighting each other, and birds roaming next to the pond. Others have said they have sighted a blue heron, geese, and a pair of mallards.



We just received the green low cost water monitoring kit and are using it to test the water of our various sites now. This will be a great opportunity to understand the implications of certain pH levels, temperature, nitrate levels, phosphate, and coliform bacteria in relation to the quantity and quality of the aquatic life in all of the bodies of water we picked as mentioned before. Stay tuned for the results we found from these samples.

Post by Dominique Willis, First-Year, Pre-Commerce