Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling with students from Shepherd Elementary

On Friday May 3rd and Monday May 6th I met with Fourth Grade students from Shepherd Elementary at the Little Salt River Park in Shepherd, MI to perform sampling for aquatic macro-invertebrates. A little over two week prior, the Little Salt River overflowed its banks (as did many Mid-Michigan Rivers) flooding much of the park.

Little Salt River Park on 18 April 2013

The scene was much different of May 3rd.  The river was back within its banks and water levels continue to drop over the weekend. 

I was concerned about what we would find in this stretch of river.  I had never monitored this site and did not know what to expect.  My concerns were alleviated in the first five minutes of dipping when I saw the biological diversity that the students were pulling out of the river.

I met with four different classrooms from Shepherd Elementary over the course of the two days.  Students were divided into groups of two or three and given a dipnet, plastic washbasin, laminated macro-invertebrate key, and the Hoosier Riverwatch Biological Monitoring Data Sheet.  There were also eyedroppers, aquarium dipnets, petri dishes, and magnifying glasses available for use. Students had approximately 45 minutes to sample along the river.

Little Salt River Park last Friday 03 May 2013

4th grade students doing benthic macro-invertebrate sampling

Looking through river water for lifeforms

A crayfish in the dipnet

A crayfish (left) and damselfly nymph (center)
Two caddisfly larva

A baby Snapping Turtle

A 6-inch long horsehair worm

Compare this photo from yesterday (06 May 2013) to photo #3 above - the water level went down six inches over the weekend.

4th grade students examining their finds.

So what did the students find in the Little Salt River during their monitoring?  On Friday, I filled out a sheet showing those species that I observed students catch.  Overall, the species that the students observed indicated excellent water quality.  Not only did we find three TAXA in the Group 1 (Intolerant) species, bu there multiple species of Mayfly nymphs present in the water.  We did not find any clams or mussels on May 3rd, but when the water levels receded on May 6th the students were able to access the main river channel and did find several small clams and/or mussels.  No single species of animal was predominant in our samples - the most commonly found invertebrates were the caddisfly larva, damselfly nymphs, and scuds.

Several people in the park stopped to ask students about what they were doing and expressed how they thought that doing science in their own "backyard" was a wonderful idea for the students.

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