When I was an undergraduate student, I took a class called “Limnology” because a big group of friends were taking it. I didn’t even know what the class was going to be about, but I figured “why not?”. It turned out to be one of my all-time favorite classes of both undergraduate and graduate school and I had more fun in that class than any class that I have taken since. Limnology is the study of freshwater systems – lakes, rivers, streams. I loved the hydrology, the physics, chemistry and biology. It was fascinating, and I looked forward to the 5-hour labs on Friday. What I learned in that class stuck with me for well over 10 years because it was fun and fascinating.
Water quality is near and dear to my heart. Having clean, safe water is a right that everyone should have and the only way that we can ensure that our water is clean and safe is if we monitor it and take steps to protect it. The Sourland Conservancy received a grant from The Watershed Institute to develop a stream monitoring program and stream school to train volunteers to collect quality data about stream health in the Sourlands. Volunteers will be trained to assess riparian habitat, stream width/depth and water speed, and collect and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates. Riparian habitat is the area of land on either side of the water, which is important because a good riparian zone will protect the banks from erosion and will also shade the water to keep the temperatures cooler in the summer. Stream width and depth and speed are important because the width and depth can indicate how sediment is distributed within the stream bed and this information along with speed can also tell us how much energy/water is moving through the stream. Aquatic macroinvertebrates (Macros) are important indicator species because some particular species are associated with higher water quality than others.
The Sourland Conservancy in partnership with The Watershed Institute and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are hosting a Stream School in September. If you are interested in learning more water quality issues, stream health, or just as excited about limnology as I am, please sign up for our Stream School and help us to Save the Sourlands and keep our water clean and safe for generations to come!
Now, on to the fun part! The Sourland Conservancy hosted three stream monitor training sessions lead by New Jersey Americorp Watershed Ambassadors!
Watershed Ambassador, Daniel Correa, going over all the different types of measurements they would be taking today.
We measured water depth across different portions of the stream.
Stream monitors are supposed to work in pairs, so one person collects the measurement while the other person writes it down.
To calculate the speed of the stream, Daniel had volunteers measure a distance of 10 meters. Then they timed how long it took a rubber ducky to travel the 10 meters.
Ready, set, go!
Go ducky go!
Big helpers taking a turn with the measuring tape.
Littlest finding the perfect rock to throw.
My big dude could not wait to get into the stream and look for Macros.
My big dude found a Mayfly! Mayflies are in the order Ephemeroptera. The root of the word means “for a day” in Greek, which hints at the short life span of Mayflies.
Here a volunteer is scrubbing stones to dislodge macroinvertebrates that cling on to hard surfaces, such as Caddisflies.
Volunteers working together to sort macros!
A volunteer taking a subsample from the bucket to identify and sort.
Our lovely volunteers did a wonderful job during our training session. It was a cold and damp April afternoon, but they were focused, enthusiastic and dedicated to learning about stream health.
Our dedicated volunteers came out for the second training on a drizzly and chilly early May morning.
Volunteers working together to empty their D-nets into the sample bucket.
Watershed Ambassador, Kristen Obermeier, teaching stream side identification of macro invetebrates.
Watershed Ambassador, Fairfax Hutter, showing volunteers how to sample along streams with overhanging vegetation.
I love how unique each of these Sourland streams are!
Volunteers were eager to check out their D-nets and see what macros they found!
Whenever someone found something new everyone would crowd around to get a good look.
Inspecting his find!
Volunteers sampled along the riffles, from the top of this section all the way to the bottom.
Reaching into the D-nets to look around felt like reaching into a goody bag (at least for us nerdy folks!).
Volunteers chatted and sampled and had a lot of fun working (playing!) in the stream.
A little Salamander, but I have no clue what type it was. I had thought it was a newt because we caught it in our D-nets, and then found out that newts are a type of salamander. If anyone knows what this little one is, please let me know!
It looks like this Crayfish is holding back a sneeze!
A Hellgrammite, in the order Megaloptera!!! This has been on my life of macro invertebrates to see since I took Limnology when I was an undergraduate. I am talking 11 years in the making! I saw it in my D-net, but was cautiously optimistic because I didn’t want to be too excited and then upon closer inspection find out that I was mistaken. However, I let out a huge WAHOO when I got it on my hand. Isn’t she magnificent?!?! Hellgrammites turn into Dobsonflies, which I have not seen either. Now that I have the larval stage checked off, I know need to see an adult!
A dragonfly, in the order Odonata. I feel like this is one of the easier species to identify in their larval stage because it looks pretty similar to the adult stage, except it doesn’t have wings.
We all worked together to identify, sort and count our macro invertebrates together.We found three crayfish! I always get excited to find one (in the water, not on the trail like last time!).
A Water Penny, in the order Coleoptera (beetle). Finding Water Pennies is a good indicator that your water is clean!
A Damselfly, in the order Odonata. Their paddle-like tails are actually gills!
A stonefly, in the order Plecoptera! Stoneflies have gills right where their appendages meet their body, so it looks sort of like they have hairy armpits… or hairy legpits?
A tiny Stonefly! I don’t know why it is white, maybe it had recently hatched, but I think it is just the cutest little baby bug I have ever seen!