Identifying the water quality of streams and rivers is vital to understanding the health, habitat, and conditions of watersheds. Our Water Sentinels use water testing meters to test for pH, temperature, electric conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. But other methods of stream assessment are just as important. One way to assess stream quality is through the survey of macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrates are organisms that are large (macro) enough to be seen with the naked eye and lack a backbone (invertebrate).

Aquatic macroinvertebrates are good indicators of stream quality because they live part or all of their lives in water; they can’t escape pollution and show the effects of both short- and long-term pollution events. They also provide a significant resource in a stream’s food web, particularly for larger animals such as fish and birds. If there is a change in water quality, due to a pollutant or change in water flow from a dam, this will affect the macroinvertebrate community. For example, some macro invertebrates such as stoneflies, mayflies, and water pennies require a high level of dissolved oxygen. Pollutants and algal growth will alter levels of dissolved oxygen and pH and affect macroinvertebrate populations. The presence, abundance, and composition of macroinvertebrate communities provide a useful estimate of watershed health.

Franklin County Soil and Water has developed a new ‘Stream Quality Monitoring’ website. This site serves as a resource for individuals, teachers, and organizations to get involved with stream assessment through the practice of macro invertebrate identification. You can find useful information and stream sampling data forms here.

On August 2nd at 10am, Amber Bellamy, chair of the COG Conservation Committee and doctoral student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Ohio State University, will be leading a stream hike and macroinvertebrate collection at Highbanks Metro Park. Participants will have hands-on opportunities to collect and identify marcorinvertebrates and even get a little wet while wading in streams. Please wear water shoes and weather-appropriate gear. Bring a friend, all are welcome! RSVP to elissa.yoder@sierraclub.org