Middle School Student Reflects on Learning – and Teaching – about Water Quality Monitoring

By Alison Trackman

Volunteering with the Audubon Naturalist Society has truly been a wonderful experience.  I was looking for a service project that was appropriate for my age.  ANS’s water quality monitoring program was a great option because it is not only for all ages, but it is extremely interesting for people like me who are fascinated with biology.

Over the course of my project, I was in contact with program managers Alison Pearce and Gregg Trilling.  They helped me connect with Cathy Wiss who runs the water quality monitoring program.  In this program, volunteers assess the health of streams by collecting macro invertebrates.  Cathy suggested that I take a class to learn about monitoring.  As a part of the training, we met at a stream and she taught me how to collect the macroinvertebrates.  I learned that macroinvertebrates are strong indicators of stream health.  Finding a variety of macroinvertebrates is one indicator that the stream is healthy.  Also, because macroinvertebrates may be very sensitive to pollution, finding one that can only live in non-polluted areas can be another indicator that the stream is healthy.

Once I was trained, Cathy helped me find a team that I could join as a volunteer. Teams meet four times a year.  During spring monitoring, my team collected more than 100 macroinvertebrates.  As I was collecting the samples, I realized that there is a whole tiny world full of stream creatures and steam bugs that I didn’t know existed. [All macroinvertebrates are returned to the stream after they are identified – Ed.]

As a second part of my project I organized my own stream clean up with my friends, family, and the local community.  The event was a success and was fun for both my friends and adults!  Before we picked up litter, I told everyone about water quality monitoring and we went to the stream to search for critters. They really enjoyed collecting and identifying the bugs using microscopes, and ANS’s Creek Critters app.

Even though my project is over, I hope to continue participating with my team so I can provide valuable data to the county because I want every stream to be heathy.  I have learned so much over the past 6 months, and I strongly recommend this program.

For more information on the water quality monitoring program and the Creek Critters app, please visit ANS Citizen Science Programs.
For more information about volunteering with ANS, please visit ANS Volunteers.

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