Sunday Afternoon Stream Monitoring

"Is it a beetle or a netspinner?  How many legs does it have? What side is the opening on the snail, left or right?" These are some of the questions Jacqi and I asked one another this morning. Jacqi volunteers as a stream monitor for Virginia Save Our Streams and she invited me to join her for the spring assessment. Each season, she goes to the same local stream in Great Falls and fills out forms to report the conditions in the surrounding area, quality of the water, and does a count of stream insects and crustaceans. All of this is indicative of the health of the stream. She showed me how to help collect the specimens by letting the water flow through a large flat net. After collecting, we placed the net on a flat aluminum camping table, spread it out, picked up the insects with tweezers, and put them in white ice cube trays filled with stream water. We identified each insect, one ice cube square at a time, and counted how many of each there were until we reached a minimum of 200 insects and crustaceans. It was so fascinating to see the life that is normally naked to the eye as one watches a stream flow. We each took a magnifying lens, one 5X, the other 10X so we were able to see the tiniest details of each beetle, midge, mayfly, stonefly, scud, and hellmaggramite! Jacqi and I share a fondness of miniatures and I think this came into play in appreciating the fine detail of each life form. Twas a wonderful way to spend a glorious, 70 degree, Sunday afternoon!