Spooky season may be gone, but creepy critters remain in our waterways…and that’s great! Small critters who live in the water and don’t have a backbone (our students know them as “macroinvertebrates”) are a very important part of our aquatic habitats. Plus, they can help us figure out the water quality of our streams and rivers.
At Hard Bargain Farm, it’s not an unusual sight to see kids marching down a trail, wearing rubber boots and carrying nets and hand-held microscopes. They’re on their way to catch macroinvertebrates to investigate water quality!
Macroinvertebrates are a great clue about the health of our waterways. Some of these “creepy critters” don’t mind polluted waters, while others are extremely sensitive and can’t survive in streams with stormwater pollution such as runoff from farmlands, streets, neighborhoods, and factories. When things like fertilizers, pesticides, trash, oil, gas, and animal waste get in the water, some of the small aquatic animals are perfectly fine…and others aren’t. You can tell how clean or polluted the water is based on which small aquatic critters you find.
So this November, we’re thankful to these fascinating little creatures for testing the waters for us. And for the way kids shriek in surprise and delight as they discover these critters in the water, identify their names, and learn about the huge impacts people and pollution can have on our streams and rivers…and the small creatures that live in them.
Want to see how we collect and identify macroinvertebrates to test water quality? Check out our investigation of Accokeek Creek in this cool video: Is Your Stream Clean?