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Archive for the ‘Aquatic macroinvertebrates’ Category

Bryant Creek Assessment Project

In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on January 2, 2014 at 9:29 am

Originally posted to my former blog, “The Bugs of Booger County”, now defunct, in 2012:

In 2010, a group of friends, all members of the Ozark Chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists and all Missouri Volunteer Water Quality Monitors, began an ambitious project.  We decided to conduct water quality monitoring at least once a year, using both benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and chemical testing, at every mile of the forty-two mile navigable portion of Bryant Creek, a beautiful Ozark stream in Douglas and Ozark counties, Missouri.

After adding in a couple of additional sampling sites, the group covers some forty-nine locations on the creek, which has been divided into multiple segments, each overseen by a Team Captain.   Not only is the information useful, but it’s a great excuse to get out with friends on one of the Ozark’s best streams.

Bryant Creek is part of the North Fork of the White River Watershed, and is a lovely place to fish, swim, or float.  All water quality data is submitted to the State of Missouri’s Stream Team program, and is also compiled into an ongoing report, complete with data, graphs, bells and whistles.The complete text of the report, through 2012, is given in pdf form at the link below.  Sampling and testing for 2013 will probably begin in April.  Anyone who’d like to come along is welcome!

BCAP Ongoing Report

Down the Creek Without a Paddle

In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on April 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm

This past Sunday was the first day of spring (I think!), and a wonderful day to be paddling on Bryant Creek, here in the Missouri Ozarks.

John and Sue and I put our kayaks and canoe in at the “Monastery Bridge” in Douglas County, only a mile or so from Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery, and paddled over ten miles downstream to the Highway 95 bridge, just below the Ozark County line.

In addition to enjoying a great day of sun, fun, and good companionship, we were conducting chemical monitoring of the stream at one-mile intervals as part of the State of Missouri’s Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring (VWQM) program.  This endeavour provides free training to individuals, enabling them, in the Introductory training, to learn to identify “aquatic macroinvertebrates” (bug larva) as indicators of water quality.

Later, the volunteers may choose to proceed through three levels of advanced training, during which they become proficient in conducting tests of water/air temperature, turbidity, pH, conductivity, nitrate, phosphate, and dissolved oxygen levels.  The Missouri Stream Team organization then provides ALL the necessary equipment, free of charge, to the volunteer–sampling nets, chemical analysis equipment, thermometers, sample jars–pretty much EVERYTHING, except a canoe.

John is a Level 3 monitor, so he provided the “adult supervision” for Sue and me.  Our Master Naturalist chapter, based in West Plains, developed an ambitious project in 2010, whereby we would monitor every mile of the 42+ mile, floatable portion of Bryant Creek, from the Vera Cruz MDC (Missouri Conservation Department) access, down to the confluence of Bryant with the North Fork of the White River at Tecumseh.

We divided the stream into four sections, with a team leader responsible for each segment.  As my segment was substantially longer than the others, John and Sue graciously lent their help in covering almost 2/3 of the nearly 18-mile stretch.

Early on, we passed a crystalline spring, which issued from a cave on the left hillside, tumbling over mossy rocks down to the creek.

The temperatures rose to nearly 80 during the day, and I only managed to sink my kayak TWICE, an improvement of 33% over last year’s outing, although I DID manage to lose my paddle in the process.  Fortunately, John had brought an extra, so I was not left to live in the wilderness, eating lichens, and slowly starving and turning feral.
We sampled twelve sites, and managed to reach the take-out point just as darkness descended.  All the data was organized, and submitted electronically to the Missouri Stream Team program, a truly wonderful undertaking, which involves over 4,000 volunteer “stream teams” which clean, monitor, and enjoy Missouri’s beautiful waterways.
A truly great way to spend a day, with good friends, a beautiful stream, and a worthwhile reason to be there.
With apologies to Anne Murray:
Can you imagine a piece of the universe more fit for princes and kings?
I’ll trade you ten of your cities for my Bryant Creek, and the pleasures it brings.
 
Out on the Bryant, on soft summer nights,
Bonfires blaze, to the children’s delight.
They dance ’round the flames, singing songs with their friends,
I wish I was with them again.

Passing It On

In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on April 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm

We had a good time last week.  Down in Ozark County, about an hour to the south, the Missouri Department of Conservation was hosting an “Ecology Day” at the Caney Mountain Conservation Area. 

MDC employees were to explain wildlife, caves, plant ecology and water ecology to eight groups of sixth grade students from area schools during the two-day event.  The “water ecology guy” had to back out for some reason, so the call went out for volunteers to take his place.

John and I, both members of the local Master Naturalist chapter, and both Missouri Volunteer Water Quality Monitors, decided to help out, so we met over beer at Rockbridge a week earlier to map out our program.  We were only allotted thirty minutes with each group, and the main challenge was to decide “what to leave in, what to leave out”.

John is one of the best water quality monitors in the state.  That fact, coupled with his Yale diploma, quickly led us to decide that HE would take charge of the lessons, while I sorta “ran and fetched” for him, and threw in a remark from time to time.

Sixth-grade kids are at a pretty good age for such events.  They are old enough to learn and grasp things, yet not so old that they are completely “too cool for school”.  We arrived early, with all our teaching stuff–watershed maps, pictures of adult and larval macroinvertebrates, vials of preserved bugs, and a carton of “giveaways”, courtesy of the Missouri Stream Team program.

John, as expected, did a masterful job, explaining how watersheds are defined, then moving on to a vivid description of how we can use the collection, identification, and classification of aquatic macroinvertebrates (bug larva) as indicators of stream health.

Dr. John provides a free Ivy League education to Ozark kids.

The kids, representing five rural and smalltown Ozark communities, were attentive, interested, and sharp, and had absolutely no trouble getting the material, and seemed to have a pretty good time.

Day Two dawned gray and rainy, but we headed back down for the second round.  When we got there, John announced, “I did the classes yesterday.  Now it’s YOUR turn.”

Organization and logical presentation and I are usually strangers, but John was adamant.  As the first group arrived, standing in front of our display table, I explained that John and I were “Master Naturalists”, and asked if anyone knew what a naturalist was.  Got some pretty good answers.  I went on to say that naturalists were sorta like scientists, but not necessarily with a lot of formal training, and didn’t get paid.  I then gave my definition of “naturalist”–“Science Nerd“, and said that ALL Science Nerds were never without a hand lens, upon which John and I dug into our pockets and displayed ours.  I mentioned that John and I were The Oldest Science Nerds in the Whole World, with over 125 years experience between us.

I tried to remember what John had emphasized the previous day, and managed to quickly race through the watershed portion, without referring to the watershed map, as the rain had started falling pretty regularly, and the map was getting sorta soggy.

I then moved on to the bug portion, and tried to remember the sort of things that my kids, at that age, had found interesting.  “Interesting”, to a sixth-grader, usually means “gross”, and “Gross” might as well be my middle name.

While explaining that insects often take on quite dissimilar forms as larva and adults, I showed a picture of an adult damselfly, alongside a shot of its nymph stage.  I pointed out the caudal appendages, which are actually gills which allow the immature bug to breathe.  I then passed around vials containing DRAGONFLY nymphs, which show no obvious gills

After explaining that the gills were internal, I asked how the bugs got the water to the gills, so that oxygen could be extracted.  “They swallow it??”  “They absorb it through their skin???”

“Nope.  THEY BREATHE THROUGH THEIR BUTTS!!!  They draw water in through their rectums, then expel it out the same way, sometimes with enough force to propel them quickly through the water.”  I suggested that each child practice this method of respiration when they returned home, and were sitting in the bathtub.  John looked a bit taken aback, but the kids seemed delighted, and appropriately grossed-out.

Following the presentation, I told them that each of them were well on their way to being naturalists, but that they lacked the one thing that all naturalists needed–hand lenses.  Thanks to the generosity of the Missouri Stream Team program, we then distributed hand lenses to each and all.

John and I had checked the adjacent Caney Creek earlier for signs of macroinvertebrates, but found slim pickings–only a large number of gilled snails.  Since the kids were already wet from standing around in the rain, we turned them loose to wade about, splash each other, turn over rocks, and get some use out of their lenses.

They were MAGNIFICENT.  They found gilled snails, pouch snails, water pennies, fishfly larva (I’d NEVER been able to find any of them), a hellgrammite, and a great dragonfly nymph.

As they were leaving, on the way to their next class–cave ecology, one kid stopped and said, “I want to be a scientist someday.”  I told him, “You’re on your way.  You’re ALREADY a naturalist.”

Bryant Creek Assessment Project

In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on April 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm

In 2010, a group of friends, all members of the Ozark Chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists and all Missouri Volunteer Water Quality Monitors, began an ambitious project.  We decided to conduct water quality monitoring at least once a year, using both benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and chemical testing, at every mileof the forty-two mile navigable portion of Bryant Creek, a beautiful Ozark stream in Douglas and Ozark counties, Missouri. 

Volunteer sampling team on Bryant Creek

After adding in a couple of additional sampling sites, the group covers some forty-nine locations on the creek, which has been divided into multiple segments, each overseen by a Team Captain.   Not only is the information useful, but it’s a great excuse to get out with friends on one of the Ozark’s best streams.

Sue Roberts measures sedimentation as part of stream assessment.

Bryant Creek is part of the North Fork of the White River Watershed, and is a lovely place to fish, swim, or float.  All water quality data is submitted to the State of Missouri’s Stream Team program, and is also compiled into an ongoing report, complete with data, graphs, bells and whistles.

John Rothgeb conducts a chemical test.

The complete text of the report, through 2012, is given in pdf form at the link below.  Sampling and testing for 2013 will probably begin in April.  Anyone who’d like to come along is welcome!

BCAP Ongoing Report

Nymphomaniacs

In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Odonata, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on April 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Okay.  I KNOW that 95% of the folks who’ve found this post had been on a Google search and were hoping to find pictures of naked young women.  Sorry, gang.

Yesterday, I made a 150-mile roundtrip drive from my home deep in an Ozark holler, up to Camdenton, Missouri.  I’d heard that Brett Landwer, an employee of the Missouri Department of Conservation and one of the nation’s top experts on the larval (or “nymph“) stages of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) was gonna be giving a three-hour class on “The Ecology of a Fishless Pond”.

I’d never met Brett before, but had corresponded with him fairly frequently, usually bombarding him with dopey questions about bugs, and looked forward to the chance to meet him at last.

The presentation was given alongside a tiny woodland pond, located on the property of “Box Turtle Ranch”, tucked away in the forest up in Camden County.  A couple of dozen folks were in attendance, part of the Missouri Master Naturalist State Conference, which was just beginning.

I’ve belonged to the Master Naturalists for four years now.  Some folks, including a regional outdoor writer, take exception to the “master naturalist” title, and I’m afraid I tend to agree.  We are, by no means, “masters” of anything; rather, we are, I suppose, “enthusiasts”.  Grizzled old outdoor writers certainly know far more about “natural Missouri” than any of us, but I guess that the folks in charge of the program felt that “Old Farts Who Like to Learn About the Outdoors” probably wouldn’t attract many members.

Be that as it may, we were an enthusiastic group who assembled to hear Brett’s presentation.

Following the brief talk, the participants were invited to wade into the mucky pond, armed with nets, soup strainers, and other accoutrements, to sample the leafy detritus in search of whatever macroinvertebrates (“bug larva”) we might find.

Most of the Missourians chose to piddle about at the water’s edge, while Brett, nattily clad in his Official Department of Conservation Waders, and I, clad in a pair of $3 Louisiana Swamp Mucker watershoes, headed off for the depths.

During the course of the afternoon, the group found some cool stuff, including leeches, beetles, tadpoles and frogs, while I managed to dredge up a nice quantity of dragonfly nymphs.  I imagine EVERYONE reading this post knows what an adult dragonfly looks like.  (By the way, prior to the demonstration, I caught three VERY neat male adult Blue-faced Meadowhawks [Sympetrum ambiguum].  They are really cool-looking bugs, with red abdomens and blue-faces [as you might surmise, given their common names], and I’d never seen them before.  The specimens I captured, incidentally, were county records, the first recorded in Camden County, although they are NOT particularly uncommon in the area.)

A dragonfly. But you already knew that, didn’t you? This is NOT, by the way, the Blue-faced meadowhawk.

The nymphs, on the other hand, live their lives underwater, going through a series of changes (or “instars”) over a period of time before emerging into the dry world and changing into the adult form.  They don’t look anything like the adult forms.At the pond, I caught a half-dozen or so of these things, holding them up to Brett, who’d immediately identify them from twenty feet away.  I wasn’t sure if he was shining me on or not, but he spoke with great confidence.  He is, after all, the author of the definitive identification key to the odonate larva of Missouri (Landwer, Brett H. P. and Robert W. Sites, The Larval Odonata of Ponds in the Prairie Region of Missouri, Transactions of the American Entomological Society, Volume 136, Number 1+2, pp. 1-105, 2010).

After the presentation was over, and the other participants had drifted away, Brett invited me to accompany him on a collecting trip to Wet Glaize Creek in the Toronto Springs Conservation Area.  We drove out, and waded downstream a significant distance, particularly considering that I’d gone out and done my thrice-weekly exercising, including a five-mile walk, before making the drive up to Camdenton, capturing adult Hetaerina americana and an Argia sp. (A. translata, I think).  Brett dug out a couple more nymphs with his aquatic net, and we retired for the afternoon.

Basiaeschna janata.
Ophiogomphus westfalli.

  

Pachydiplax longipennis.
Plathemis lydia.

I’ve got tentative ID on all his nymphs, but plan to spend awhile with his key, and practice my taxonomic skills (such as they are!).

It’s always fun to get to meet the Big Bug Guys–folks with whom I’ve corresponded, and who’ve been so kind and helpful during the course of  my three-year-old entomological hobby.  Even though Brett’s two decades younger than I am (I’ve got UNDERWEAR older than he is!!!), he is a good teacher, and a lot of fun to wade the river with.

Okay.  Now you can go back to your search for nekkid women.