Stoneflies and Water Pennies

Nancy Burmeister MRWA Secretaryby Nancy Burmeister,
MRWA board secretary

One of my favorite activities as a volunteer for the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly involves wading in a creek and scooping up bugs. Sound like fun? You should try it!

Every May and September a number of volunteers spend a little time checking the health of the tributaries (creeks and small streams) that feed the Mighty Muskegon. My husband and I attended a training more than ten years ago in which we learned the guidelines for how to do monitoring. Identification materials were provided by MRWA, and we practiced identifying a variety of macroinvertebrates. Since that time we have been a part of the spring and fall creek check-up crew referred to as water monitors.

As water monitors, we take our net, waders, buckets, and other tools (provided by MRWA) and head for our assigned creek. There we scoop up small living creatures (macroinvertebrates actually) and place them in containers. These little guys tell us whether the stream is a healthy environment in which to live. Some are more sensitive than others so we are especially happy when we find water pennies, stoneflies, and other species that need really clean water.

Our stretch of water is in a beautiful location, and we enjoy it so much that we often invite friends and/or my husband’s Ferris students to come along. Sometimes we have six or eight participants join us. Some wade in the creek and look for macroinvertebrates. Others, using pictures and descriptions, take on the task of identification.

It feels good to know that we are helping to preserve and protect the Muskegon and its tributaries. And, I can’t think of a better way to spend a spring or fall afternoon.