Post by: Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper
At the end of October, I received training in a new (to me) method of water quality assessment. No machines or laboratory equipment were involved. I learned to measure stream health with just a net, waders, and an old ice cube tray by counting the bugs.
There are hundreds of species of macroinvertebrates (aquatic bugs), that live in the Catawba-Wateree River basin. Each species has its own tolerance for pollution. Some families such as mayflies and stoneflies are more sensitive than others like crayfish and leeches. By determining the biodiversity in a creek we can get a pretty good idea of the water quality. These biotic indexes have the added benefit of averaging temporal variation. Because these bugs live there, they indicate how the stream normally is, not just how it is when we’re sampling.
While learning to identify individual species is extremely challenging, most people can get to the family level with a quick lesson and a good guide. I took about a hundred specimens collected at the training to the South Point High School Environmental Club for sorting and preservation. With their help, and supplies funded by the Glenn Foundation, we now have reference specimens for our education program.