Winter stonefly search to help monitor health of Clinton River

CRWC in need of 100 volunteers to assist Jan. 20

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 9, 2018

 A volunteer points to a winter stonefly that was found in Stony Creek during a past stonefly search. This year’s search will take place Jan. 20, and about 100 volunteers are needed.

A volunteer points to a winter stonefly that was found in Stony Creek during a past stonefly search. This year’s search will take place Jan. 20, and about 100 volunteers are needed.

Photos provided by the Clinton River Watershed Council

METRO DETROIT — Each winter, staff and volunteers from the Clinton River Watershed Council brave the blustery cold and take to the watershed in search of bugs.

Why? Watershed ecologist Matt Einheuser said the winter stonefly nymph — one of the most sensitive of all aquatic macroinvertebrates that lives in local rivers and streams — is an indicator of good water quality.

The stonefly nymph is most active in January, when the water temperature is very cold and there is still plenty of leafy debris on the river bottom for stoneflies to forage, he said.

“The stoneflies are the most sensitive of the aquatic bugs, so when you find them in a stream that’s a good thing, and that points to good, high-quality conditions. When you start to see them disappear … that can be a red flag,” he said.

To help evaluate the health of the Clinton River — which covers 760 square miles through Macomb, Oakland, Lapeer and St. Clair counties — the watershed council will host its annual winter stonefly search on Saturday, Jan. 20.

In order to conduct the search, the CRWC relies on up to 100 volunteers who form teams that canvass various locations along the Clinton River and its tributaries, including Paint Creek and Stoney Creek. Volunteers are asked to meet at 9 a.m. Jan. 20 at the CRWC offices, 1115 W. Avon Road in Rochester Hills, for the bug hunt, followed by hot cocoa, cookies and pizza.

“The biggest thing with the stonefly search is really getting people involved and actually out in the water and allowing them to see that we have all these natural resources right here in our backyards,” said Eric Diesing, an environmental scientist for the watershed council. “A lot of people don’t even realize that we have multiple locations around the watershed that have stoneflies, so the stonefly search is a good way for us to showcase some of those areas, as well as to collect data in the long run for areas where they may start popping up as we are continuing to improve our water quality.”

There are currently several sites throughout the watershed that produce many stoneflies throughout the year, Diesing explained, adding that some new areas have recently been identified through this effort.

“We have been seeing them pop up at sites within the last two years that, historically, we didn’t find them. That would indicate that a lot of the efforts by the watershed council, as well as our municipalities and our volunteers, are having a positive effect,” Diesing added.

The search will be held regardless of the weather, so all volunteers are asked to dress warmly. All equipment and supplies will be provided, although volunteers are welcome to bring their own waders.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to pre-register by Jan. 17 by calling the watershed council at (248) 601-0606 or emailing contact@crwc.org.

The watershed council also hosts several Adopt a Stream training sessions in the spring and fall, where volunteers learn how to search for a variety of macroinvertebrates across the watershed. The spring training sessions will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. March 22 at the Shelby Township Department of Public Works, 6333 23 Mile Road in Shelby Township; from 6 to 8 p.m. April 5 at the Clarkston United Methodist Church, 6600 Waldon Road in Clarkston; at 8:30 a.m. April 21 at the CRWC offices, 1115 W. Avon Road in Rochester Hills; and from 6 to 8 p.m. April 24 at the MacDonald Public Library, 36480 Main St. in New Baltimore.

For more information, call the watershed council at (248) 601-0606 or visit www.crwc.org.