Volunteers needed to help monitor health of Clinton River

Clinton River Watershed Council hosts annual winter stonefly search

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 8, 2014

ROCHESTER — Although many people believe streams and rivers are mainly void of life during the winter months, Clinton River Watershed Council ecologist Jeremy Geist says that isn’t the case.

“There are actually a lot of things still going on,” he said.

The winter stonefly nymph — one of the most sensitive of all aquatic macroinvertebrates that lives in local rivers and streams — is one such insect that’s most active in January, when the water temperature is very cold and there is still plenty of leafy debris in the river bottom for stoneflies to forage on.

“Most bugs are active in the warmer months of the year, but this certain bug has adapted to be active in the wintertime,” he said.

The CRWC is looking for volunteers who aren’t afraid to make a splash in local waterways to help search for stonefly larvae this month.

“The reason why we are looking at the stonefly bugs in the water is they are a pretty good indicator of water quality. Some bugs can tolerate the polluted waters, and some bugs really can’t. The stonefly is one of the more sensitive ones, meaning that it can’t handle any pollution at all, and if any pollution enters the stream, or the habitat is not right for it, then it will die out, or disappear,” Geist explained.

Those interested in volunteering must first take the Adopt-A-Stream volunteer basic training, which lasts approximately three hours and teaches the protocol of monitoring streams, including in-depth education on physical and biological assessment. The next training session will be held 6-9 p.m. Jan. 15 at the CRWC office at the southwest corner of Avon and Livernois in Rochester Hills.

Trained volunteers will then return to the CRWC office for the stonefly search at 10 a.m. Jan. 18. They will split into teams and travel to various sampling locations.

CRWC Program Coordinator Amanda Oparka said volunteers surveyed six or seven different sites last year. This year, she plans to send teams to Wolcott Mill Metro Park, Van Hoosen Farms and a couple of sites in the Paint Creek and Stony Creek, including near the Rochester Hills Public Library.

“Some volunteers put on waders, get in the water with nets and stir up the bottom to collect bugs in the nets. The other people on the team help them count how many they found,” she said.

The search will be held regardless of the weather, so all volunteers are asked to dress warmly. Participants who choose to get in the water should bring their own waders, if possible, although the council will have a few extra pairs on hand.

“We expect cold temperatures and maybe a little bit of snow, too — it only adds to the experience — but if there were extremely sub-zero temperatures, we would call it off,” Geist said. “In the past, the temperatures have been in the single digits — it was pretty cold, but we have some loyal and committed volunteers. People really have a blast, from what I can see.”

After the search, teams will return to the CRWC office to share their findings and enjoy a complementary lunch and hot beverages.

Geist said the search allows volunteers to learn about the ecology and conditions of local streams while helping add to the council’s Adopt-A-Stream data. The CRWC’s Adopt-A-Stream program is a volunteer-based effort that empowers community members to protect local streams and rivers by monitoring their health.

“For us to be able to do this repeatedly every year gives us a nice long-term data set, so it gives us the ability to track water quality,” he said.

Registration is required for both the training and the stonefly search. To register, contact the CRWC office at (248) 601-0606 or email registration@crwc.org.