River group looks for volunteer creature catchers

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 11, 2015

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The Clinton River Watershed Council is looking for local volunteers who can take a miniature census of the river’s wildlife.

The group is holding an Adopt-A-Stream Basic Training session March 31 at the Sterling Heights Fire Department on Ryan Road.

According to program coordinator Amanda Oparka, the CRWC is looking for adult volunteers who are concerned with water quality and protecting water resources.

According to the CRWC, the Clinton River’s main branch spans about 80 miles, and the river contains more than 1,000 miles of streams. Oparka said the river wasn’t always a place suitable for wildlife, but the passage of the Clean Water Act and the formation of the CRWC turned things around.

“A little over 40 years ago, the Clinton River was the most polluted river in the state of Michigan,” she said. “Since then, we have bounced back, and we have thriving populations of fish.”

In the training session, volunteers will learn how to use provided waders and a net to catch macroinvertebrates from the river at Delia Park as part of a data collection effort.

These invertebrates — such as mayflies and assorted bugs — differ in their respective populations depending on the temperature or cleanliness of the water, Oparka said.

“The bugs are easy enough for (volunteers) to collect, and the state doesn’t have employees to go around and monitor every single stream,” she said. “You use a net, and it’s pretty easy to catch them. They’re not very mobile.”

Oparka said the data will help the CRWC keep tabs on the water quality in different parts of the river, as the group monitors the same sites every year.

CRWC watershed ecologist Matt Einheuser said the invertebrates won’t give specific information about the levels of potential contaminants in the river, but anomalies in their populations may provide a general warning.

“It’s giving us something (that) is going on here — we need to look at this further,” he said.

The CRWC plans to hold similar training sessions in Rochester Hills April 18 and in Lake Orion May 14.

The Clinton River Watershed Council will hold an Adopt-A-Stream Basic Training session from 6-9 p.m. March 31 at the Sterling Heights Fire Department, 41625 Ryan Road in Sterling Heights. Registration is required. Volunteers are asked to dress appropriately based on the weather.

Learn more about the CRWC by visiting www.crwc.org or by calling (248) 601-0606.

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