Thursday, May 5, 2016

An Unusual Saturday Morning

Unusual, but not uninteresting!

A while back, I had read that our local conservation district was conducting a stream monitoring event at the end of April.  I wasn't sure what all 'stream monitoring' entailed, but I told DD2 about it, being as she is a Wildlife Ecology major and has many natural resources-type classes.  She was interested, but not sure if she'd be done with school for the summer and back home in time to attend.

Then she found out two things.

One, her last final exam for the semester was on the afternoon of April 28th.

Two, being graduation weekend for her institution of higher learning, there was not a hotel room to be had within about 90 miles of her dorm for the night of Friday April 29th.

So, she begged DH and I to make plans to come and get her the very minute she was done with her exam on Thursday.  And we did.  Had no trouble finding a room right in her college town for Thursday evening. Just would have to head for home on Friday morning.  Which worked okay for us, as K3's birthday was Saturday, so we wouldn't have been able to stay in the U.P. Friday night anyway, unless we wanted to miss K3's party Saturday late afternoon/early evening.

Travel plans confirmed, DD2 signed herself up for the stream monitoring on the 30th.  Then she asked if I would like to join her in that endeavor.  Being slightly crazy  of a naturalist/scientific mindset, I agreed.  So she signed me up too.

Saturday morning found the two of us up bright and early, and to the conservation district office about 8:45 a.m.  The weather was cool and cloudy, with rain and high temperatures only around fifty degrees predicted.  And what were the two of us (along with about two dozen other volunteers) going to do for four hours?  Wade around in various streams and creeks of our county, collecting water and muck samples and looking through them for invertebrates.

You know what?  We had a blast.  Didn't mind the weather, never felt cold, didn't think twice about donning waders and hopping into creeks with bottoms of undetermined firmness (the one that I got to be the first person into turned out to be pretty mucky in spots; my entry point found me thigh-deep in muck and suddenly remembering that I've never been fond of deep water.)

DD2 netting around a collection of branches and brush in the water.

Not only was wading and collecting samples from the creek bottoms fun, but picking through the muck/water/vegetation debris samples with tweezers, okay to be scientific: forceps, and finding creepy crawlies--and creepy squirmies with no legs--was extremely interesting.  Maybe you have to be a little interested in microbiology and entomology to call that a good time, but it worked for us.

It took my eyes a minute or two to adjust to seeing movement and life forms in the sludge, but then suddenly the sample tray was alive and I was busily picking tiny critters up with my tweezers forceps and depositing them into water-filled sections of an ice cube tray.

tray of sludge and debris (and aquatic creatures)

ice cube tray with 'bugs'

It was amazing all the little things living down in the creeks that you couldn't see from above the water.  Things like blood worms (larvae of the midge family), which were mostly only about 1/4" long, thin as thread, and bright, bright red.  And caddisfly larvae.  And sow bugs.  And mayfly nymphs, as well as damsel- and dragonfly nymphs.  A few tiny freshwater clams, a few more scuds (which are tiny freshwater shrimp).

caddisfly larvae

caddisfly 'house' (with one hiding inside)

tiny clam

damselfly nymph

The surprising, and not very welcome, find was a small goby fish.  DD2 was the one who found (and netted) it.  Goby are non-native and invasive, and had not previously been found in creeks around here.  So our team leader, who works in natural resources, was quite excited--and a little dismayed--that our group had discovered one.  It was, of course, captured and not returned to the water.  That little fish induced much paperwork (and must be punished, LOL).

Overall, it was a great way to spend an otherwise dreary Saturday morning.  DD2 is even more confident that this is the correct career path for herself.  I learned quite a bit, and am always glad to add to my mental encyclopedia of all things living.

Truth be told, DD2 and I talked all the way home about making/purchasing a net like the ones we used that morning, and doing a little 'stream monitoring' in both the Marsh at this little place here as well as the drainage ditch that divides the back of our woods from the neighbor's farm field on the next road over.  Just out of curiosity to see what life forms are out there, quietly going about their business unseen. We would, of course, practice catch and release. Unless she finds another goby!

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