Rivers Are Alive Online – Let’s Go Mucking!

Part 1: Introduction

Join Ranger Liz as she looks under the surface to find out what is living in our river! While you may be familiar with the fish, turtles, and river otters that call the Riverway home, there is so much more that we often don’t see. Liz is going to show us how scientists collect and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates—small animals without a backbone that live in the water. We will also learn why they are important and what they tell us about the water quality of the river.

Teachers, if your class is learning from home, your students can print out the macroinvertebrate identification key and use a fish tank net to explore a water body in their neighborhood.

An audio described version of this video can be found here:

Part 2: Materials and How-To

Before we get in the water to search for macroinvertebrates, Ranger Liz is going to show you all of the materials that you will need for this underwater investigation. The most important materials include: a net, a collection tray, and a spoon. A magnifying glass is nice to have, too.

With her net, Ranger Liz will show you some tips and tricks for collecting aquatic macroinvertebrates. The most important thing to remember is to step carefully and slowly through the water so that you don’t disturb all the critters around you. 

An audio described version of this video can be found here:

Part 3: Macroinvertebrate Identification

Collecting critters from the river is just the beginning—in this video, you will learn how to use a simple flow chart to identify the macroinvertebrates that you might encounter. Focusing on just one of our findings, Ranger Liz will guide us through the flow chart. After we learn to identify one together, you can use your identification chart to identify more on your own!

An audio described version of this video can be found here:

Part 4: Conclusion

Now that you know how to collect and identify several aquatic macroinvertebrates, you might be asking why scientists spend so much time learning about the little critters that live in our rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks. By collecting and studying these creatures, scientists can learn more about the biotic index—or the diversity of species—in a particular body of water. Depending on which species you find, you can assess whether your water quality is excellent, good, fair, or poor.

To learn more about macroinvertebrates and water quality, check out this data analysis post-activity that you can do with your class!

An audio described version of this video can be found here:

We hope you enjoyed learning with us and that you check out another set of videos or sign up for a live virtual program!