Monday, January 31, 2022

Homeschool AP Environmental Science: Water Quality Monitoring Using the Creek Critters Citizen Science App


What, you mean you didn't spend YOUR New Year's Eve looking for aquatic macroinvertebrates in a local creek in order to evaluate its water quality?

I'm just kidding, y'all. The only reason WE spent part of our New Year's Eve looking for aquatic macroinvertebrates in a local creek is that we'd already procrastinated on this particular lab for so long that now it was winter, but I noticed on my weather app that the temperature was going to get up into something like the lower 50s on that day. Will and I weren't sure if any colleges would ask to see her lab notebooks when they evaluated applications, but we figured we might as well jump on finishing up any labs we could, just in case they did. 

Joke's on us for procrastinating, though, because this lab was FUN! Like, legitimately FUN! I'd do this lab again in a heartbeat, air temperature in the lower 50s or not. 

Will and I used this Creek Critters app to guide us through the lab. I bought a little aquarium net (which Amazon tells me I bought back in September, in case you were wondering how long we'd been procrastinating on this lab!), but otherwise we already owned the small clear container, larger clear container, and plastic spoon that were all we needed to complete the lab.

Here's where we conducted our lab:

This is the same little creek between two parks that my Girl Scout troop did our chemical water quality analysis this summer, so it was interesting to compare the results between the two types of monitoring.

You do get your feet wet during the collection part of this lab, but only by a couple of inches. Then you take your stuff back to shore, sit somewhere dry, and start identifying creek critters!

When you see a likely-looking critter, you use the plastic spoon to transfer it to a very small clear container:

And, of course, you put a little creek water in with it so it's comfy:

Then you peer nearsightedly at it for a good, long while:

The best part about the Creek Critters app is that it walks you through identifying your critter:

You also don't have to try to count the number of fingernet caddisflies, or whatever, in your sample; just find one, then move on to identifying something else:

Like an aquatic sowbug, perhaps!

Here are all the creek critters that Will found in our sample:

And yep, that water quality result is POOR. On the one hand, that does match with the chemical water quality analysis that my troop did last summer, but on the other hand, I have a theory that there might be aquatic macroinvertebrates that simply aren't there in the winter?

So I guess we DO get to do this lab in the spring, after all, because obviously we've got to take another sample so we can compare our results! 

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