Back in March, our family attended a local stream monitoring session at Accotink creek. We waded out in the cold stream, stirred up the invertebrates (animals without a backbone) that live in the bottom of the stream (the “benthic” habitat), and counted the various invertebrates. By taking a look at which particular animals live in a stream, we can determine whether the stream is healthy or polluted. Some animals are very sensitive to pollutants; you’ll only see them in healthy streams. Some animals can live in very heavily polluted streams. A healthy stream will have a mix of sensitive and not-so-sensitive animals, while a polluted stream will have mostly the tough ones. Unfortunately, Accotink creek (the creek to which our yard and roads drain) is relatively polluted.
But the monitoring experience was not a failure. Oh no! Based on this experience, our family decided to adopt a stream in our neighborhood. Four times a year, we’ll be monitoring the benthic invertebrates in our stream and reporting back to the northern VA soil and water conservation district. It’s not too difficult to adopt a stream. The program is sponsored by the Izaac Walton League and our local water conservation district. I simply attended a few different creek monitoring sessions, studied the benthic invertebrate “cheat sheets” (they even have interactive games to help you learn!), and then took a short test to make sure I could identify preserved specimens, and answer questions like “what is a watershed?” Pretty soon, we’ll find out the name of our stream – I’ll keep you posted!
There are lots of great environmental volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood too. Start sleuthing, figure out what you’re interested in, and get your business done!