Sixteen volunteers joined Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® and Izaak Walton League of America on Saturday, September 30, at Shikellamy State Park to become certified Save Our Streams (SOS) monitors.
“This full-day classroom – or picnic pavilion – training followed by hands-on field experience was the first step required to become certified," explains Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Carol Parenzan.
After a morning of instruction regarding benthic (or bottom dwelling) macroinvertebrates (macros), each participant was required to test their identification skills of more than 20 specimens found in creeks and rivers. “We had an exceptionally high pass rate for this portion of the program,” shared Parenzan. “Our volunteers were passionate and focused.”
Students then wandered down to the park’s boat launch for hands-on practice in the Susquehanna River, where they learned to identify key locations for macroinvertebrate collection, properly rub rocks and scour the river bottom to release macros, collect macros in flowing water, sort and identify their discoveries, and then safely release the macroinvertebrates back into the river.
Once back on solid ground, the students scored their collection to assess the quality of the waterway.
“We were pleasantly surprised to find a widely diverse macroinvertebrate population in this section of the river,” shared the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®.
“The training program with RIVERKEEPER® was a unique learning experience for me, as I have never had any experience with macros or river monitoring,” offered Catie Harbach, a 16-year-old homeschooling student from Jersey Shore who participated in the training program. “I am considering a career in environmental or natural science, and this experience will help me make decisions in choosing a career path. I look forward to volunteering with RIVERKEEPER® and contributing to a local conservation effort.”
The next step for Catie and others who passed the macroinvertebrate identification test will be an assessment of their understanding of process and protocol to insure that high quality standards are being met for each collection attempt and water quality assessment. Volunteers who become certified SOS monitors will then be asked to commit to working with this Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® program in the fall and spring, the optimum time for this work.
Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Carol Parenzan invites those that are curious about the process to get their hands wet and join a certified SOS monitor for the field work. Future training programs will be offered in 2018.
Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® is the licensed voice of the Susquehanna River watershed defined by the drainage area for the North and West Branches, an approximate 11,000-square mile area. As part of the WATERKEEPER® Alliance family, they work to bring swimmable, drinkable, fishable water to all communities.