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Critter study to yield data about stream health

Critter study to yield data about stream health

Creatures with names like “scud” and “plastron breathing beetles” are among a list of species consid

Creatures with names like “scud” and “plastron breathing beetles” are among a list of species considered “Least Wanted” in New York’s streams and creeks.

These bad examples of aquatic life, considered indicators of poor water quality and invasive species, could be living it up in a tributary near you.

But in more than a third of the streams surrounding the Mohawk River, it’s unclear whether unwanted red midges or leeches are causing havoc because only 65 percent of these waters have been evaluated.

The state wants to change that, but the effort will require volunteers willing to take a four-hour training course who aren’t afraid to get their ankles wet.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program is launching “Wadable Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators” for the first time this year, and there’s room for as many as 140 people willing to lend a hand.

The Mohawk and Upper Hudson river basins are being eyed for this year’s effort scheduled for July through October.

If successful, WAVE program coordinator Alene Onion hopes the program could be expanded statewide.

“I’m really excited, I’m really hopeful that this will take off,” Onion said.

Participants are being asked to register and then attend a four-hour training course consisting of two hours of class work and two hours of wet fieldwork.

Volunteers will be wading out into brooks and streams, disturbing the bottom with a “kick net” to dislodge and collect critters while taking an inventory of what they find.

Waders might find a particular type of scud — a small crustacean that looks like a shrimp — that’s native to Eurasia and was found invading Lake Ontario in the early 1990s, replacing native scuds.

They might also see an abundance of “Most Wanted” critters like larvae of different types of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.

With a chart identifying least- and most-wanted critters, volunteers will be able to identify what streams are healthy.

That will help DEC biologists refine their focus so they can concentrate on waters that need attention, Onion said.

“If they find mostly macroinvertibrates in the ‘least wanted’ section then that stream would be flagged for further, possible investigation,” Onion said.

Data gathered during WAVE program evaluations will be included in federal and state water-quality reports, providing baseline data that can be referred to in the event problems arise on waterways.

“The biggest value of this data is providing the background for identifying those segments that are unimpaired. If conditions should change, we would have a record,” Onion said.

Training sessions are slated for June through August at sites including the DEC’s Five Rivers Center in Albany County and in places including Millbrook, Oriskany and Cornwall.

Participants can choose the creek or stream they want to evaluate or one can be assigned, Onion said.

People can sign up online at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Project-WAVE. Otherwise, contact Alene Onion by phone at 402-8166 or via email at [email protected]

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