A Very Buggy Day

Identifying Macroinvertebrates

 TU members Stan and Louise after a successful day of bug identification.

TU members Stan and Louise after a successful day of bug identification.

What better thing to do while waiting for the snowpocolipse (which didn't happen) to come than to identify benthic macroinvertebrates? That's what we did at PCS, Quincy site this past Wednesday with TU members Stan and Louise Iverson. Both retired teachers, Stan is a "bug guy" teaching environmental science and Louise also taught upper grades. Louise is an avid fisher, like most TU members, and while Stan enjoys fishing, he usually tags along to check out the water bugs.

Students 9th-12th grade at PCS Quincy got a great start to using dichotomous keys by first keying out themselves with the help of Louise. If you don't know how a dichotomous key works, you take the word "di" meaning to divide into two. As a whole they came up with distinguishing features separating each and every student apart; starting with brown eyes/not brown eyes and using traits such hair color, glasses and braces.

 Now substitute teachers can use this dichotomous key to figure out the students in Leslie and Casey's 9th-12th graders. 

Now substitute teachers can use this dichotomous key to figure out the students in Leslie and Casey's 9th-12th graders. 

With the ability to now key out people, the students took to the microscopes to key out some samples of water bugs Stan brought with him. Benthic macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals living in bodies of water. They are visible with the naked eye (macro) and bottom dwelling (benthic) and have no backbone (invertebrate). They can include worms, crustaceans, and aquatic forms of immature insects like mayflies, dragonflies, midges and beetles. Benthos are often called indicator species because the presence of these give us clues to the health of a stream. I heard some of the students call out as they were able to successfully identify an ephemeroptera (mayfly) and an odonata (dragonfly). 

Overall, our TU members were received very well by the students at Plumas Charter School. Stan and Louise are even willing to come back to this class and get their hands and feet wet while sampling a nearby creek.