Stream monitoring a dirty but crucial job

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This weekend, Cass County volunteers will have an opportunity to get wet and muddy while they get hands-on with bugs, worms and the other tiny creatures that inhabit local waterways.

The Cass and St. Joseph county conservation districts are teaming up to sponsor their first stream monitoring field-training exercise at 10 a.m. Saturday at Russ Forest Park, located outside Dowagiac on Marcellus Highway. Volunteers from around the county are invited to come out and participate in the session, where they will learn how to collect and harvest insects and other invertebrate that live in local rivers, creeks and streams.

These small, unassuming creatures are often ignored by locals while they go about their fishing or kayaking in county waters; however, these organisms actually play an important role in helping environmentalists determine pollution levels of a particular body of water.

Conservation officers can help find out the quality of streams by measuring the kinds and populations of invertebrates contained within it, since different species are more or less tolerant of water pollutants. However, these kinds of studies require the assistance of many people to actually collect the creatures and sort them for study, as well as money for equipment.

Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the latter half of that equation is solved for the Cass County Conservation District. Now they just need the labor to pull off the work.

And this work is without a doubt a benefit for the people of Cass County. Home to dozens of different lakes and rivers, much of the area’s tourism and recreational dollars are focused on these natural resources. Locations like Sister Lakes and Diamond Lake are two such destinations that have become synonymous with Cass County.

If the quality of water in these areas go down, so will the dollars and prestige they bring with them.

We thank the conservation district for putting this stream monitoring program together. We hope that people interested in improving our county’s environment get involved and do their part to continue to make our region a gem in southwest Michigan.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.