Bugs as Bioindicators
Every spring and fall students in the Lake Champlain Basin become budding stream ecologists, poised with kick nets, waterproof boots and lobster red camouflage gloves. They are on a mission to find and identify benthic macroinvertebrates or BMIs, those bugs, insect larvae, and worms that represent the health of a stream or river system. BMIs are biological indicators that stream ecologists use to determine the health of the stream and watershed. BMIs fall into various pollutant tolerance categories from sensitive stonefly and dobsonfly larva and semi-tolerant blackfly larva and snails to organisms very tolerant of pollutants like leeches and aquatic bloodworm larva.
Identifying these benthic (bottom-dwelling) macroinvertebrates is not always easy for students or their teachers. Vermont EPSCoR Streams Project has created Macroinvertebrate Pages that illustrates the most common BMIs found from over 40 sample streams or rivers collected by stream teams in Vermont, New York, Connecticut, and Puerto Rico. The site is constantly being updated as more streams are researched and samples are added to this illustrated and informative database. If you are a teacher or student interested in learning more about stream ecology and health, BMIs, and local watershed stewardship please contact Watershed Alliance. One of our goals is to educate more people each year about watershed health and turn them into curious and effective naturalists.