It's River Bug Sampling Time Again!




Join the Friends as we explore the Shiawassee River and collect samples of the aquatic bugs that live there to learn more about the health of our river. 


Why are we doing this?  Because river bugs live in the river 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are a good indicator of our river's health. Did you know that the types, quantity and diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates (river bugs) collected at a testing site lets us assign a four-point water quality rating. We collect that information twice a year and the more years we collect that data the better able we will be to see health trends.

What is Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Sampling?

The number and type of bugs found in a stream are an indicator of river health. Based on the bugs collected at a testing site, we're able to give that stretch of river a water quality rating according to standards set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Clean Water Corps program (MICorps). The Shiawassee Stream Team is an extension of the MICorps program.

With an emphasis on collecting high-quality data, groups of volunteers from around the watershed are trained to collect samples of benthic macro-invertebrates (water bugs!). We refer to these groups asStream Teams. The data collected each year builds a long-term record that can assists local and state governments, research institutions, and other community organizations gain a better sense of river health and to quickly recognize and address pollution problems.

Our goal is to help communities and motivate local governments to protect water quality by providing them with data on the river's health...and to have fun while doing it! Click here to download and share our brochure!

What is "Sampling" and what would I have to do, exactly?

Sampling Teams test multiple sites two times per year, in the spring and in the fall. A Team Leader is assigned to organize activities at each site by assigning other volunteers the job of either a Collector or a Picker.

Collectors borrow a pair of waders and an aquatic net (provided by the Friends) and wade through sections of the river, kicking up sediment and scooping up bugs that live on the river bottom. The Collectors then put these samples of sediment into trays for the Pickers, who comb through the sediment with forceps looking for bugs. Any bugs found are deposited into plastic jars for identification at our Bug I.D. Day.

At Bug I.D. Day, volunteers - with the help of an expert -- learn to identify the aquatic macroinvertebrates collected. The different bugs are tallied, and the data is sent to federal, state and local government leaders. This data is used by governments, research institutions, and conservation groups (like Friends!) to identify if there are any changes in river quality and if there is further action necessary for our communities and the Shiawassee River Watershed.

Who can participate?

These Teams are geared toward adults, students, and older children; due to the need for careful data collection. If you have questions about whether or not your child may participate, please call the Friends' office.


By testing water quality in different regions of the Shiawassee River, Sampling Teams are creating a clearer picture of watershed health. Through local Stream Teams, communities are also sharing resources and knowledge that enables them to improve the entire Shiawassee River System. Our goal is to create Stream Teams in every region of the Shiawassee River Watershed.