“Get set, ready, go!”
Scott and Ashley picked up the rocks in the stream, vigorously rubbing them while Lani held the net in place. They moved quickly, choosing as many rocks as possible in the allotted time.
“Stop!” They immediately stand up and began using their feet to move the rocks around, further dislodging the small benthic macroinvertebrates and sending them directly downstream into the net.
Lani monitored the stopwatch closely then stopped the others in the allotted time and they carefully brought the net up the stream bank and spread it out on the ground cloth.
“Wow, look at that ball of worms,” Scott said, peering closely and using the tweezers to place them in the ice cube tray for counting once all the little creatures on the net were collected.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are those creatures without backbones who live at the bottom of a stream or river and which can be seen without the aid of a microscope. The purpose of the benthic study is to survey the number, type and diversity of small animals living in Big Run in order to gather base line data and provide a measure of water quality.
A whole squadron of tiny beings inhabit the aquatic environment, fascinating in their shapes and adaptations . On the day that Dr. Christine May and her students from James Madison University visited the EMJ Farm (also owned by Scott C. Plein, owner of the White House Farm), they discovered among others, caddis flies, beetles, mayflies, damselflies, snails, several crayfish and a water scorpion.
Benthic macroinvertebrates indicate how clean or polluted water quality is since, unlike fish, they tend to stay put in one area for the duration of their lives and are therefore more fully exposed to any sources of water quality impairments. By their presence or absence, they can provide useful information as some are more tolerant of pollution than others.
Scott McNally, Ashley Carpenter and Lani Furbank are compiling the benthic study results as part of a whole farm assessment considering land use and factors which affect water quality.