REEFS 2008

REEFS is a reoccurring event held during ESA’s Annual Meeting. It is organized jointly by ESA’s Office of Education and Diversity and the Education Section.

The following resource was presented during the REEFS Session at the 2008 ESA Annual Meeting.

From Individuals to Ecosystems with Stream Macroinvertebrates

Author: Bill Bromer, University of St. Francis (wbromer@stfrancis.edu)
Activity type: Field activity
Audience level: Upper level majors

Abstract: Two laboratory periods are used to collect stream macroinvertebrates and the rich data set is used to investigate the ecology of individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. During the first period students take physical measurements and collect macroinvertebrates from riffles, runs and pools in Hickory Creek using RiverWatch protocols. The common taxa are identified in the field. After reading a paper on microhabitats, students devise hypotheses and make predictions about the effect of substrate size or type, velocity and depth, or canopy coverage on the distribution of one of the common taxa. The distribution data are used to test the students’ hypotheses in the form of a lab report. To study the population ecology of their taxa, the students research growth rate data and create population growth models using Excel or STELLA; eventually they add the effects of competition or predation. Student groups explain their simulations and results in oral presentations. After reading two papers about stream benthic communities, students identify the preserved macroinvertebrates from the riffles, runs and pools, calculate a macroinvertebrate biotic index as well as diversity and community similarity indices. The community data along with the physical measurements are used to write a report on the health of the stream for the EPA. Finally the students revisit their community and taxa specific data to research the role of benthic invertebrates in stream ecosystems. Their final project involves writing a grant proposal that would investigate the potential effects of a Rusty Crayfish invasion on the energy flow and nutrient cycling in Hickory Creek.

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