May 4, 2021
Picture this: you’re outside knee deep in the cool streams of Maine on a summer day. You’re searching for these tiny little creatures, and it’s exciting every time you find a new one. The Maine Audubon Stream Explorers project is 100% like a treasure hunt (and you never have to grab a bug if you don’t want to).
The idea for the project started years ago when Maine Audubon Director of Conservation, Sally Stockwell, saw a presentation by Tom Danielson from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about surveying streams for water quality. Sally thought it would be a great way to get community members involved in their own backyards.
Anyone who's invested in their town, state, and water in general would be interested in the Stream Explorers program. Last year, the majority of volunteers had no background in sciences. Volunteers are not usually field biologists; they are community members interested in keeping our streams healthy.
When you set out for the day, you bring along the premade materials kit with all the gear you need. As you enter the stream, you begin by collecting samples of water. Once you emit your samples into the provided white tubs, you get to the best part: inspection! As you watch the water settle you notice the little things you thought were grass begin crawling or swimming. From there, you can start to identify macroinvertebrates with the provided flowchart.
There are over 5,000 rivers and streams in Maine and the DEP can only manageably get out to around 60 a year. This program is a screening tool for them. The information the DEP receives from volunteers can help them pinpoint what might be happening in the water, which is really important to help them prioritize their focus in Maine.
We train volunteers over a two night session. The next virtual training sessions are on May 5th and 6th from 7:00 - 8:30PM. The second night of the training will dive into the new exciting aspect of this year's program: Survey123 which will help volunteers track live updates and help bring together the community of volunteers.
It’s a great family project, it’s great to do with friends, great to do on a hot day. It's really helpful to DEP and our partners in this program as well. Folks are contributing data to the DEP for important research. Stream explorers is a great way for the community members to dip their toe in the water and get involved in community science projects.
- Hannah Young: Maine AudubonConservation Program Associate