Fall is the perfect time to get outside and learn about nature by being in nature. This was the basic idea of the Minneopa Field Day event hosted by the MN Dept of Natural Resources. Over 2 days, nearly 500 students from Mankato East trekked out to Minneopa State Park to participate in stations covering a wide range of ecological topics (Prairie Ecosystems, Bison & the Land, Technology in Nature, River Exploration etc).
River Watch helped lead the station on Benthic Macroinvertebrates (water bugs), along with members from the DNR & MPCA. The lesson covered functional feeding groups [new information to me], and how macroinvertebrates can indicate how healthy our water is. With the basics out of the way, students got to explore the creek: scooping for macroinvertebrates, traversing the rocks, and identifying flora and fauna from the creek. I find it particularly fun to carry a bug around showing it off to those who seem squeamish. The bugs are always harmless, so there is no danger in looking, but not everyone is cool with a 10 legged amphipod, or a large clawed crayfish. Ultimately, I hope students walked away with a deeper understanding of the complex ecosystem hiding just below the surface of the water, and, if not an appreciation, a lowered aversion to these strange wonderful water creatures.
*Not all macroinvertebrates are classified as bugs
This is the collection box from Day One. A close look will reveal 3 crayfish, and a predacious diving beetle. We collected many other macro's which didn't pose for the picture.
*Dobson Fly Larvae
* Net-Spinning Caddisfly Larvae
*Northern/Tube-Casing Caddisfly Larvae