By Nancy Burmeister
Every May and September I join a group of citizen scientists from the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly to test the quality of the Muskegon River. Our groups choose different tributaries. We do not use chemicals. We simply check to see who lives in the tributaries!
Carrying buckets, nets, and waders, we make our way down a steep tree-covered hill and step into the cool clear water of Ryan Creek. This beautiful little creek winds through woods and neighborhoods, flowing under bridges all the way through Big Rapids and into the Muskegon.
Traveling upstream, we count crayfish, small pan fish, turtles, and freshwater clams. We wade along and scoop our net, searching for macroinvertebrates whose presence or absence will tell us whether this water is clean enough for sensitive creatures to inhabit.
The shallow water comes around a curve and bubbles over large smooth stones as it heads downstream.
We pick up some stones to find small creatures on the bottom. Into the bucket they go. Our net pulls in others who live along the bottom of the creek.
Tall trees overhang this stream, and we stop to enjoy the peacefulness, listening for birds and frogs.
Our bucket holds stonefly larva, dragonfly nymphs, water pennies, tiny worms and other treasures. We sort and count and fill out forms identifying types and numbers of macroinvertebrates. We fill out the MICORPS forms and sign them. We are delighted to see, once again, that the creek has scored well.
Then, we trudge home again, looking forward to our next opportunity to visit this precious and fragile piece of nature again. Wading in the creek makes me feel young and carefree! Everyone should try it!