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Water Quality Monitors Serve Important Role

Photo credit Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Stoneflies and other macroinvertebrates are a sure sign of water quality at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Year over year, monitors are noticing increases in stoneflies, damselflies, dragonflies, mayflies and more. Volunteers and staff members work in tandem with the Illinois RiverWatch Network to collect water samples.
“The water quality monitoring that is happening at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie with the Illinois RiverWatch Network is essential to prairie restoration,” says Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Hydrologic Technician Rob Lorens. “Macroinvertebrates are important biological indicators of water quality and ecosystem health. From macroinvertebrates and fish near the pebbles and vegetation at the bottom of creeks to beavers, turtles, birds and other wildlife that depend on water quality, monitoring is the first step to ensure that these species continue to exist on the tallgrass prairie and elsewhere.”
Water quality monitors work directly in the waterways wearing rubber waders. Monitors shuffle their feet to stir up macroinvertebrates and then collect them in water sample containers from nine sites: Grant Creek (two sites); Jackson Creek (two sites); Jordan Creek (one site); and Prairie Creek (four sites).
Later, specimen samples are observed by trained eyes through a microscope, which allows volunteers to determine the number and type of macroinvertebrates in the water. Teams also measure width, velocity, temperature and dissolved oxygen of waterways. Volunteers with Illinois RiverWatch Network have been collecting valuable water quality information at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie since 1998. “This kind of long-term record helps us understand how streams respond to natural and human-caused changes like climate change, land-use alteration or habitat restoration,” said Illinois RiverWatch Director and stream ecologist Danelle Haake.
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