Each year at adopted stream sites in their local communities, RiverWatch citizen scientists conduct habitat and biological surveys. The program strives to collect consistent, high-quality data on the conditions of local streams and provide participants with a hands-on opportunity to be better stewards of our watersheds.
Biological surveys focus on the diversity of organisms living in a stream. To measure diversity, RiverWatchers look at small stream organisms, known as macroinvertebrates, that live in the water. Different kinds of macroinvertebrates can have varying tolerances to pollution, with the presence of more sensitive animals indicating good water quality. RiverWatch citizen scientists are trained to collect macroinvertebrates from streams, identify the different macroinvertebrates and use their data to calculate stream quality using a Macroinvertebrate Biotic Index.
Stream habitat surveys describe the physical conditions in and immediately surrounding the stream. Understanding a stream’s habitat helps us understand the differences between sites and how water quality might be changing over time.
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Become a RiverWatcher
RiverWatch training workshops are offered at sites across Illinois each year in the spring (late March to early May). If there are several interested individuals in your community and no workshop is scheduled nearby, please reach out to the RiverWatch staff at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may be able to add an event in your area. The workshop fee is $50 per adult (age 18 and up). Students aged 12 to 17 accompanied by a trusted adult with parental permission may attend free of charge (limit two students per paying adult).
Once they have been trained, RiverWatchers are asked to adopt a stream location to monitor and conduct a habitat and biological survey at that location each year in our primary monitoring period in May/June. There is a second, optional monitoring period in September/October. Stream monitoring equipment can be borrowed from one of our loaner kit facilities across the state.
To ensure that our volunteers are collecting high-quality data, we ask RiverWatchers to send their invertebrate samples to our office. A random selection of the samples are sent to the Illinois Natural History Survey for verification. In addition, RiverWatchers must take an online refresher test every two years.
For more details about the program, contact us at email@example.com or explore the materials on our RiverWatch Resources page.