by Tara Muenz, Stroud Water Research Center
Stroud Center Educators presented once again on the alpha site, this time at the 47th North American Association for Environmental Education Annual Conference (NAAEE) in Spokane, Washington. In attendance were over 1,200 educators from across the globe, merging together on the theme of ‘EE a Force for the Future.’
Our reveal of the alpha site first occurred at the ‘Share Fair’ where attendees could interact with our education staff about education programming and learn about tools to promote stewardship and knowledge of fresh water. Attendees were able to cruise through the alpha site at our table and were encouraged to attend our upcoming presentation. We heard many ‘oohs and ahhs’ when seeing the site with encouraging remarks already how this site will enhance their role as educators when connecting students to the world of aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Tara Muenz, Stroud's Assistant Director of Education with support from Steve Kerlin gave a 45-minute presentation and teaser on the alpha site to over 30 conference attendees.
This hands-on presentation demonstrated not only the capabilities of this incredible site, but also engaged the audience in a conversation on tips for training and learning the how to identify macroinvertebrates with audiences coming from diverse backgrounds.
We also revealed forthcoming training support and activities such as the ‘ID FOCUS WORKSHEETS’ which are meant to do just that, FOCUS! Starting with morphology (Tip # 1), we dove deep into the world of Trichoptera (Caddisfly Order) and focused on the Hydropsychidae Family (“water-spirit”) with a simple new activity you can do with students or volunteers and which gets them started in ID with caddisflies. We shared the list of the materials needed:
We are also starting to develop as a set of training supports using site imagery, a tool that we call ‘ID FOCUS SHEETS’ which guide noticing and point to key characters on the morphology of an Order (and Family, in this case).
Attendees also learned of super cool tools to come (i.e. Family-level ID cards and practice tests).
At the end of our presentation we asked for feedback and got many thumbs up! One teacher from South Carolina said ‘This is a game-changer! Combined with live insects, ID cards, and keys, this will revolutionize the way students learn, it’s incredible.’
One attendee who works with mosquitos in Florida was inspired in many ways to use the site when teaching students of all ages about mosquitos and is eager to make some ID sheets on this Family of Culicidae (mosquitos)!
The presentation generated excitement, and educators left feeling more empowered and able to support ID work. They loved the ID Focus sheets, the cards, and the clear guidance and structure to learning and teaching.
What’s next for the Stroud Center team? Time to create more of the Focus sheets, get them into the hands of others to use, and oh right, another presentation! We’ll see you in Montana next week at the 2018 MEA-MFT Educator Conference where we’ll be presenting on another NSF grant focused on the Net-spinning Caddisfly and, you guessed it, showing the new macroinvertebrates.org site!
By Tara Muenz, Stroud Water Research Center
Last winter we found a new use for the amazingly detailed imagery on macroinvertebrates.org. One of our Stroud Center educators and retired science teacher, Vince O’Donnell, realized students could benefit from 3D models of macroinvertebrates as teaching tools. Since none existed, we helped a team of high school engineering and art students create some! Check out our article in County Lines Magazine describing how we used macroinvertebrates.org to point out finer details of the taxa they were creating so the designers knew exactly what the characteristic looked like (e.g. wing pads on a mayfly, antennae structure of a stonefly, how the legs are poised, etc.). It was extremely helpful to be able to zoom into the character of the taxa and show students exactly how they needed to alter their 3D design model.
The project was a great success, and we are continuing to work with students to create more models this year!
by Tara Muenz, Stroud Water Research Center
Stroud Center educators and grant partners presented the next phase of the site to over 30 watershed educators from across the Commonwealth at the bi-annual ‘Dive Deeper’ conference in Harrisburg, PA. Through a 40-minute interactive session Assistant Director of Education, Tara Muenz, presented background on the project, and the what, why and how of the next phase of the site. With laptops, smart devices, keys, ID cards and preserved specimens, the goal was to show the benefits of using this kind of digital tool when training others and when learning how to identify with more fun and ease! Many attendees came from backgrounds of both formal and informal educators including state park and extension staff, teachers, trout unlimited chapters, nature centers and more.
Kicking it off, we showed the home page. Immediately you could see the excitement in the attendees faces when over 100 images of aquatic macroinvertebrates came ‘live’ staring right at you.
This view of the home page was our launch point for two activities to engage the attendees on how to use the website themselves and for training others.
Activity #1 focused on flowing through the site an general navigation:
Activity #2 asked attendees to compare two Orders and two Families within these orders.
We needed more time for the activities, but had great feedback so far on the utility of the site with suggestions on how to make this site more useful such as including emergence times and connections of these taxa to species of flora.
Our next presentation will be in Spokane, Washington on October 10th (5:05-5:45pm) at the North American Association for Environmental Education’s annual conference. Come see us!
By Matt Wilson, Entomologist at Stroud Water Research Center
We were curious to find out what are the dominant stream taxa across the Great Plains, Eastern Temperate Forest, and Northern Forest ecoregions?
For most field ecologists – myself included – we tend to focus on a few research questions and/or geographic areas. As a result, it can be natural to incorporate what we see in our research and in our samples into our mental model of which taxa are more broadly common in streams.
In other words, if we focus our research on the changes resulting in headwater streams from agriculture then most of what we see reflects the animals present in small streams and the tolerant taxa found in agriculture. Or if we focus on conservation of a specific watershed then our mental model has a tendency to narrow in geography. To compensate for this, and remove any personal bias from taxa selections, I took advantage of a dataset that is both professionally curated and publicly available from the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC; http://waterqualitydata.us/).
This dataset included decades of samples from the US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and NWQMC collected across the United States and a few select sites in Canada.
An interdisciplinary team