News & Resources

In Appreciation of Freshwater - By Eli Baker

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Oct 30, 2015

If you grew up in Michigan, or any of the great lakes states, you know that water, by virtue of its shear abundance, is an extremely important resource. Every season of the year people are interacting with Michigan’s plentiful freshwater in different ways. From the long days of summer spent lounging in the lake to the frigid days of fall casting to silvery specters in the stream. It is true that we Midwesterners love our bodies of water. But during my time as an intern at Au Sable I came across another way to interact with the wet world that we love that is educational, fun, and beneficial for the environment. It is called the volunteer stream-monitoring program!

For several years now Au Sable has been participating in the MiCorps volunteer stream-monitoring program. Working in partnership with the DEQ, local municipalities, and several non-profit organizations, Au Sable’s stream monitoring program works to collect important water quality data on the Upper Manistee River through the help of volunteers. This is a lot of work and it would be very difficult to get done if they didn’t have the help of many volunteers from all walks of life.

Each year during the fall and spring volunteers visit select locations within the upper Manistee River watershed to collect insects from the stream. The bugs collected vary from tiny midges to the infamous dobsonfly larvae or hellgrammite. Stream health is determined by the diversity and abundance of the critters collected within the stream. Once the insects are collected, the group completes an assessment of the site’s habitat before heading back to Au Sable for some lunch.

As an intern I had the privilege of going on several of these collection trips and each time I had a blast! Now I will admit that, as a fly fisherman, I am a bit predisposed to being interested in the life in a stream, but I would wager that I would have been amazed at the variety of life we found even if I had never set foot in a stream in my life. So often we see the beautiful rivers and streams that our creator gave us as just a piece of the scenery, but through this program we are challenged to see the stream as a home for a huge variety of critters as well.

While I loved being able to wade through the stream picking up rocks and logs in search of these tiny inhabitants, the most enjoyable part was getting to know my fellow volunteers. I was impressed by the fact that none of them worked specifically in conservation or had any prior experience in stream monitoring. Rather, they were people who were interested in learning about and helping to protect their local environment. I loved to be able to spend the day in the river with a group of likeminded individuals engaged in learning and general science-ing.

Au Sable’s stream monitoring program is an amazing opportunity for people, of all ages and walks of life to learn more about stream ecology and how to care for their local waterways. And for those fishermen out there it is a great way to learn where the fish are and what they are eating!

You can find out more about Au Sable's volunteer stream monitoring program by contacting Project Manager, Paul Wiemerslage by phone (231) 587-8686 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  More information is also available on Au Sable's website.