Explorer Club 360: The macroinvertebrate of Porter Creek

Bay Village middle schoolers Jennie, Alison and Anna study benthic macroinvertebrate chart.

This is the second in a series of three articles on the health of Porter Creek, a stream that flows through Westlake and Bay Village, exiting at Huntington Beach into Lake Erie. Our concern regarding the creek came from a 2014 study conducted by the Cuyahoga County Health Department that showed E. coli from Porter Creek was responsible for closing the beach for 10-20 percent of the swimming season.

Our assignment was to study the benthic macroinvertebrate of the creek. “Benthic” means bottom dwelling, “macro” means big (big enough to be seen without a microscope) and “invertebrate” means without a backbone. In other words, water bugs that live in or on the creek bottom.

Our first step in our exploration of Porter Creek bottom-dwelling creatures was to obtain the necessary wild animal permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. At the cost of $25, Wild Animal Permit 19-117 allows us to collect macroinvertebrate for educational purposes.

We collected our samples at a couple of locations, by turning over rocks and carefully removing with tweezers all creatures we could see and placing them in an egg carton for later classification. It is a well-known fact that the health of a creek can be determined by the density and type of macroinvertebrate present.

We used a data collection and indexing sheet produced by the Housatonic Valley Association that groups the invertebrate into sensitive (mayfly, stonefly, water penny larva and snails), somewhat sensitive (damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, sowbug and beetle larva) and tolerant (leeches, worms and black fly larva). A weighted index provides a Water Quality Rating (WQR).

Classifying our samples we found a sowbug, a scud and blackfly larvae, resulting in a WQR of below 11. A rating above 22 would be considered excellent but at 11 or below it is rated poor. Inasmuch as the samples were taken in February and due to the icy water only a few large rocks were turned over; it may not be accurate to say that Porter Creek is unhealthy. Definitely further study of the creek is indicated.

The United Nations World Water Day was on March 22 this year and highlighted the fact that worldwide 2.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water in their homes; 1,000 children die each day from lack of clean water. It is a resource we are blessed with living on Lake Erie. Please help us protect it by “picking up” after your puppy.

Learning for Life, Explorer Club 360 is chartered to Bay Sea Scouts Inc. and is a co-ed after school program for middle school youth. Club 360 in the winter months concentrates on environmental studies of our waterways and in the summer can be found sailing and boating on Lake Erie. For more information about joining, contact Richard Gash, 440-871-6106 or skipper@seascoutship41.org.

Anna Grossman, Alison Hartzell and Jennie Koomar

Adult leader with Sea Scout Ship 41, contact mr.gash@gmail.com

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 9:35 AM, 04.03.2018