River Runners Needed To Collect Flying Insects

RRFW Riverwire – River Runners Needed To Collect Flying Insects

July 3, 2015

The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) is seeking river runners to collect samples of flying insects throughout the Colorado River basin using light traps. This citizen science initiative will help scientists to better understand the food web of the Colorado River.

The quality of streams and rivers is often assessed by monitoring aquatic insect populations because aquatic insects live in rivers for weeks to years and therefore integrate the effects of changes in the physical environment. Traditionally, when scientists want to understand aquatic insect populations they look down into the body of water and collect benthic (bottom-dwelling) larval insects. This project instead looks up at emergent insects, the adult winged forms of aquatic insects. Understanding what variables affect aquatic insect presence and emergence patterns is an essential piece to understanding food webs. Larval aquatic insects are important food for native and non-native fish and, once they emerge from the river as adults, become key prey items for terrestrial consumers such as birds, bats, spiders, and lizards.

The river sections involved include Cataract Canyon, Desolation and Grey canyons, Lodore, Yampa and Split Mountain canyons, the Gunnison River, Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater canyons and the Grand Canyon.

The purpose of this citizen science initiative is to track the species presence, abundance, and emergence patterns of aquatic insects throughout the upper Colorado River basin. Understanding the impacts of physical variables on aquatic insects can be used to better inform natural resource managers throughout the southwest and around the world.

The light traps are small (blacklight placed on the edge of a Tupperware) and are very simple to deploy. Each evening at camp you place the trap near the water’s edge, just above the day’s high water line. The light trap needs to be deployed within an hour aftersunset and needs to stay out for 1 hour. Deploying the trap will take about 5 minutes and picking up traps, preserving the sample, and recording your notes will take around 10 minutes. For as little effort as 10 or 15 minutes each day, you can make an invaluable contribution to describing the ecology of the Colorado River.

The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center will provide you a sampling kit which includes light traps, bottles for preserving samples each night, timer-alarm, a small databook, a Peterson Field Guide for Insects, and a river guide (that is yours to keep) in which to notate the exact river mile where samples were collected. Citizen scientists collecting on more than 4 trips per year will be financially reimbursed $10 per sample.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please send an email to citizen_science@usgs.gov  Additionally, please visit the GCMRC website at www.gcmrc.gov  Click on the “Science Activities” tab and go to “Aquatic Ecology Group” for cool pictures, links to articles, and news stories about monitoring the insect activity of the upper Colorado River.


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