A pick-up group of stream team members huddle around a net that they used to collect macroinvertebrates from nearby Tin Cup, a creek not well recognized in Joplin. The group met to compile baseline data for analyzing its health.
Concerned over recent development in the area, Jennifer Jones of Joplin, a first level stream team member, wanted to get baseline data for Tin Cup, a stream that flows near her house. It also runs past Freeman Hospital and the developing commercial area along West 32nd St. near McClelland Blvd.
Especially concerned over the run-off from paved parking lots, Jones believes that the stream which she calls a "tribute to nature," is going to deteriorate based on further development. "We need to track the health of the stream relative to the seemingly unregulated development," she said.
Pricilla Stotts of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources water protection program assists Phil O'Hare of Joplin in measuring the size of a riffle (a more shallow area of faster moving water where a few rocks break the surface) before collecting specimens.
Jennifer Jones holds a kick net while Rosiland Layne churns up the water aiding in the collection of benthic macroinvertebrates. The health of the stream in part is determined by the kinds and number of these animals that are found. Looking on is Priscilla Stotts.
Assisting Jones in the nascent stream monitoring program for Tin Cup Creek were Priscilla Stotts, stream team coordinator for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Americorps coordinator Rosiland Layne and Phil O'Hare of Joplin, who is a volunteer water quality monitor for a section of Shoal Creek, the focus of his own stream team's efforts. Stotts and Layne had come from Webb City where they had presented a program to about 70 students on the value of water and the preservation of Missouri's natural resources. They were augmenting a program started by Webb City Senior High School biology teacher Wayne Smith.
Jennifer Jones, at left, separates collected debris in order to reveal any benthic macroinvertebrates collected in their kick net. Often a magnifying glass is needed to classify the specimens as well as a container of water to flush away any silt. With her is Rosiland Layne and Phil O'Hare.
Because biologists have determined the pollution tolerance of many common macroinvertebrates, the health of a body of a stream can be measured. The pollution in question often is the abundance of nutrients or sediments that cause low dissolved oxygen conditions, but it also could be the presence of bacteria or toxic chemicals. Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies have the lowest tolerance to pollution; their presence in quantity suggests a healthy stream. Finding a great deal of midges, aquatic worms, leeches and blackflies without finding the low tolerance species suggests a stream has been compromised. The presence of beetles, craneflies and crustaceans fall in the middle of the two classifications and suggest that the stream could be healthier.
In doing a macroinvertebrte survey to assess the impact of human activity on the stream, a stream monitor needs to know what to expect to find in the stream under natural conditions and at different times of the year. As well as water quality factors, macroinvertebrates are affected by the conditions of the stream bottom, the depth and velocity of the water in the stream, the length of a day and the climate present.
The group on September 28 found that the animals that they collected from Tin Cup while the creek had a water flow measured at 1.063 cubic feet per second scored in the poor range. However, it was suggested that flooding earlier in the month may have washed away a lot of natural habitat.
Jones continues to wonder what any more development would do to further alter the animals' habitat.
Photos by Vince Rosati