The Virginia Save Our Streams biological monitoring method involves collecting and identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates, or stream insects and crustaceans. Different macroinvertebrates have different tolerances to pollution, so identifying the types of insects and crustaceans living under the water can determine water quality.
Most macroinvertebrate identification guides will ask you to look for distinguishing characteristics of the insect or crustacean. For example, how many legs does it have? Does it have antennae? Does it have gills on the abdomen?
Virginia Save Our Streams trains volunteers in macroinvertebrate identification through in-person workshops. In addition, the following resources may be helpful to volunteers.
VA SOS Identification Keys
Virginia Save Our Streams has several downloadable keys that are specific to the macroinvertebrates used in the VA SOS stream monitoring methods. Keys and further descriptions of the bugs are available on the Data Sheet Downloads page.
Macroinvertebrate Identification Webinar
Watch a recorded webcast version of the basic macroinvertebrate identification presentation the Izaak Walton League provides at Virginia Save Our Streams volunteer trainings.
Field Guide to Aquatic Macroinvertebrates
This handy reference tool is designed to help volunteer monitors identify aquatic macroinvertebrates when conducting water quality surveys. The laminated brochure is convenient and durable for outdoor use. The diagrams of the macroinvertebrate larvae and adults are grouped by biological type and display common features that characterize each animal.
Symbols indicate the relative sensitivity categories (sensitive, less sensitive, and tolerant) based on the general Save Our Streams classification system. Most macroinvertebrates are identified to the order level for easy and accurate identification in the field. Available through McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, 800-233-8787, www.mwpubco.com/conservation.htm.
Guide to Aquatic Insects and Crustaceans
An updated version of the original Save Our Streams Monitor’s Guide to Aquatic Macroinvertebrates, this 64-page fully illustrated guide is designed to enable anyone to identify aquatic insects and crustaceans. It includes a dichotomous key, detailed description of each organism, and tips for proper identification. A handy resource for anglers, students, biologists, or anyone else spending time near rivers and streams. Available through McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, 800-233-8787, www.mwpubco.com/conservation.htm.
A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America
This comprehensive field guide provides extensive background on the biology and ecology of freshwater environments and the invertebrates that thrive in them. Color plates and other identification information are provided for nearly 100 of the most common groups of invertebrates. The book also includes expanded descriptions of the life histories, behavior, and ecology of each invertebrate group. Available through McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, 800-233-8787,www.mwpubco.com/conservation.htm.
- Simple one-page key from the Izaak Walton League of America’s Creek Freaks program.
- Stroud Water Research Center on-line identification key
- West Virginia Save Our Streams keys and educational resources for macroinvertebrate identification
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Collection.