Watershed Outreach Interns, Mallory Pinkowksi and Haley Giannone, are creating an updated collection of macro invertebrates for the EPCAMR “Peek-A-Bug” collection. This collection has been used in our outdoor environmental education programs for the last 12 years. They were originally collected and preserved by former Watershed Outreach Intern, Teresa Genna, in 2003, at stream sampling locations in the Wyoming Valley. The collection contains over 34 different macro invertebrates.
The new “Macros on Ice” samples will be used, along with the older ones, for future environmental education programs. The old plastic vials contain a mixture of distilled water and alcohol to preserve the aquatic insects. The vials sometimes leak, causing the samples to dry out. EPCAMR has nearly 120 vials of macro invertebrates that have been used at hundreds of environmental education programs throughout the coal region.
Previously, the vials were placed in a bug viewer to magnify the macros only from the side. The specimens could not be viewed from the top of the viewer. The 3-D two-way viewers can be used for a variety of objects, including leaves, flowers, and of course, macro invertebrates. The viewers have a top lens that enables the students to view a specimen at 6 times its size, while the lower lens views a specimen from the underside at 4 times its size. The 3-D two-way viewer is a perfect observation tool for both the field and the classroom. It is very durable and kid-friendly, as are the vials.
The new samples are created by pouring clear polyester casting resin into a mold, resembling an ice cube tray, that holds duplicate macro invertebrate samples from the Peek-A-Bug collection. The resin is then left to harden. At this time, there are 24 “Macros On Ice”. These samples can now be viewed from the top, bottom, and sides of the bug viewers.
EPCAMR Interns are also working on new educational materials to go along with the new samples, including a Pollution Tolerance Index, a macro invertebrate fact sheet, and an EPA macro invertebrate adaptation information sheet. These sheets are laminated for outdoor environmental education program use.
Macro invertebrates are the “canaries of the coal mines” in our rivers and streams. They are great indicators of stream health and ecology, fishery health, and water quality. EPCAMR not only collects these macro invertebrates for use in our educational programs, but also for stream assessments, to determine stream health of AMD and non-AMD impacted waterways.