The Upper Au Sable River Watershed Monitoring Project

It’s hard to imagine it now, with a foot of snow on her cedar sweepers and ice growing out from her banks, but soon it will be spring on our mighty Au Sable River and the first weekend in June will be the fourth sampling event for the Upper Au Sable River Watershed Monitoring Project. That annual June event will see six teams of enthusiastic volunteers scouring the river for benthic (bottom dwelling) macro (not microscopic) invertebrates (bugs). The sampling sites are on each major branch of the watershed and extend for 300 feet along the stream. The collection process takes about an hour. Once collected and preserved, the samples are taken to a science lab at Kirtland for identification and scoring. The identification process usually takes several evenings to complete and relies heavily on the skills of a few very accomplished entomologists. Working with them is a great way to hone your bug identification skills. The final step is to score the collections. The scoring process places the identified bugs into groupings based upon their habitat preferences and water quality tolerances and uses a protocol common to all MiCorps funded projects. Our results are added to the MiCorps database and are available to all interested parties. The collections are maintained in an exhibit at the Au Sable River Center in Roscommon. All of our samples have scored very high as you might have guessed and provides us with our primary motivation for being involved in this project in the first place. Our principle goals for the watershed monitoring effort are to help ensure, both for the short term and long term, the good health of the river, by establishing ecological benchmarks and to enlist a large cadre friends of the river as volunteers. That’s it. That is what we are all about. It’s a lot of fun and you get to work with a very dedicated group of river lovers and of course the mighty Au Sable River. The project began in 2007 when a grant from the Michigan Clean Water Corps or MiCorps was awarded to the Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve and three partner organizations; the Anglers of the Au Sable, the Au Sable River Center, and Kirtland Community College. The Roscommon County Community Foundation, Kirtland Community College Foundation, the Au Sable River Watershed Restoration Committee, the Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter of TU and the William B. Mershon Chapter of TU have also provided funding. If our efforts are to be sustained and we sincerely hope they will, the project must grow. We need more sampling sites, more volunteers. and we need continuing funding. Our grant from MiCorps was for two years. That two-year period will end with our June collection event. Please consider joining us.

Tom Dale,
Project Leader
Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve
PO Box 421 Roscommon, MI 48653
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