Stream Sampling


Volunteers will be back in the Cedar River this fall to determine the river’s water quality by looking at the macroinvertebrates living in the water. Little Forks Conservancy is seeking volunteers for a stream sampling day on Saturday, September 18, 2021.     

Volunteers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Pavilion in Gladwin City Park, located at 240 City Park St. in Gladwin. Teams will then disperse to sample six sites along the Cedar River in both Gladwin and Clare counties before reuniting for lunch.

Little Forks Conservancy began monitoring water quality of the Cedar River in the fall of 2015. Six years later, some changes are starting to become evident. In 2015, water quality of the six sites were split evenly between excellent and good. Since 2019, only one site was found to be in excellent condition while two had dropped to the fair category. 

“It’s important to continue sampling these sites every year so that we can better understand whether these changes are purely seasonal fluctuations or if they indicate something more,” said Kaitlynn Burkhard, Huron Pines AmeriCorps member serving at Little Forks Conservancy.

Macroinvertebrates are animals without a backbone that can be seen with the naked eye. These bottom-dwelling animals include crustaceans and worms but most are aquatic insects. They include the larval forms of common flying insects such as dragonflies and mayflies. 

Each species of macroinvertebrate differs in their tolerance to pollutants in the river; some species are very tolerant to poor water quality while other species are not able to survive in polluted waters. Knowing what types of macroinvertebrates are living in the water can be used to determine the water quality at each site along the river. 

Experienced volunteers will act as team leaders and collectors, working in the river to ensure quality samples are acquired. Newer volunteers will assist their team leaders with sorting and transporting the samples. 

Volunteers will need to be able to walk on uneven terrain and in forested areas to reach the collection points. This project is intended for volunteers over age 8; however, no specific experience is necessary to assist the team leader and the collector.

Volunteers can also help identify the samples on Monday, September 20 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Little Forks office in Midland (125 McDonald St., second floor). 

For more details or to sign up, visit, or contact Kaitlynn Burkhard at or 989-835-4886.

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