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Sugar Creek Stomp: Water bugs as water quality indicators


Sugar Creek stomp? Benthic macroinvertebrates? Water quality? What does all this have to do with environmental monitoring? Benthic macroinvertebrates are bottom-dwelling aquatic animals without backbones that are large enough to see with our eyes. These animals include worms, mollusks such as clams and snails, crustaceans such as crawdads, and immature water bugs like dragonflies, crane flies, water boatmen, backswimmers, mosquitos and mayflies. Some of these water bugs we will examine are sensitive to pollution, and we can use their presence in Sugar Creek to monitor the water quality and health of our nearby stream. 

The Sugar Creek Stomp is the next program in CDPL’s Library Naturalist Series. Participants will meet with the Library Naturalist at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sugar Creek Trailhead parking lot on 2722 Rock River Ridge Road. There will be a short talk about benthic macroinvertebrates, pollution level categories, different creatures we may find, where we may see them in the water, and how to identify them to determine the health of Sugar Creek. We will use identification charts and pollution index to put our citizen science to the test. Dip nets and collection containers will be available free on a first come first serve basis until supplies run out. 

Next, we will hike down Sugar Creek Trail to the bridge and take a short excursion down the steps and through the woods to the rock bar and water’s edge where we will look for evidence of benthic macroinvertebrates. Once we notice activity in the water, around rocks, sticks, and plants, on the bottom of the creek, or swimming on the top, we will use our dip nets to capture them alive and put them in our viewing containers for observation and identification. Using ID charts, we will determine the species and by default, their level of pollution tolerance, and hence, the overall health of Sugar Creek. In addition, we will have larger buckets to pool our water bugs for an overall species count.

Please note that this program will cover uneven terrain, and may not be accessible to all.  Sturdy footwear and a water bottle are recommended. This program is scheduled for two hours with the Library Naturalist, from 10 a.m. until noon, until the naturalist concludes the program at the creek, and guides participants back to the parking lot. You are welcome to stay shorter, or longer, based on preference. I hope that everything will be so exciting you want to stay longer! Don’t forget to bring your nature journals too for field notes. No registration is required and is suitable for all ages. Bring the family!

For additional questions on the Sugar Creek Stomp, contact the Adult Services information desk at 765-362-2242, or email The library is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 


Stephanie Morrissette is an avid naturalist and a library assistant in the Adult Services Department at the Crawfordsville District Public Library.