Category Archives: Education

Everyone could use a little education. Whether it’s a fun profile of a macroinvertebrate, an in-depth summary of the latest stream research, or a classroom activity for teachers to share with their students, we’ll keep you in the know about the science and wonders of Missouri streams.

Greenway Network monitors every place a road crosses Dardenne Creek

photos by Bob Virag, Stream Team volunteer
words by Larry Ruff, Greenway Network 

Dardenne Creek is 27 miles long.  It originates in Warren County, flows northwest through St. Charles County and empties into the Mississippi River directly north of St. Peters.  It is a pretty creek in its headwaters–Ozarkian in nature.

ST 463 Dardenne Day 10-12-14-A little rain doesn't stop us!
Monica Hull, Larry Ruff, and Matt Hull kick around looking for macroinvertebrates on October 12, 2014. A little rain doesn’t stop us!

In the ’20s and ’30s, farmers channelized the creek in the flatter regions of the county. Those farms have become hundreds of subdivision neighborhoods. It crosses I-70 at St. Peters and runs through he Mississippi River floodplain. Every where a road crosses the creek, Greenway Network tries to monitor that site.

Lindenwood Univ student volunteers
Lindenwood University students enjoying lunch provided by Greenway Network after the stream monitoring.
Gail Johnston ST 2819 & Larry Ruff ST 463
Gail Johnston is a Biology instructor at Lindenwood University (ST 2819) in St. Charles and always brings students to Dardenne Day.

We’ve been doing Dardenne Day for at least 14 years. Monitoring takes place in the Spring and the Fall. This year, Dardenne Day was part of 25 Days of Stream Team.

In the Spring: 19 sites on the creek were monitored by 29 volunteers, 9 different Stream Teams.

In the Fall: 16 sites monitored by 10 volunteers, 5 Stream Teams.

Curious about how all these site visits turned out? Download results here and see for yourself! Macro ratings ranged from 0 to 25, pH hovered around 8.2, and they even logged e. coli numbers. Very interesting.

If you want to get involved with Dardenne Day or any of the other great events put on all year by Greenway Network, visit their website.

Snail Case Maker Caddisfly (Helicopsychidae)
Snail Case Maker Caddisfly (Helicopsychidae)



Lee Kern’s Top Ten Missouri Float Trips

Last week we sang praises of Lee Kern for her killer river guide skills. Now we’re thrilled to give you an exclusive: Lee’s Top 10 Missouri Float Trips. If you’re only going to float ten river stretches in your life, make it these.

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Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.
Lee Kern, everybody! Being a total rockstar.

My Top Ten Missouri Float Trips
By Lee Kern

#10 – Meramec River: Onondaga State Park to Sappington Bridge

This section of the Meramec is one of my favorites. With tall bluffs and quiet countryside it makes for a peaceful float that is not far from St. Louis.

#9 – Big Piney River: Slabtown to Ross Bridge

The Big Piney is one of my favorite rivers for fishing. Tall bluffs and swift turns on this section make for an enjoyable float that can be done in one day, but also makes for a great overnight trip. The Big Piney is never crowded and always beautiful.

#8 – Huzzah Creek: Dillard Mill to Hwy. Z

The Huzzah is a popular party float in the summer, but this section is a hidden gem that is only floatable in high water. Lots of obstacles make for a challenging adventure and there is usually a fair amount of wildlife to see.

#7 – Mississippi River: Red Star to Commerce

The Mississippi River is often overlooked by paddlers, but if you are up to the challenge it can be a great time. This section, flowing south from Cape Girardeau, is full of interesting beaches and rocky outcroppings. If the water is low enough you might get to see Commerce Rock, an ancient river map carved by indigenous people a thousand years ago.

Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.
Courtois Creek flows into the Huzzah.

#6 – Little Piney Creek: Lane Spring to Newburg

Little Piney Creek is best floated in the spring when the water is up. This narrow stream provides plenty of challenges with tight turns and some fallen trees. It is a very pretty float and a great trout stream if you have the time to fish.

#5 – Courtois Creek: Berryman to Onondaga State Park

The Courtois is another stream that can be crowded in the summer, but a really nice float in the spring. This creek has beautiful scenery and numerous tight turns that can make for a challenging paddle when the water is high.

#4 – North Fork of the White River: Hammond Camp to James Bridge

The North Fork is a jewel of the Ozarks. With numerous springs and clear, cold water, this trip makes for an excellent day on the river, especially in the heat of the summer.

#3 – Meramec River: Short Bend to Woodson K. Woods

When the rest of the Meramec is running out of its banks, head upstream to the very first access on the river. This 25-mile stretch of stream makes for a fast and fun paddle in floodwaters, and there is plenty of scenery along the way.

Lookit this cute little turtle.
Lookit this cute little turtle.

#2 – Jacks Fork River: The Prongs to Alley Mill

The Jacks Fork is one of the most popular rivers in Missouri, and with good reason. Towering bluffs and crystal clear water make for beautiful scenery that you won’t find outside of the Ozarks. The Prongs are only viable when the water is up, but it is one float that should be on every paddler’s list. This section makes for a great two or three day float with excellent fishing.

#1 – Eleven Point River: Cane Bluff to Myrtle

My absolute favorite river in Missouri is the Eleven Point. Swift, clear, shockingly cold water makes it my favorite destination in the hot summer months. Plentiful wildlife, many historic springs and great fishing are the hallmarks of this stream. The Eleven Point can often be trickier paddling than it looks, so it is great fun and a beautiful float in every season.

Everything you need to know about the Midwest’s fresh water mussels

Once again, here’s a warm welcome to the MObugs blog genius Shelly Cox . She’s been kind enough to share some of her writing on aquatic insects with the whole Stream Team community. Go check out her blog, which features really beautiful, exclusive photos, and a lot of  insider knowledge on the whole bug community.

This past 4th of July we spent an evening at the farm. We enjoyed a cookout, great friends and fireworks. The kids swam in the pond and soon discovered mussels underfoot. They grabbed up hundreds of them and placed them in a 5 gallon bucket. They were having fun finding them. I decided I wanted to try and cook some. So I kept 20 or so, and threw the rest back into the pond. I brought the mussels home and soaked them in water for a few hours, and then sauteed them in butter, onion and some seasoning. They were not near as good as I had hoped for. They maintained a muddy taste from the muddy bottom of the pond. I suppose if I had soaked them for a longer period to time it could have helped. If anyone has prepared these with success, please let me in on the secret.

As you can see the kids were having fun diving for mussels in our pond. What a great way to spend a hot summer day!

There are hundreds of fresh water mussels in the World, and nearly 300 of them live in North America. In fact North America is home to the largest variety of mussels compared to anywhere else in the World. Many are in threat of becoming endangered, in fact the estimate is as high as 3/4 of the known species may be in peril. As many as 35 species have already gone extinct. The Midwestern portion of the United States contains the highest concentration of species, Missouri alone is home to some 65 species. Native Americans utilized mussels as an important part of their diet. Not only were they a valuable food source for tribes throughout the Midwest, but they also held value in other ways. The shells were used for tempering pottery and tools, they also made jewelry, and utensils. In the late 1800’s “white man” recognized the potential value of the shells in the fashion industry. The button industry reached a boon during this time in history and many mussels were collected for the “mother-of-pearl” and sold to the button factories. The epicenter for the button industry was right in the good old Midwest. Continue reading Everything you need to know about the Midwest’s fresh water mussels

What’s the Water Scorpion’s favorite drink? Insect Slurpee.

We are as happy as a heron in a fish pond to welcome the MObugs blog’s own Shelly Cox to our anniversary site. She is kind enough to share some of her writing on aquatic insects with YOU, dear readers. Go check out her blog, which is chock full of all kinds of nutty bugs, all native to Missouri!

This crazy looking stick-like insect is NOT a Stick Insect. It is in fact a Water Scorpion in the family Nepidae. They are in the same order as other true bugs, Hemiptera. In spite of their common name of “scorpion” they look nothing like a typical terrestrail scorpion that we’ve all seen in pictures or on nature programming.

Water Scorpion
photo by Shelly Cox, of the MObugs blog.

They do not have a stinging tail or venom that they inject with a painful sting. They are very long and thin just as this picture shows. Their front two front legs are used to grab insect prey and pull it back into their mouth to feed. They will eat tadpoles, tiny fish like minnows or offspring of other fish (in captivity they do well on young guppies), they will also feed on other aquatic insects. Their mouth is much like another group of insects within this order called the assassin bugs. It is a beak-like structure that pierces the outer skeleton of their prey, then they inject them with an enzyme which sedates their prey as well as liquefying the insides of the unfortunate victim. The water scorpion can then slurp up the insides like an insect slurpee.

The long “tails” that protrude from the backside of the scorpion are actually breathing tubes. They typically float on debris or plants near the waters surface where they will extend their breathing tubes out of the water. They can swim, but seldom do unless disturbed.  They will overwinter as adults and lay eggs the following spring. The female will lay her eggs in vegetation near the shore line or on the surface of the water. In about 2 to 4 weeks the eggs hatch and the young begin feeding on tiny insect prey. It takes them about 2 months to reach maturity. It is not uncommon to see one of these crazy looking insect reach lengths up to 5 or 6 inches. These crazy bugs possess wings and will fly.

photo by Shelly Cox, of the MObugs blog
photo by Shelly Cox, of the MObugs blog

The one pictured here was captured by a little girl during a field trip to my office. We were hosting a local preschool for a field trip to the pond. We divided the group into two separate groups. One half of the group fished, while the other half mucked around in the pond for aquatic insects. Then we switched the groups. One of the girls in the first group pulled her net into shore and screamed that she caught a water spider. I went to investigate and discovered that she had caught this water scorpion. It was only the second one I’ve ever seen and certainly the biggest at approximately 3 1/2 inches in length. I made a big deal out of her capture and told her what a special insect she caught. She was thrilled. After the group left I kept the scorpion and placed it in a tank. I’ve been feeding it freeze dried crickets. We will keep it for a few weeks and use if for programs before releasing it back to the pond it came out of.

Visiting the pond, lake, stream or other water source and exploring for a few hours with something as simple as a net and a shallow dish can yield all sorts of interesting insects to learn about. Get out and discover what is hiding below the surface.

Caddisfly larvae: hippie homesteaders of the streams

Let’s review your friends and acquaintances. They mostly live in houses, take regular showers, enjoy the occasional dinner out, and go with the societal flow, right? 

But you know that guy…

That guy . . .

The one who constructed a home out of logs he cut himself and Styrofoam chunks he pulled off a riverbank? Who eats only what’s in season and criticizes places with too much pollution? And that same person, when they’re not surveying the back 40, probably occupies himself with crafts like spinning his own thread or making jewelry . . . got that image in mind?

See, if you lived in a stream, “that guy” would be a caddisfly larva.

In fact, it’s kind of hard to tell the two apart . . .caddisfly infographic


Your hair is everywhere: First off, the caddisfly order Trichoptera is Greek for ‘hairy wing,’ and you knowww how the treehugger type loves being hairy. The Caddis part means cotton or silk; in Elizabethan era, “caddice men” (vendors of ribbons, braids, etc.) pinned their goods on their coats.

Casemaker, homesteader, potato potahto: When these creatures spin a silk case or cocoon around themselves, they also tie on nearby debris — sand, rock, twigs, leaf pieces, shells. The cases are functional, allowing water in and out over the larval gills. They’re sturdy, sometimes weighing the creatures down in the current.

In a couple of years, the caddisflies’ descendants will point to those little cases trembling in the riffle and say, “My grandfather built this house with his own six hands, with material right from this stream!” Everyone will be impressed.

Equal rights for every invertebrate! There’s a sad side to this industrious behavior. As often happens in global markets, so too are humans are exploiting caddisflies for commercial purposes. In this case, to make jewelry at a high markup. Artists just plop the little larvae in an aquarium filled with gold flakes, pearls, and precious stones, and the caddisflies do the rest. We have to admit, the results are pretty stunning:


Can I have the reverse osmosis water, please?: Another value of the caddisflies is their exacting taste in water. According to this Biomonitoring Macroinvertebrates site, “They breathe dissolved oxygen by diffusion across their soft tissues, and they have a limited ability to cope with low dissolved oxygen by wiggling their bodies within their cases. However, they lack the ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen that some other more tolerant insects have.”

So if you find a caddisfly larva in your stream, congratulations! You have a stream worthy of an eco-snob’s standards. I know I was excited when I spotted this little guy at Clifty Creek Conservation Area in Dixon in February:

Take it easy, man: Finally, it’s just easy to admire the caddisfly larva’s mellow take on life. When it comes to building houses, they work with what they’ve got. They eat what food’s available to them and are willing to change their munching style to do so. They can live in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, whatever’s fresh. And they are willing and accepting, for goodness sake, to completely metamorphose into an entirely new body at the simple change of a season. Enlightened? Check. Good head on their shoulders? Check. Ain’t nothing wrong with being a hippie, Mr. Caddisfly. You keep on doin’ you.

More information

The Beginner’s Guide to Caddis

Bug Guide on Trichoptera’s 1,350+ species

 P.S. – Huge thanks to Mark Haim for letting us use his image in this graphic. And thanks to the caddisfly, too, wherever you are.

Happy Water Watch Week!

Watershed organizations in the Ozarks have joined with business and community partners to sponsor Water Watch Week: 14 days for water-minded people to attend workshops, network and enjoy the water!

For details on all events (including ones in Arkansas!), visit www.waterwatchw​ or click on the links below:

For more information about events visit www.waterwatchw​ or call (417) 739-5001.

Onsite Septic Wastewater Workshop is May 31

photo by Soil Science @ NC State

Activity: Workshop on Onsite Septic Wastewater
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2014 (*register by May 28!)
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Place: MDC Central Office, 2901 West Truman Boulevard, Jefferson City, MO

What to expect: Learn about onsite wastewater treatment (a.k.a. “septic”) systems from the state’s experts. The Department of Natural Resources often gets asked, “Who regulates domestic wastewater in Missouri?” The answer is, different state and local agencies! There’s a lot to learn about this subject that’s rarely discussed. Become a local expert through this workshop!

Class size is limited and seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Lunch will be on your own. You will receive a confirmation letter with detailed information about the workshop including an agenda, map to the workshop location, and hotel and restaurant information after you register.

To register, or for more information: Please contact Susan Higgins at (573) 526-1002 or susan.higgins@d​ by May 28, 2014.

25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalThis is the first academy featured as a Stream Team 25th Anniversary event, but it won’t be the last! Keep your peepers peeled for a workshop on conducting a litter pickup, too! But that’s not all–Stream Team runs a lot of workshops to further your education all the time. Learn more here.

Visit Springfield’s Hidden Nature Gem on May 29

WC-APO-WCO-ALT-text-colorActivities: Tour the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks Watershed Center and learn how to build for balanced ecology.
Date: Thursday, May 29, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. 
Place: C. W. Titus Educational Facility at Valley Mill Park, 2400 E Valley Watermill Rd, Springfield, MO

What to expect: Join Watershed Committee of the Ozarks for a casual evening tour of its three-year-old LEED Gold education facility and outdoor trails. Staff will discuss the building’s green design and showcase best management practices for reducing stormwater runoff (hint: if you’re intrigued by “living walls,” “silt sock erosion tubes,” and constructed wetlands, this is the tour for YOU).

Pop into the Center, explore two whole acres of BMPs and low-impact design features, or have an adventure on a 1.5-mile trail that takes you around a bee-yoo-ti-ful lake.


This 100-acre parcel is of great geologic and historic interest. It contains a prominent fault zone where streams sink into underground channels. It was the site of a grist mill before the Civil War, and it contains a wide variety of natural and man-made features, including a seventeen-acre lake, wetlands, spring-fed stream, caves, sinkholes, glades and forests. You can click around on this sweet interpretive map, but it’s certainly no replacement for an in-person tour!

Watershed Committee of the Ozarks is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 whose mission is to sustain and improve the water resources of Springfield and Greene County through education and effective management of the region’s watersheds. Learn more here.

What to bring: Your curiosity! Your camera! Your fishing pole! And, if you’re inclined to dine in a picturesque scene, perhaps you might pack a nice picnic dinner.


For more information or to register: contact Rob Hunt at (417) 833-8525 or email rob@watershedco​

25th-ST_Logo-Color-Final(white-center)The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks tour is part of “25 Days of Stream Team,” which includes many tours, litter pickups, education events, and a three-day float. You can get a passport stamped at each official event to win fame and prizes, like a Stream Team lunch cooler or personal flycasting lessons with none other than Mark Van Patten.

Happy Stormwater Awareness Month!

Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program

May is Stormwater Awareness Month! Non-point source pollution, or water contaminants from multiple or hard-to-identify sources,  can cause a lot of problems in streams.

Unfortunately, Missouri streams are no exception. Urban runoff carries pollutants such as oil, dirt, chemicals, and lawn fertilizers directly to streams and rivers, while agricultural runoff can include sediment, nutrients, pathogens, pesticides, metals, and salts.

While regulations are helping to curb these impacts, you can certainly help by doing your part. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Take time out to stencil storm drains, install a rain barrel or rain garden at your home, school, or business.
  • Cleanup after your car when it spills oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, or other substances.
  • Go to a car wash or wash your car over grass or gravel instead of on the pavement (why this is important).
  • Educate your community about the connection between stormwater and streams.

Do you have other tips for preventing stormwater runoff? Tell us in the comments!

What dragonfly nymphs know about teenage angst

Photo by Flickr user Steve Begin

You know, just when you thought you knew a dragonfly, they surprise the heck out of you by having babies. Then those babies morph into progressively larger, weirder nymphs and wreak progressively more havoc on larvae living in streams. It’s a little unsettling. But that’s life on the playground, kids, and that’s just how it goes. That’s your moral of this story today.

But first, a little taxonomy: Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata, which comes from a Greek word meaning “toothed,” and refers to the mandibles of these carnivorous insects. The infraorder name Anisoptera comes from the Greek anisos, which means ‘unequal’ and pteron, meaning ‘wing.’ This won’t help you identify them in the nymph stage, however, because they all look like freaky, wingless monsters.

Look at this cute little baby dragonfly. Don't you just want to cuddle it? What? No? Well neither does its mother. Maybe that's why it eats other insects.
Look at this cute little baby dragonfly. Don’t you just want to cuddle it? What? No? Well neither did its mother. Maybe that’s why it eats other insects. Photo by Cyndy Sims Parr.

Where they live: Ponds and slow-flowing rivers near aquatic vegetation or in calmer areas of streams.

You can identify them by: Sheer weirdness. And they don’t have tails like damselfly, mayfly or stonefly nymphs. Probably because their butts are busy doing other things.

If water bugs had yearbooks, dragonflies would be voted: “Most Likely to Commit a Violent Crime.”

And would be runner-up for: “Most Likely to Write a Coming of Age Novel.” Seriously, these naiads take forever—like up to 95% of their life cycle—just molting into progressively bigger forms. When they hatch from an egg, they look stout, dull-colored, and frumpy. No resplendent wings or colorful patterns here. About the only thing they share with their parents is an insatiable thirst for other insects.

Which brings us to: The part where we scare the pants off of you.

Slow-mo dragonfly nymph labium (lower lip) in action. The actual strike only takes 10 milliseconds. From Bulanbeck.
Slow-mo dragonfly nymph labium (lower lip) in action. The actual strike takes 10 milliseconds. From Bulanbeck.

Aaagh, look at that! Oh, it’s too horrible! Oh, but you can’t look away! Dragonfly naiads have gigantic hooked labium, or extendable lower lips, that snatch victims in milliseconds. Once again, the rectum aids in this process.  (It also helps with breathing. And moving. Dragonflies are probably the butt of a lot of jokes.)

What they eat: Larvae of bugs, including other dragonflies and mosquitoes. And maybe the souls of litterbugs.

Which is good for us because: Nobody likes mosquitoes. Or litterbugs.

For more information, visit the Tree of Life project entry on Odonata and University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web.