Adopt-A-Stream Events

April 21, 2011 - The Dahlem Conservancy (6:30 - 8:30 p.m.)
New Volunteer Training Workshop (Jackson County)

April 26, 2011 - Ingham County Conservation District (6:30 - 8:30 p.m.)
New Volunteer Training Workshop (Ingham County)

May 7, 2011 - Dahlem Conservancy or Ingham Conservation District(9 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
Spring Collection Day

May 10, 2011 - Jackson Community College, McDivitt Hall (5:30 - 8:30 p.m.)
Bug ID Night

Adopt-A-Stream Newsletters

Spring 2008
Fall 2008
Winter/Spring 2009
Winter Stonefly Hunt 2009
Fall 2009
Winter 2009/2010
Spring 2010
Summer 2010


What Is the Adopt-A-Stream Program?

Although it sounds like Adopt-A-Highway, it's different. Instead of picking up trash, Adopt-A-Stream volunteers monitor water quality, describe the habitat in and around the river, and collect " macroinvertebrates" (macro meaning large and invertebrates meaning they lack backbone)("bugs") to track the health of the Upper Grand River system. It's like a science project for adults. It's an opportunity to get out in the woods, on the river, and meet new friends. It's a way to learn more about the ecology of the watershed you live in, and a stepping stone to taking further steps to restore our river.

Twice a year, teams of Adopt-A-Stream volunteers visit the river to collect information regarding its physical condition (e.g., surrounding land uses, evidence of erosion or sedimentation, water clarity, etc.) and to collect bugs.

Some team members wade in the stream to do the collecting. They bring back nets full of mud, sticks, leaves, etc., where the bugs gather, and other Adopters sort through this material to find and collect the bugs in jars. Other team members collect basic water quality information on temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen concentrations.

Teams generally visit two sites on a Saturday (9 a.m. to roughly 1 p.m.), then return the following week to sort and identify the bugs collected.

For more information read below or click the links at left to view our current or past Adopt-A-Stream newsletters.

Why Do We Look at Bugs?

A healthy river should support a diverse assemblage of fish and other aquatic life. Because different species of fish and macroinvertebrates require different, specific conditions to survive and reproduce they serve as useful indicators of the conditions in our streams´┐Żlike canaries in a coal mine, if species that require cool temperatures and a lot of oxygen dissolved in the water are absent from parts of the river, then that gives us insight into issues that need to be addressed. We collect macroinvertebrates because they have limited mobility. Whereas fish can swim away if a section of river is suddenly impacted by pollution, the bugs cannot. The bugs best represent average conditions in the river. A collection of bugs that has both a diverse mix of species and species intolerant of pollution indicates that the river is healthy.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)assesses each river in Michigan, using the same methods Adopt-A-Stream volunteers use, every five years. But the number of sites they can sample is limited. Adopt-A-Stream volunteers can gather information more frequently and monitor additional locations to learn even more about what is happening in the Upper Grand.

How you Can Get Involved

Check the calendar on this website to find out when the next Adopt-A-Stream event is planned. The Upper Grand River Adopt-A-Stream Program is jointly run by the Jackson County Conservation District (JCCD), the Dahlem Conservancy, and the Upper Grand River Watershed Alliance (UGRWA). Members of the Grand River Environmental Action Team (GREAT) provide a solid core of volunteers. Before each collection date, these partners provide a training workshop for volunteers. After each bug collection, the data is summarized and published in newsletter form for our volunteers. The Upper grand River Adopt-A-Stream program is also part of a network of river organizations coordinated by the MCihigan Clean Water Corps(MiCorps). As part of this network, data are also added to a state-wide database.

Volunteer to be part of a team! You can choose to wade in the stream or stay dry. Bring your enthusiasm and we'll provide the training and equipment.

Team Captains

Staff of the JCCD, the Dahlem Conservancy, and the UGRWA serve as team captains, but we need additional volunteers to help us expand and monitor more sites. If you've been part of a previous Adopt-A-Stream event and are willing to serve as a team captain, please let us know. As always, we'll provide the training and equipment. As Team Captain, you'll be asked to oversee quality assurance for data collection on Collection Day and to return the equipment and the filled-out data sheets to the Dahlem Center after the event.

Team Members

Team members provide the energy and enthusiasm required to monitor two sites. It's always more fun to do things with friends! A team of 5 to 8 people helps share the various tasks required (carpooling, in-stream collecting, physical habitat assessment, water quality monitoring, and sifting/sorting bugs).

What To Do Next:

  1. Register for the upcoming Training Workshop. We have 2 Training Workshop options: you may choose to attend a training workshop in either Jackson or Ingham County. The next Training Workshops will be held at the Dahlem Conservancy, Thursday April 21, and at the Ingham County Conservation District, Tuesday April 26. Both will be held from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. (driving directions (Dahlem Center)) (driving directions (Ingham CD)) These workshops are for new volunteers planning to attend the spring bug collection. It will include both classroom introduction to stream ecology and field training. Please check the calendar listings on our Home page for dates, places, and times.
  2. Choose which task(s) you'd like to do during Collection Day and indicate your preference in the site(s) you'd like to monitor. Adopt-A-Stream Program staff will have identified which sites are to be monitored and grouped together for the various teams.
  3. Have Fun! Meet at the Dahlem Center or Ingham Conservation District office on Collection Day, assemble your equipment, assemble in your carpools, and head to the river. Bug Collection Day for spring 2011 is Saturday May 7.
  4. If you wish to learn/help further you are also invited to join us for Bug ID Night. Join us at Jackson Community College the week after our Collection Day to identify your catch. We'll spend an evening hunkered over microscopes, using dichotomous keys, to sort the bugs, identify them to Family, and count them to develop quality scores for each of our monitoring sites. Again, we'll provide the training and equipment (and snacks).

You can also join us in the winter! We held our 3rd Annual Winter Stonefly Hunt on Saturday, January 29, 2011 and found stoneflies at all sites we monitored. This event is less formal, but loads of fun (check out the photos here). How many of your friends can say they wade in streams in January?

To register, or to learn more, please call Paul at 810-923-5278 or Alison or Cecilia at 517-784-2800 x 208 or email us at

The Upper Grand River Adopt-A-Stream program is designed for adults. However our partners, the Dahlem Conservancy and the Upper Grand River Implementation Project (UGRIP), offer parallel programs for schools. Click here for information on their World of Water and School Monitoring programs. Additional materials for teachers can be found here.