Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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In Ohio, Izaak Walton programs provide guidance on stream monitoring

Hamilton, Ohio — Interested in exploring and finding out just what’s in that stream in your backyard or down the road?

Check it out by becoming a Save Our Streams monitor. SOS is a fun way to test water quality by collecting and identifying underwater critters called macroinvertebrates. It’s an excellent project for kids, families, and anyone interested in water quality.

SOS is the Izaak Walton League of America’s national water quality monitoring program. In April, the league will present two Saturday SOS workshops. On April 14, the workshop will be in Hamilton. On April 28 the workshop will be presented in Ashley. The next day, Sunday, April 15, in Hamilton and April 29 in Ashley, the league will offer Creek Freaks, an educator training workshop.

“SOS has been around since 1969,” said Samantha Briggs, project coordinator. “The program is designed to give citizens the power to monitor their local water quality, so they know the health of the water in their backyard.”

Because the monitors are trained, the data is of good quality, Briggs said. It can be submitted to state and local agencies so they can use that information for their decision-making purposes.

SOS teaches volunteers how to monitor a stream’s physical characteristics, things like the depth and width. They will be shown how to perform tests for chemical water quality, for nitrates, phosphates, pH, and chlorides. If the monitor is in an area that uses road salt, they can detect that. They’ll learn how to check turbidity, the sediment in the stream.

“Our key component is our biological monitoring,” Briggs said. “We seine out macroinvertebrates, which are little insects and bugs that live in the stream. We identify them and then, depending on what insects we find, we’ll be able to tell the water quality of the stream. Some macroinvertebrates are more pollution-tolerant than others.”

What to expect if you attend the workshop? In the morning the presenters will talk about water quality principles and watersheds, and how they’re all connected. Then they’ll move on to the macroinvertebrates inhabiting the local streams and learn how to identify them.

“We’ll spend the whole afternoon in the field practicing what we’ve learned,” Briggs said. “I think that is the best way to learn how to do these types of monitoring activities is getting hands-on in the stream.”

After the training participants take a test to be sure they understand the protocol and can identify the critters, Briggs said. Then they are certified monitors. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, they’ll go out for a few hours to a stream site and do biological and chemical monitoring. They’ll fill in their data sheets and submit them to the Izaak Walton League.

Dan Hayes has been a certified stream monitor for 20 years. A member of the Hamilton chapter IWLA, they had, at one time, a group of 20 to 25 kids who would take part in the stream monitoring. They monitored Four Mile, Seven Mile, Indian Creek, and the Great Miami River. A retired teacher, Hayes involved his students in the project.

“The kids liked it,” Hayes said. “We found the quality of streams to be excellent. Most people think the Great Miami is polluted, but when we tested it, we found it to be clean, as long as it has good flow. I like the SOS program; it gets people out in the streams and appreciating the quality of water in this area.”

For educators who are interested in monitoring, Creek Freaks workshops teach individuals the same type of monitoring as SOS, but participants also learn how to do indoor activities with youths and other extra youth-centered projects.

“It is a great program for teachers or educators or summer camp folk who run after-school programs or for scout leaders to be involved in,” Briggs said. “It gives them those tools and activities to give youths background info without it being too high level.”

IWLA then provides those teachers with a certificate confirming their participation in the event, Briggs explained. The educators can submit that to their local professional development board to get continuing education credits for their teaching certificate.

The league has trained more than 5,000 volunteers.

“Finding those insects in the stream is interesting,” Briggs said. “Youths love to do it. Some families will make it a family outdoor recreation experience. It’s a scientific experience.”

For information on the SOS program visit For Creek Freaks information visit

To register for the SOS program in Hamilton visit For Creek Freaks visit

To register for the SOS program in Ashley visit For Creek Freaks visit

Participants are reminded to dress for the weather.

For questions, contact Samantha Briggs at or (301) 548-0150 Ext. 222, or Scott Maxham at or (301) 548-0150.

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