Student bug hunts help Wayne County track water quality

Student bug hunts help Wayne County track water quality

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Fifth grade students at Gudith Elementary in Brownstown Township search for bugs. Fifth grade students at Gudith Elementary in Brownstown Township search for bugs.
BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJBK) -

Fifth graders at Gudith Elementary in Brownstown Township recently scurried out of the classroom to look for creepy, crawly critters.

The bug hunt is a unique way of keeping track of water quality, and it has a big, technical name -- benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring.

So what does it mean? Students hunt for bugs that crawl or slither on the bottom of the river, can be seen without a microscope and have no backbone. The more that are found, the better the water quality.

The kids dug through muck taken from a nearby drain, then they put the bugs in ice cube trays for counting.

"They absolutely love it. They get their hands into the science. They get to see that we can test the water by seeing what bugs live in there," said teacher Rebecca Matzo.

"They can see what true scientists do and how our planet is surviving and discovering what bugs mean and how we need them."

The Wayne County Department of Public Services coordinates these hunts with 13 schools and more than a dozen locations. They have been doing it since 2004.

The data collected is important to all of us because these tributaries eventually lead to the Detroit River. Things like storm water runoff, pollution and illegal dumping affect the bug count in our drinking water.

"We are one of the few schools that have a water source by us, so they can come out and test right here," Matzo said.

It turns out the preliminary results from the bug hunt show the water quality in that area is poor. We're told the weather and other factors could be to blame. Scientists will now try to figure out and correct the problem.

Click here to see the full report.

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