Field work/ Lab work

Our projects involve two aspects of scientific research: a field component and a lab component. We travel to sites along Rice Creek to take samples of substrate, and then return to the lab to sort through what we have collected and to crunch the numbers. Featured in these pictures are Team Squaregills gathering a sample at site 63, Andrew Franklin looking intently into a sample tray back at the lab, and an example of what we pull out of the trays while we sort.

So, what is a macroinvertebrate, anyway?

We study macroinvertebrates. That is a scientific word, so let’s break it down. Macro- meaning you can see it without a microscope, and invertebrate- meaning (simplified) an organism without a backbone. The main organisms we are concerned with for this project are benthic invertebrates, meaning they are bottom feeders. These organisms can tell us a lot about the pollution composition of an area, since they are so closely tied to the substrate. There are some pollution tolerant organisms, which can withstand a lot of toxic materials, while others are pollution intolerant, and cannot survive in an area with a lot of pollutants. So, if we find a lot of pollution intolerant organisms in a given area, we can infer that the site is fairly free of toxic materials. Conversely, if we are finding many pollution tolerant organisms in an area (like leeches, snails and mosquito larvae), we know that there is some level of pollution at the site.


Some examples of pollution intolerant organisms:

Caddisflies: may have one of the most interesting behaviors in the animal kingdom. They use sticky secretions to adhere rocks and sticks together to form themselves a protective case during the larval stage.

Mayflies: also known as fishflies as they are often used as trout bait. This is the small square gilled mayfly larvae, from which our team name is derived. Can you guess why it is called “square gills”?

Stoneflies: these evasive little guys are arguably the best indicators of healthy water; when we are calculating scores, they have a category all their own!

Meet Team Squaregills

Hello blog followers! Let me introduce Team Squaregills! The picture you see here is an average day in the field for us biologists.

From left to right, we are composed of senior Haley Plasman (myself), junior Anna Ward, and senior Andrew T. Franklin. Our research consists of traveling to designated field sites along Rice Creek and Talmadge creek in Marshall, MI, collecting samples of substrate, and returning to the lab to process and categorize the macroinvertebrates we collected in those samples.

Based on the data we collect, we will be able to eventually assign pollution assessment scores to each site, and our overall results will be used to tie an environmental studies aspect to the project. Each of us is taking a little different angle on the research, so stay tuned for the details of each of our projects.


Hi, and welcome to the FURSCA field blog! We here in Albion’s invert zoology lab are all very excited about our project, and appreciate the support. We are still in the first week of research, so keep an eye out for exciting events, finds and mishaps – which there are bound to be. Entries and pics to come soon.

Stay tuned for pictures of our muddy escapade on day one. . .