Volunteer as a Citizen Scientist on the Westfield River with Hilltown Families

Hilltown Families Event
Volunteer Opportunity: Citizen Scientist
Wednesday, October 12th @ 3:30pm
West Branch of the Westfield River

Collecting samples last year in the West Branch of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield, MA.

For the second year in a row, Hilltown Families will be partnering with Biocitizen in collaboration with the MA DEP in our long-term commitment to their stream monitoring project.  Families with kids interested in science, including biology and ecology, are invited to join us on the banks of the Westfield River on Wednesday, October 12th at 3:30pm (rain date: 10/19).  We will be collecting and inventorying benthic invertebrates (water bugs) using the rapid biotic assessment technique. The type of bugs found in our collection will give us a gauge of the river’s health.

Sorting out leaves and debris from our collection.

“How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks?  A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the same way again,” says Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA.

Showing kids how to sort out different insects and pointing out their variations.

Stonefly nymphs are a bug we want to catch,” shares Heidinger. “They are a primary food source for brook trout and, like trout, require clear, clean, cold oxygen-rich water. If there is too much nitrogen or potassium (from fertilizer run off) in the water, algae will bloom and suck the oxygen out of the river. You won’t find many stonefly nymphs—and therefore trout.”

By doing a Rapid Bioassessment, we will continue to monitor a section of the West Branch of the Westfield River by netting benthic macro invertebrates (underwater bugs) and inventorying them. The percentage of certain insects we collect will quickly allow us to assess the quality of the river… and with the extreme weather we’ve experience here in Western MA this summer, the results will prove to be interesting in comparison to last year’s statistics!

Examining our collections and collecting data.

“Giving families a hands-on opportunity to be engaged in the study of their local ecosystem, can stimulate an interest in science in children and an investment in their local environment,”  says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “By offering field experiences that supplement the education of our children, we can help foster a connection and investment in local community.”

This is a free volunteer opportunity, however, space is limited. Appropriate for kids 7yo and older. Families interested in participating in this citizen scientist opportunity, or similar opportunities in the area, can contact us here:

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: