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Volunteer for MiCorps today as a citizen scientist to track the health of lakes and streams across Michigan

Participants in the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program(Today's MI Environment story is the second of a two-part look at MiCorps. Here's the first story, in case you missed it.)

Long term monitoring of lakes and streams through MiCorps, the Michigan Clean Water Corps, provides data needed to identify the current health and changes over time of a lake or stream's water and habitat quality. The program is always looking for residents to participate in Michigan's premier volunteer lake and stream monitoring effort. Plus, it's a great way to make a difference while enjoying the outdoors.

Q: Who can participate?

A: Anyone can participate in MiCorps monitoring programs. Training is required for new participants. Participation in the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program requires payment of a small fee to offset the cost of the provided sampling equipment and support. For those interested, check out our recent training presentations.

For those interested in participating in the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, the easiest way to get involved is to find a group near you. The MiCorps Directory can be used to find volunteer monitoring groups in Michigan.

For those interested in participating in the Volunteer Stream Cleanup Program, expressing your interest to your local municipality or watershed council is the best way to get involved. MiCorps Volunteer Stream Cleanup grants can only go to local governments, so you may have to encourage your community leaders to apply for the grant and organize the cleanup. They may be willing to apply if they know their community members are behind them and will help with the work!

Q: What kind of water quality data is collected?

A: Through the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, volunteers are trained to collect aquatic macroinvertebrates, which are aquatic insects and other organisms that live in our streams and rivers and can be seen and identified without a microscope. Because different types of macroinvertebrates vary in their sensitivity to pollution and habitat loss and spend up to several years living in the water, they are excellent indicators of stream and river health. Stream habitat is also assessed to provide additional clues about the health of the monitored streams.

Through the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, volunteers can collect a variety water quality and habitat parameters - water clarity, phosphorus, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, temperature, native and invasive aquatic plants, and shoreline habitat. Chlorophyll (a measure of the amount of algae), phosphorus (an important nutrient for algae and plant growth), and water clarity can tell you a lot about the health of a lake, especially when collected over time. Likewise, dissolved oxygen and temperature can tell you what fish can live in your lake and if nutrients are being released from the sediment. Volunteers can also learn to survey native and invasive aquatic plants. The Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program also trains volunteers to assess shoreline condition because of the important role shoreline habitat plays in lake heat

Q: Why should I join these programs?

A: There are a number of reasons why you might be interested in volunteering for MiCorps. We're looking for people who like to be outside and near the water. Or, if you're more scientifically oriented and like to learn how to do things such as quantifying the natural world around you. We also urge Michigan residents who wish to contribute to a better management of Michigan lakes and streams to sign up with MiCorps.

For more information, follow the links in this article or contact Tamara Lipsey, or 517-342-4372. You can also subscribe to our MiCorps listserv for news, announcements, and information regarding water quality issues in Michigan.

Follow MiCorps on social media for updated information, videos, and announcements of grant opportunities on Twitter (@MiCorpsMI) and Facebook.

Photo caption: Participants in the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program.

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