“How to Milk Macroinvertebrates”


So, the free snapping of a digital camera can catch the funniest things.

Today was the first day of Gaby’s macroinvertebrate sampling in Brooks Woodland. From our early morning start, we knew it would be a hot, muggy day. The night before, the Worcester area boomed with thunderstorms (which were absolutely spectacular to say the least). The USGS Current meter on the east branch of the Swift River at Hardwick looked high but reasonable for sampling, so we decided to go. Today’s crew consisted of Hannah, Gaby, Cynthia Allonso, Jenna Kosmo, Max Anderson and myself. Upon arriving at Brown’s Pond (our starting point), we noticed that the flow was pretty high.

We donned waders and backpacks, found the trail and began toward our first sampling site. In Macroinvertebrate sampling, it is important to work downstream to upstream so as not to capture specimens from other places also dislodged by us. So, we started downstream at the remnants of an old beaver dam, which had stagnated the section upstream from us for about a decade and recently fell apart. This section of stream is especially interesting to us because of the drastic change it has endured over the last year. In transitioning from a beaver pond to a swift meadow stream, the cast of characters is likely to quickly change. This idea is especially interesting in light of Hannah and Tom’s freshwater mussel work, because these mussels might be in the process of re-colonizing the area. However, that is a thought for another day.

The only one out of all of us who had any sizeable experience in this sampling method was Cynthia, who gave us a great primer in using a Surber Sampler (how not to let in too much sand or loose the cap and maybe capture some bugs). At first, it was slow going, but after a few samples, we got into a groove. In our first run, Max, Cynthia, Jenna and I sampled, Hannah photographed, and Gabby fastidiously took notes. We sampled 3 more riffles and brought home 20 full jars.

Cynthia and Max sample the stream.
Cynthia and Max sample the stream.

When sampling was done, we tiredly glided home in the Clark University van, and ate a massive dinner (or at least I did). We reconvened later to make sense of our notes and label pictures. The tired and punchy crew that we were, we found utter hilarity in some of the photos. In one picture, Jenna and I were emptying a sampler, and something about the combination of my backwards hat, baggy waders, messy beard, look of concentration and the sampler’s resemblance to an udder gave us the idea that I was milking an invisible cow. That one gave us hours of comedic material…

Sitting back in our comfy suite with a cup of tea, my body was heavy, tired and happy. My legs could still feel the stream flowing against them, much like how you can still feel the rocking of a boat after a long day of boating. I could still feel the warmth of the sun on my neck and arms. I am so happy that I can be a part of something in which I can engage my mind and still feel the physicality of a good days’ work.


And the infamous photo...
And the infamous photo…