Working together to keep Fairfax County streams healthy

Valerie Bertha

Front Row left to right: Victoria Skender, Richard Skender. Back row, left to right: volunteer, Bradley Simpson, representing Audubon, Terri Skender

Over three years ago, I started attending stream monitoring sessions with Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD). I was amazed at how much fun I had learning how to identify the benthic macro invertebrates (tiny spineless bugs) that live on the bottom of the streams in our community. I learned that the type and diversity of the creatures we found would tell us how healthy or impaired the stream was.

But the goal wasn’t just for me to learn something, stream monitors are citizen scientists whose work complements that of the NVSWCD. By submitting the data we collect to Virginia Save Our Streams, citizens have the opportunity to identify streams that need help and work with the county to determine a plan of corrective action. Our efforts also provide a baseline for monitoring pending construction projects to prevent any degradation of water quality.

So is the work valuable? Yes, and it’s not overly time consuming. Each session takes a mere 3 hours of the volunteer’s time.

Hellgramites from Holmes Run

But is it fun? Yes, it is! So much fun that I decided to take the next step and become a certified stream monitor. I adopted a site on Holmes Run near my house to monitor quarterly. My goal is to have around 8 volunteers per session. We find a variety of macro invertebrates: net spinners, beetles, hellgrammites, black flies, midges, flat worms and sometimes stone flies.

Anyone can volunteer. I have trained multiple girl scout troops, run workshops for high schoolers, and always accept individual volunteers. You do not need to be an FMN member. I enjoy working with NVSWCD because they provide the equipment and training certification, and they are always helpful.

Are you curious about the water quality of your local stream? Would you like to make a positive difference in our environment? Join me or other volunteers and participate in stream monitoring. Start here. Just search under Fairfax County Stream Monitoring.

If you would like to come to one of my quarterly stream monitoring sessions please send me an email at valerie.bertha@gmail,com. My next session is August 18, 9 am – noon. I will host another in November, time to be determined.

1 reply
  1. Liz Greer
    Liz Greer says:

    Thanks Valerie for organizing this fun, educational, and valuable ecological program. Our local Girl Scout have learned a lot about field science and our local environment thanks to your leadership.

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