Some couples like to play golf, see a movie or visit museums. Scott and Lee Meyer of Sterling would add stream monitoring to their favorite list of couple activities. For the Meyers, wading into a Loudoun County stream in hopes of finding aquatic insects—benthic macro invertebrates or animals without backbones—is a great date.
“We believe we’re making a difference together,” says Scott, a technical consultant manager in VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) implementations with Unified Communications. “It gives us common issues to discuss. You will always find yourself closer to someone who shares the same interests.”
Lee agrees. “We’re both pretty independent,” insists the telecommunications professional. “Stream monitoring is one of the activities that helps us to grow as a couple. It helps us to maintain a balance.”
The couple, who met while serving in the U.S. Army, have been married for 20 years. They share a love of nature and the outdoors. Lee has always had an interest in horticulture and hiking. And as the national vice-president of the Isaak Walton League of America and president of the League’s Virginia-wide chapter, Scott has taken his enjoyment of the outdoors into strong leadership positions. Although involved in high level conservation work, Scott says he receives a great deal of personal reward from doing in-the-trenches monitoring activities.
“As a hunter and angler my involvement in conservation hits several areas,” says Scott, who admits to being an avid trash collector in nature. “If there is no habitat conservation, there will be no where for the animals to live. As a fisherman, I understand the need to take care of our watersheds. Stream monitors are the front line of defense in determining the health of our watershed. We have the ability to act as an alarm system.”
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) monitors streams all over Loudoun County including Sterling and Ashburn and all points west. LWC provides expert training for stream monitors and experienced leaders guide the field expeditions. As LWC stream monitors, both Scott and Lee believe they learn something new every time they go out.
Team work is the name of the game on monitoring day. First, areas within the stream that will yield the best insect samples are carefully chosen. This includes ripples and pools. Macro invertebrates live on rocks, logs, sediment, debris and aquatic plants. A big net is dipped into these locations and the catch is brought up for examination.
A card table is set up on the stream bank where all of the “tools of the trade” are spread out. The contents of the net are emptied on to the table and the team begins its search for insects. Eye droppers, spoons, forceps and magnifying lenses help to select and examine insects such as stoneflies, mayflies, alderflies and caddisflies. Plastic tubs and ice cube trays hold the tiny specimens. The presence of these animals—so tiny that they often resemble specs of dirt—provides valuable information about the effects of sediment, organic pollutants and other toxic materials. A log is kept indicating what types of specimens are found and how many.
“The data collected by stream monitors provides clues as to the types of issues present in the area and possible remedies,” Scott says. “After a remedy is attempted, stream monitoring then becomes the report card that tells if the selected remedy is working or not. If it is working, you may want to continue the effort, and if it isn’t working, you can try another remedy or a different direction entirely.”
“Water is necessary for life to exist,” Lee adds. “Water quality affects our health, our environment and our future.”
Working side-by-side for the sake of the environment is the backbone of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program. For individuals, families, couples and community groups, there’s the added enjoyment of being outdoors, under the tree canopy, listening to bird songs and sharing the experience with others.
To get involved in stream monitoring, visit our website. We have stream teams lined up to monitor different streams across the county and offer training in the protocol.