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Thank you for your interest in Wading for Water Sticks!  The following materials list and protocol summary will give you an idea of what you’ll be doing as one of our citizen scientists.  If this sounds like fun and you want to participate, visit the Materials page to download the full protocol and the data sheet.  Then just head out to the body of water of your choice and get started!


The materials required for this project are minimal, and likely things you already have or can easily make.  Materials include:

Essential Materials

  • Data sheets (available online)
  • Species key (available online)
  • Nets for sampling (metal mesh soup strainers work particularly well, aquarium nets are cheap)
  • White dish pans or other light-colored observation containers.  You’ll need at least 2 large pans, but sorting and identification will be easier with 6 or more containers.
  • Yard stick or tape measure
  • Object that floats in water — rubber duckie, short stick, orange, etc
  • Timer or watch
  • Thermometer
  • Turbidity tube (also called a transparency tube — you can make your own if you don’t have one)

Optional Materials

  • GPS unit
  • Digital camera with a good macro feature

Summary of Protocol

A team of two or more people can sample a habitat in about a half hour, maybe less.  It’s possible to do this alone too, though it may take little longer.  Sampling is simple:

1. Find an aquatic habitat to sample, preferably one that you can return to more than once during the year.  Give your site a unique name that includes the body of water and a site number.  We ask for some information about the location on the data sheet.

2. Sample the area within a foot of shore with your net and place everything into one of the pans filled with 1 inch of water.  Move the water sticks to another pan, then put everything else back in the water.

3. Sample an area beyond a foot from shore with your net, place the water sticks in a pan of water, then return everything but the water sticks to the water.

4. Identify your water sticks!  We have a simple key to the species of interest available on our materials page to help you.  When you’re done, put the water sticks back in the water too.

5. Make observations of the habitat including the vegetation in and above the water and the amount of light hitting the water.

6. Measure the air and water temperatures.

7. Measure the water clarity using a turbidity tube.  If you don’t have a turbidity tube, you may buy one — they run $50–$60 at forestry and water quality supply companies like Ben Meadows or Forestry Suppliers — or you can make a turbidity tube yourself!  These instructions for a simple turbidity tube available at the Water Action Volunteers website will help you build an inexpensive, simple turbidity tube.  They also have great information available about how they work.

8. Measure the flow of the water at your site.

9. Record any additional observations you think will be helpful.

10. Submit your data!  We collect data right here on our website.  Just click the Enter Data link at the top of the page!

If you’d like to get started, visit the Materials page, print out the complete protocol and the data sheet, then visit a nearby body of water and start sampling!

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