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Pinnebog River Sentinels

Bad Axe High School Students Monitor Pinnebog River in Michigan’s Thumb

Bad Axe High School students pose next to the Pinnebog River in Huron County, Michigan.


The Sierra Club Water Sentinels have worked with Steve Varner’s high school biology students and Matt Tucky’s chemistry students to conduct water quality monitoring since fall of 2003, collecting benthic macroinvertebrates as water quality indicators. 

**The investigation involves determining what benthic macroinvertebrates (mostly aquatic insects, snails, crayfish, small clams) inhabit the river at 4 locations along the river, starting roughly near the town of Bad Axe, again near Elkton, again near Pinnebog, and then at the Port Crescent State Park Day Use area. 

The macroinvertebrates are collected by 2 team members for a 15 minute period.  The organisms are then identified and counted.  Certain organisms can only tolerate a relatively narrow range of conditions, like water temperature, clarity, pH, etc.  Group 1 can only tolerate a quality, clean environment; these are called "Sensitive".  Group 2 are considered to be Somewhat-Sensitive.  Group 3 are very hardy and can withstand a wide range of conditions, even a polluted environment, these are considered to be "Tolerant".  If the only organisms present are pollution tolerant, then we can assume the water is polluted.  

A Total Stream Quality Score is determined by identifying the macroinvertebrates and their frequencies in each of the four areas sampled.  There are four categories streams can fall into based on how clean or unpolluted they are.  These categories are Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor.

(** This information was summarized from a report prepared by Mr. Steve Varner and his biology students.)  Bad Axe High School students monitor the Pinnebog River, Oct. 23, 2007.

During a monitoring session, the students collect the organisms, identify the bugs, and fill in the monitoring forms to find the stream health scores for the 4 sites on the river.  The senior students take the lead at the four monitoring sites, providing guidance and leadership to the younger students.

After an eighteen month hiatus, water monitoring will be conducted again on May 1, 2010. 

The students will gather at Bad Axe High School by 9am for a project orientation and training session on how to collect the macroinvertebrates and complete the habitat assessment forms.  Next they'll take part in in-stream training, and finally will go to their their assigned sites.  Afterwards, the students will identify and count all the macroinvertebrates, and tally the stream health scores.

Here are the five Pinnebog River monitoring sites, plus Bad Axe High School:

View Pinnebog River Monitor Sites in a larger map

The five monitoring locations are shown on the map at left.  Monitoring results are as follows:

Site 1 is on Glassburner Road in Colfax Township; stream water quality has ranged from fair to good.

Site 2 is on Eby Road at the Cemetery in Elkton;stream water quality has ranged from fair to good.

Site 3 is on Dunn Road east of Champagne Road in Chandler Township; stream water quality has ranged from poor to fair.

Site 4 is at Port Crescent State Park in the Day Use area; stream water quality has been fair.

Site 5 is at Grassmere Road north of Glassburner Road in Colfax Township; not enough information has yet been collected to support a stream water quality assessment.

Contact Conservation Director Anne Woiwode for more information.

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Map of Pinnebog River Monitoring Sites.

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