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Tracking thru the Mud

November 06, 1997
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau
Runs with the main story on the Stream Teams.

JEFFERSON CITY - Liz Havey found something small and slimy in the mud and held it up closer to her eyes.

"You've got to pick through and find them and identify them," she said. "That's my least favorite part."

Havey, 17, and her friend Ann Soucie, also 17, are "Mudsuckers."

Both Columbia girls are volunteers for the Missouri Stream Teams project. Their small group, recruited by Show-Me Clean Streams president Jim Davis, was dubbed the "Mudsuckers" and given a task.

They were to assist Davis in the monitoring of the effects of the storm-water run-off into Bear Creek.

On that particular chilly Sunday morning, they were to complete what is called an "invertebrate test."

The invertebrate test is done by holding a net-like filter down in the stream and collecting whatever sediment does not filter through. The girls then sort through the mud looking for anything that moves -- worms, snails, whatever.

"We need to go through here and pick out anything that's alive," Havey said. "It might be too cold. I don't know when these things start to die off."

The invertebrate test is not Havey's favorite task.

"Chemical testing's a lot more fun...The phosphate one is pretty fun too."

But invertebrates -- including leeches -- can tell a lot about the quality of the water. "Actually, there's supposed to be leeches here," Havey said. "But we're praying there's not," Soucie added.

Both Havey and Soucie have been volunteers in the Stream Team project for at least a year, and both got involved through their high school biology club, which maintains a stream team substantially larger than the "Mudsuckers."

Even on the high school level, they say they have seen a rise in interest in the program.

"And this year we had the biggest turnout ever for a water-quality check," Havey said. "We had like 15 people."

But the question remains as to why high school kids would want to wade through cold water and mud looking for worms, snails, and possibly leeches.

"It just sounded like a fun thing to do."