Counting Creepy Crawlies
An MU doctoral student's research will benefit the state's parks. Park trails take Megan Hedrick to stream beds once full of water and lots of bugs. Small and insignificant to some, the bugs fascinate Hedrick. She's already netted and identified several thousand aquatic insects in Missouri springs.
"A lot of the springs that I'm studying, nobody has ever studied them, so they don't have any information about these springs in terms of the aquatic insects that live there." Hedrick said. She will help 20 Missouri state parks keep tabs on their spring-bed insect populations. She'll sample insects from the spring's source to 400 meters downstream.
"The insect community is the number of species and their densities at a particular site. And so as we move downstream from the spring source the communities are gonna change," faculty advisor Dr. Robert Sites said.
Hedrick will also study habitat variables such as depth of the water, canopy coverage, water temperature, and pH for park management.
"They'll know what conditions these insects need to survive there," Hedrick said.
If there are any rare or endangered species, park officials will have the information to act. While her analysis isn't complete, so far Hedrick says she's found a greater variety of species near the source of the springs rather than further downstream.