Aquatic Invertebrates

RGV BioU Mark

Instructors: Declan McCabe
July 10 - 11, 2021 | $265
Course size: 12 students
Please Contact Us to request scholarship assistance

Adaptations and Expectations for our 2021 BioU Programs:

We are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic response carefully, and adjusting our policies and protocols accordingly. The following considerations are subject to change:

  • We will no longer be serving food or drinks this season. We ask that you please bring your own food.
  • Courses have been designed to take place largely in the field or in our event tent, but there may be 60-90 minutes of lecture per day in our large indoor classroom.
  • Course size has been reduced to 12 participants or fewer.
  • If you will be traveling from out of state, please contact us at least 30 days before the start of the course to evaluate the safety of your participation. NBNC may decline your participation according to state guidelines.

In order to keep you, our staff, and our community safe, NBNC is adhering to strict safety protocols based on CDC and VT Department of Health guidelines. We’re in this together, so here’s what you can expect from us, and what we ask of you as a participant of an in-person NBNC program:

What you can expect of us:

  • Breathing Room: We’ve capped all our BioU programs at 12 participants or fewer, and designed them to take place outdoors, with the exceptions of bathroom access, thunderstorm contingencies, and (in some cases) short-term use of the community room.
  • Cleanliness: All potential shared surfaces will have been sanitized before and after each program. No two programs will share the same indoor space (including bathrooms) on any given day. We’ll start each program with a briefing to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding behavior, expectations, masks, distancing, etc.
  • Professionalism: We have completed state-mandated safety trainings, established a staff/board safety committee and a COVID-19 Task Force, and are adhering to strict workplace guidelines to make sure we are taking appropriate measures to make NBNC a safe place to work, learn, and play.
  • Honesty: Our instructors will be following state safety guidelines, and complete health screenings prior to each program to ensure a healthy staff and a safe space for each program.
  • Respect: Our staff and instructors will wear a mask at all times (inside and outside), and maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people throughout all programs. 
  • Transparency: We want to make sure you are comfortable. If you’ve got questions or concerns about our programs and policies, please reach out to us at [email protected].

What we ask of you:

  • Honesty: Do not come to the program if you are feeling ill in any way. You’ll be asked to sign a waiver and health screening document upon arrival acknowledging that you are symptom-free and haven’t been at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus recently. If you develop COVID-like symptoms within 14 days after the program, notify NBNC immediately.
  • Respect: Wear a mask at all times (inside and outside), during NBNC programs. Maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people, including staff, during the program. Follow all safety guidelines explained by our staff.
  • Cleanliness: Sanitize bathrooms and other common surfaces before and after use, according to our guidelines posted in each space. Bring and use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Flexibility: Please understand that programs may be cancelled on very short notice, and that our protocols are continually adapting to best available science and expert recommendations. Refunds will be provided in the event of program cancellation.

Thank you for your support in keeping our community safe!


n this course we will explore the major invertebrate groups found in freshwater habitats. We will cover the ecology and differences between aquatic habitats. This is a hands-on course that will include instruction in a range of field sampling techniques and sample processing. Using preserved samples, and samples collected during the course, we will cover all of the major taxonomic groups of aquatic invertebrates to the family level, and pursue a subset to the genus level.

Lab work will include microscopy and identification using a range of resources.  By the end of this course you should be familiar with the common macroinvertebrate orders at a glance, and have the taxonomic tools at your fingertips to identify whatever you may encounter.

Course Goals and Course Objectives

  • Learn where and how to sample and collect freshwater macroinvertebrates.
  • Become familiar with the equipment used to collect and identify aquatic organisms.
  • Learn the laboratory skills used to explore the wonderful world of aquatic macroinvertebrates.

About the Instructor(s)

Declan McCabe is a professor of biology at Saint Michael's College where he has worked since 2001. Declan is a community ecologist specializing on freshwater macroinvertebrates. Recent research topics he has addressed include interactions between zebra mussels and the benthic fauna of Lake Champlain, effects of caddisfly aggregations on stream macroinvertebrate communities, and how river sampling approaches change the answers to scientific questions.

His lab group has focused on biomonitoring and experimental manipulations in Vermont streams as part of the Vermont EPSCoR Streams Project since 2008. Declan hosts a BREE (Basin Resilience to Extreme Events) water quality lab, where he supports watershed sampling for Vermont EPSCoR’s high school outreach program.

The working title of Declan’s upcoming book is “Turning Stones: Exploring Freshwater Macroinvertebrates.”


Due to continued concerns around COVID-19, meals and beverages will not be provided this year. We ask that you please bring your own food.

Required Materials and Recommended Reading

Multiple copies of the following will be on hand for use by all participants:

  • Bouchard, R.W. 2004. Guide to aquatic invertebrates of the upper Midwest. University of Minnesota Press.*
  • Merritt, R.W., K.W. Cummins, M.B. Berg (2008). An introduction to the aquatic insects of North America. Kendall Hunt. **

* Bouchard’s text covers all of the major macroinvertebrate groups with keys provided to family level.  Although the key is designed for the upper Midwest, just one family we are likely to find (Peltoperlidae) is missing from this key.

** Merritt, Cummins, and Berg have edited this essential professional key for many years.  It covers insects only and a 2019 edition is available.  If you decide to invest in a text you can expect to spend $175 on the 2019 edition. Earlier editions are available for considerably less.


Course begins 9 AM on Saturday at NBNC. Course convenes on Sunday at a time of the instructor's choosing. Course concludes by 5 PM on Sunday.

Academic Credit / Professional Development

This course qualifies for 1 graduate-level science credit for an additional $150 course fee. All BioU courses are accredited by Castleton University. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that home institutions will accept the credit. Participants pursuing academic credit will be required to complete an additional assignment above and beyond the course hours, including literature review, reflective writing, or a field-based project.

This course qualifies for 20 hours of professional development hours and continuing education units. Certificates of completion are provided at the conclusion of the course.

Cancellation Policy

While we realize that unexpected circumstances arise that are out of our control, North Branch Nature Center cannot guarantee refunds for registrations cancelled within 30 days of the course.  If a cancellation occurs within this window, NBNC will attempt to fill the space from our wait list and provide a full refund. If the course needs to be cancelled within 30 days of the program, NBNC will provide a full refund. If you need to cancel due to concerns related to COVID-19, a full refund will be provided up to 48 hours before the course.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206
[email protected]

Office Open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm
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