Aquatic Invertebrates

RGV BioU Mark

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


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

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7