Stream Health Evaluation Program

Since 2006, FMR has coordinated the Stream Health Evaluation Program (SHEP) in the Rice Creek Watershed District. SHEP uses trained volunteers to evaluate the biological health of streams by sampling benthic macroinvertebrates — small stream-dwelling bugs. You can read more about the project on our SHEP project page, or keep reading here for details on getting involved.

Each year, we need 30 volunteers who work in three teams of 10. Most volunteers return annually, however there are usually a couple open spots every spring. They typically fill mid- to late June, with preference given to Rice Creek Watershed District residents. (If you do not live in the watershed, or if you're looking for a flexible water quality monitoring opportunity, please check out the Minnesota Wetland Health Evaluation Program and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's citizen monitoring programs.)

Citizen participation is actively encouraged, so there is no formal test or application process. That said, potential volunteers should seriously consider the tasks and hours involved before committing to the SHEP program.

What to expect?

  • “SHEPers” should expect to spend 35 hours on SHEP between trainings, stream collections, lab time, and the analysis and results celebration.
  • Training will be led by professional scientists from Minnesota Waters and MPCA and are scheduled for two four-hour sessions one Saturday and one weeknight in mid- to late August. Training dates will be set by June 1st. Both sessions are required. There is no prep work — you will be in the hands of excellent trainers who will teach you everything you need to know at the training and throughout the program as well. (8-10 hours)
  • At the training, you will also meet your team. Each volunteer is assigned into a team of 10. Assignments aim to ensure a variety of experience levels as well as schedule compatibility. Each team has a pre-determined leader who, among other duties, will coordinate the sampling and analysis schedule with you and the other team members. Typically, there is one team comprised of those available during the day and two teams who schedule SHEP activities for weeknights and weekends.
  • Teams will monitor reaches of local streams and lakes in September and early October. We can provide waders, but expect to get wet. (8-12 hours; volunteers need not be at every sampling.)
  • Teams identify collected macroinvertebrates in the lab in late October-November. (8-12 hours; not all volunteers required to make every lab session.) Additional training and support provided closer to this time.
  • Scientists review the SHEPers’ work in December and submit a final report to the Rice Creek Watershed District, MPCA and others regarding the data and what it indicates for local water quality. The results announcement and celebration have been held in the following January. SHEPers typically reach impressive accuracy levels of over 90%! (2-3 hours)

Do I have to buy anything?

No. All equipment and training materials will be provided, as well as dinner and/or refreshments as needed. We appreciate your time and commitment!

Building relationships

As important as it is for SHEPers to produce great data, the program also impacts our community in other positive ways. SHEP brings volunteer monitors together with local officials and decision-makers.

These relationships allow SHEP volunteers to better understand how local decisions impact water quality and stream health, while at the same time reminding local decision makers of the importance of water quality.

To volunteer

If you're considering volunteering, contact FMR’ SHEP coordinator Kate Clayton with your name, address, e-mail address and day and evening phone numbers at 651-222-2193 x23 or through our contact form (please select Kate's name from the menu rather than “general inquiries”). We are currently taking name and emails for spring 2016 openings. 

As all informational materials are provided during training sessions, there is little additional information on the program provided beforehand. However, sue would be delighted to speak with you to determine whether the program is a good match to your interests and abilities before you make any commitment.

Registrants will be emailed training dates and locations as soon as they are scheduled. They will also be posted to our events calendar.