Macroinvertebrate Study and Art Collide

Each year, Bosque School 7th graders conduct citizen science in the Rio Grande watershed. In 1995, Bosque buses, teachers, and students first braved Hwy 165 to Las Huertas Creek in the Sandias to monitor stream flow and water chemistry. Several years later, the monitoring expanded to San Antonio Creek and the East Fork of the Jemez at Battleship Rock. This year’s 7th graders, Class of 2025, have already completed two rounds of field trips to the monitoring sites, making their contribution to this 25- year-long monitoring data set.

This year, in addition to the normal data collection, students have worked with wildlife and fishery biologists from the U.S. Forest Service to conduct surveys of benthic macroinvertebrates and of electrofish in Las Huertas Creek to determine if any remnant populations of trout remain in the stream. “Our data show that the average stream flow in Las Huertas has decreased over time, and that stream flow in the creek is frequently below what is considered the minimum flow necessary to support trout,” explained Mr. Jim Daly, Bosque Middle School science teacher.
Other Bosque Middle School teachers have collaborated this fall to add another element to watershed monitoring: exploring the intersection of art and science.

7th grade art teacher Al Na’ir Lara is accompanying each 7th grade section into the field as they conduct benthic macroinvertebrate surveys of the different streams. Benthic macroinvertebrates are, generally, the nymphs and larvae of various insects that make their home on and in the bed of the streams. “They are the things trout like to eat,” said Mr. Daly. “While these critters are excellent indicators of the overall health of the stream, they are also just plain cool to find, observe, and draw.”

To distinguish the different types of macroinvertebrates, students focus on specific details, such as number of tails, presence of gills, size and shape of antennae, and number of legs. Mr. Lara is reinforcing these observation skills by having the students sketch what they find. After some reminders of drawing skills they have practiced in the art classroom, Mr. Lara turns the students loose with their pencils and art journals to make detailed sketches of the organisms collected that day. Ultimately, each section will use these sketches to produce a large, multi-paneled art piece of a macroinvertebrate.

In science class, the students will learn about evolution and adaptation using the different macroinvertebrates as study subjects. Their sketches will be used to illustrate the adaptations that allow these organisms to be successful in their ecological niches. Mr. Daly said, "Through this exercise, it should become clear to the students that in the field observing and sketching the natural world, the artist and the scientist are often indistinguishable."