Bug Night: we’re going to need a bigger key

“Get the dichotomous key,” he said.

Clearly he was stumped. She had given up several minutes ago. The Bug Night volunteer felt lost and hovered nearby. It was obviously a macroinvertebrate—one of the most macro either of them had ever seen.

They assumed the positions, she read the key and he, possessing superior eyesight, examined the huge insect’s morphology.

“Six legs?” she asked.
“Check,” he responded without hesitation.
“Long, segmented antennae?”
“Head capsule well-formed and distinct from the thorax?
“Full body length does not exceed two millimetres?”
He hesitated. “Metres or millimetres?” he asked.
“Millimetres,” she responded.
“Let’s start over,” he said, “We’re going to need a bigger key.”

Let’s continue or work together on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. The door clicks open at 6:15 PM.

Bug Night: the weight of insects

Anyone who even glanced at her face could see that she was a little worried.

“I’m the only one here and I feel like the bugs have had their way with me already,” she said waveringly. Clearly, she was overwhelmed. Six legs grasped her body as large mandibles hovered over her head. She had no idea to what family this particular insect belonged. Was it an unusual instar? Was it pupating? Had the specimen degraded beyond identification?

“I hope that this is the only difficult insect that comes my way this evening.”

The Bug Night People were supportive. “Don’t worry, we will work through our samples and wait for you as you march in ‘figure eights’ through the room to our stations” they said, “It’s just another Wednesday night at St. Paul’s School, after all.”

She was buoyed by their supportive enthusiasm although she still felt some weight on her shoulders as she moved through the laboratory.

“I know that I can’t measure measure up to Steve’s superior eyesight and identification skills,” she said.

The doors click open at St. Paul’s School on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 6:15 PM. ‪#‎BugNights

Bug Night: starts at 6:00 and don’t you dare be late

Instinct took over. The building-sized insect gave chase after the woman who ran by the St. Paul’s School Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science. The woman looked briefly over her shoulder as she crossed the campus road but did not seem to see the enormous bug. The insect noticed that the woman was not panicked or even picking up her pace. Could she be running toward something rather than fleeing? She was, after all, smiling calmly and carrying a pair of forceps.

“Wait,” panted the insect, “Where are we going?”

The woman paused as if she did not realize that a giant insect had been in hot pursuit and slowed to a companionable walk alongside the bug. “Why, to Bug Night, of course,” said the woman, “I assumed you were headed there as well.”

“Why am I always the last to know?” moaned the insect, “Are we late?”

“No, not at all,” said the woman, “The door clicks open at 6:15 PM and there is candy.”

We’ll see you at St. Paul’s School on Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

Merrimack River on list of 10 most threatened rivers in U.S.

Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When a national organization added the Merrimack River to its list of the 10 most threatened rivers in America, its concern wasn’t one big thing but a whole lot of little things. You’re probably sitting underneath one of those things right now.

“It’s not just pavement, it’s also roofs; anything that water can’t pass through,” said Michele Tremblay, chairwoman of the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Council [sic]. “Rain hits it, takes anything along for the ride – petroleum, animal waste, fertilizers, failed septic systems – and off it goes into the nearest brook or stream.

“It’s like a ‘fun slide’ for contaminants,” she said.

American Rivers, a national advocacy group, annually lists 10 rivers it thinks are most endangered. This year’s list includes rivers that flow through 15 states and face threats such as pollution from mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia and too much water being removed by cities and farmers in California.

For the Merrimack River, which flows from central New Hampshire through northeastern Massachusetts, the problem is more diverse: development that creates impervious surfaces. Roads, parking lots, warehouses and homes all keep rain from seeping into the ground when it hits but instead direct it somewhere else, sometimes creating flooding, sometimes harming underground aquifers that aren’t getting replenished, sometimes carrying pollutants into the river.

“Pavement is rapidly replacing trees across the Merrimack River watershed . . . (and) is the largest threat that the Merrimack River watershed faces today. The U.S. Forest Service ranks the Merrimack River watershed as the most threatened in the country due to the development of forest lands,” writes the group in its report, “2016 America’s Most Endangered Rivers.”

Tackling development and other “non-point-source” causes of water pollution can be difficult, because it involves changes that affect many people, such as new zoning regulations or limitations on fertilizer usage, as compared with something like improving a deficient wastewater treatment plant.

“It is easier to go after the big discharge – I call them the elephants,” Tremblay said. “They’re big, you get an elephant gun. But this is like ants, and we’re all ants, that’s the challenging part.”

American Rivers, in its report, urges the Environmental Protection Agency “to create a regional watershed team and implement key safeguards including protection for important forest lands along rivers and streams, green infrastructure solutions, and improved stormwater management to reduce the excess nutrients and pathogens in the river.”

It points to similar teams in other places facing water quality challenges, including the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico, and also specifically to work in Lawrence, Mass.

The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, where the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers join together, and flows 117 miles south into Massachusetts and then east, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Newburyport, Mass. The watershed – the total region where any water ends up in the Merrimack River, and thus where development can affect water quality – includes both the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers as well as the Contoocook River, a major tributary and thus covers more than half of New Hampshire. The watershed extends north into the White Mountains and west to the edge of the Connecticut River Valley.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

Bug Night: guest “in star”

There is no Bug Night this week but we are offering help to those suffering from withdrawal.
Liz Garlo, a Bug Night-er, has written the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program its first fan fiction, “Henry Finds a New Family.”
Please click on the link below, sit back, picture yourself in the St. Paul’s School laboratory, and enjoy a short and fun read.…/fan-fiction-henry-finds-a-…/

Fan Fiction: Henry Finds a New Family

Bug Nights 2016, Chapter 8, March 23

Henry Finds a New Family

by Liz Garlo

It was a cold and drizzly night, but inside the St. Paul’s School biological lab, it was warm and the brightly lit aquaria bubbled cheerfully as people began arriving. An air of intimacy developed as the program manager and sampling supervisor and a dozen or so citizen scientists began setting up microscopes so we could start the night’s work. Tonight we would finish the “rough sorting” of the macroinvertebrate samples taken from the Merrimack River. Since there were only two samples left, all agreed to work cooperatively in order to finish them and instead of sitting in the usual two rooms, we all sat in the same room, thereby making sure no one missed any of the lively conversation.

Michele, the woman in the white lab coat, busily hawked raffle tickets for the up and coming river festival, and noted that Henry was wearing pajamas which had no pockets, so he would be forgiven for not being able to buy any tickets. No such reprieves were given to anyone else. Henry, by far the youngest member of the group, explained that the reason he was wearing pajamas was because it was “Wear your Pajamas to School Day,” and besides, they were comfortable. Someone suggested that maybe we could try it too for the next Bug Night, since most of us had missed that ritual in high school. Henry only lamented that his Mother had eaten his (pre) Easter candy, and Michele promptly started doling out little KitKats from a big bag.

Soon, Henry raised his had with a question… he had begun the identification of the aquatic organisms removed from the sample he had just finished. He had recognized that one was new and different. Since Michele was near by, he asked her to come take a look. Quickly, Michele called to Steve, the big taxonomic cahoona, and said, “Bring the keys.” After much shuffling and flipping of pages, the three agreed on the identification. It was a new family. Now to understand the importance of this, you must realize the volunteer program has been repeated annually for over twenty years, and new families are now a rare occurrence. Michele announced that Henry had gotten the taxonomy spot-on as far as our local guide goes, and would be duly recognized by putting his name on a new page for the guide that would appear next year. Wow, does it get any better than that?

Steve needed a break after all that taxonomy, and left the room. Michele told us that she had taken Owen, one of her four rescue cats, to be shaved. Owen is an orange male with six-inch long hair. The problem is that he gets full of static electricity in the winter, so he needed a trim. It was at this time that Michele, being impressed with Henry’s taxonomic prowess, stated that she would be happy to adopt him too. After all, his own mother had eaten his pre-Easter candy. It was at that point that Steve returned to the room to hear Michele promoting her offer of adoption to Henry. A slight look of concern passed quickly over his face. Henry, however, managed to save the day by stating that he thought he might die of cat allergies, preventing the need for further discussion between the husband and wife. Henry passed on the chance of setting a record, getting two new families in one night.

A few days later, Liz, one of the least deserving volunteer citizen scientists who bought raffle tickets, received a text on her cell phone. She had won “The Big Basket” at the river fest. It is truly a fabulous basket. So, yes, it does get better than that.