Isanti 5th Grade Conservation Day

On a cool and cloudy May morning, ACD participated in Isanti Conservation Day, an annual event designed to teach students about natural resource stewardship. Approximately 475 fifth graders were given a chance to get outside for a morning to learn about the natural world around them, and how to protect it, by rotating through stations scattered throughout Becklin Homestead Park. ACD collected a myriad of live aquatic invertebrates from local streams to give the students a hands-on way to learn about the unseen creatures that live in their favorite water bodies.

Each group examined trays containing wriggling nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, case-building caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, and more. They excitedly gathered around their tables to observe the activity in their trays and tallied how many kinds of invertebrates they were able to identify from a provided list. This led to discussions on what the diversity and types of creatures found in the water could tell them about river health. Looking at their lists, students learned that they could make inferences about water quality based on the pollution tolerance of the invertebrates that they found. Each session was wrapped up by sharing ideas on actions and practices that they could take to protect the health of their local rivers. The event was engaging for the fifth graders and provided them with new perspectives on how people can learn about water quality.  

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Biomonitoring with Area High Schools

Each spring and fall, ACD staff teaches area high school students about collecting macroinvertebrates to track water quality in Anoka County streams. This lesson is educational and fun for students, while providing ACD with data to track water quality over time through the streams' biota. Biological organisms that can be used to track the health of the environment they live in are called biological indicators (or bioindicators for short).

Macroinvertebrates, the larval forms of many common insects, are a great biological indicator for stream health in particular. They also live in lakes and wetlands. Many people don't realize that common insects like dragonflies, mayflies, black flies, and many others spend the majority of their lives as larval forms in the water. These larvae have varying tolerance levels to pollution, meaning some need very clean water to survive, while others can survive in either clean or polluted water. By tracking the populations of these organisms over time, we can gauge changes in water quality by assessing population shifts and known tolerance levels. This provides a valuable supplemental dataset to water quality samples collected periodically. Because these organisms spend months to years in the water, they give a more comprehensive long term look at water quality than water samples collected at random times can alone. 

Anoka High School students sorting through Rum River samples for macroinvertebrates, May 2022

For the past 24 years, ACD has partnered with numerous schools and groups in Anoka County to collect macroinvertebrates. We currently partner with the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations, the St. Francis American Legion, and the Rice Creek Watershed District to fund this monitoring with classes from four schools. Anoka High School and St. Francis High School classes monitor the Rum River near their schools, Totino-Grace High School classes monitor Rice Creek in Fridley, and the Forest Lake Area Learning Center monitors Clearwater Creek in Centerville. We also plan to take a new class from Blaine High School out in the fall of 2022 to monitor Coon Creek in Coon Rapids.

Over time, this program has taught thousands of Anoka County students about stream water quality, biological indicators, and work in the environmental sciences, all while getting them out of the classroom and into a stream. 

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Anoka County Lakes and River Photos on Google Street View

The Anoka Conservation District has been collecting photo inventories of lakes and rivers around Anoka County and uploading them to Google Street View. We use these photos to look for restoration and stabilization opportunities at eroded or degraded shorelines. You can also view these photos just like you can view streets on Google Maps! All of our photos are available to the public, and so far we have over 618k views! All you have to do to see the photos for yourself is:

1. Navigate to Google Maps in a web browser,

2. Zoom to the lake or river you are interested in (current list of completed inventories below),

3. Grab and drag the "Little Orange Man" in the bottom right of Google Maps to a blue circle or line in the lake or river,

4. And finally, you can pan photos as 360° orbs by clicking and dragging your mouse around. You can also advance around the lake or down the river by clicking the floating gray arrows that appear on the water to zoom to the next picture.

So far we have photos available on the following waterbodies:

  • Rum River
  • Mississippi River (south of Coon Rapids Dam)
  • Lake George
  • Coon Lake
  • Linwood Lake
  • Martin Lake
  • Typo Lake


We are planning to do more inventories in the coming years, so check back into Google Maps periodically, or continue to follow us for more updates!

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