RiverWatch is the only Illinois-wide biological monitoring program that educates and trains volunteers to collect high quality data on streams. Since the program was established in 1995, more than 1,500 individuals have received RiverWatch certification in stream monitoring and have collected an unprecedented amount of information for evaluating Illinois streams. Data collected by volunteers over multiple years allows us to gauge the health and integrity of our streams and helps professionals make informed decisions about water resources, in general.
The program is available to all citizens throughout the state, regardless of level of experience. New volunteers receive training during one of several workshops offered in the spring, while previously trained volunteers are encouraged to attend a review workshop prior to the monitoring season. RiverWatch certification workshops typically last 6-8 hours and consist of a laboratory and field component. During the lab session, a certified RiverWatch Trainer provides an overview of the program and teaches identification of benthic macroinvertebrates. During the field training session, participants visit a local stream where the Trainer demonstrates proper monitoring techniques and explains how to complete the data sheets.
Once training is completed, volunteers may monitor a stream site that they select or that is assigned to them. Citizen Scientists monitor their adopted stream site (a 200-foot stretch of stream) once annually between May 1 and June 30. The final step is to attend a RiverWatch open lab to identify the preserved organisms with a microscope. Labs are hosted throughout the state in July and August, and a Trainer is always present to assist volunteers with identification.