High Creek Fen Project – Teachers

Dear Teachers,


Thank you for your interest in CUSP’s service learning program, and welcome to the world of benthic macroinvertebrates!  Students and adults alike love flipping rocks, netting bugs and identifying them, and that is exactly what students will be doing for the service learning piece of this module.

Students will leave this unit with an understanding of the important role benthic macroinvertebrates play in the health of our watersheds and in our fresh drinking water supplies. There are many factors that can cause these sensitive species (indicator species) to die off. Discovering why they are not present in a body of fresh water takes some detective work, but knowing if the stream is healthy takes just a little digging and some basic science.

In the United States, we tend to feel very safe drinking water from any tap, well, and from most streams.  This is largely due to government regulations overseeing water quality and adequate funding resources to protect our waterways through tax revenues. Many countries have less rigorous water quality regulations and lack sufficient funds, leading to lower quality water than what we expect in the U.S.

The concern over safe drinking water supplies is not new. “The Greek scientist Hippocrates, who invented the first cloth bag filter around 500 BC, also believed that if water tasted and smelled clean, it must be healthful for the body. His invention, called the “Hippocratic sleeve,” was one of the first domestic water filters (Baker & Taras 1981).” http://www.randomhistory.com/1-50/001water.html
Written accounts and picture guides on water filtration have even been found dating back to 2000 BC.

The first microscope was created in 1676 and literally opened scientists’ and the public’s eyes to the bacteria in water. It suddenly became important to not only see water clearly but to know what was in it. The first large scale water treatment plant was built in Scotland in 1804.

It was not until the 1890s that the United States started treating water. The use of chlorine became widespread and the incidence of cholera and typhoid became less prevalent.  Chlorine use caused respiratory illnesses, so other methods were found. Yet it was not until 1914 that the first drinking water standards were written. It took until the 1940s for the standards to be implemented nationwide. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed. In 1974 the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was formulated with the general principle that every person had the right to safe drinking water.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, published in 1962, helped prompt the public’s concern over safe drinking water. The concern shifted from microorganisms to anthropogenic (from human activity) water pollution—pesticides, industrial waste and organic compounds. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed under President Nixon, who gave the agency not only the power to regulate, but to take legal action against the polluters. The Clean Water Act gave the EPA regulatory authority over all navigable waters in the United States. This includes water that flows between states and their tributaries.

No longer was it only about the water that flowed out of the treatment plant, it was now also about the water that poured into the treatment plant. Macroinvertebrates now take center stage in the early phases of determining stream health and recovery.


Theresa Springer 

CUSP Environmental Education Coordinator



Test Answers




Past History and Impacts on High Creek Fen
High Creek Fen Presentation
Student Readings
Extreme Rich Fens of South Park Colorado
Caddisflies: Susan’s purse-making caddisfly
High Creek Fen Natural Area Field Day Outline
High Creek Fen Site Steward Checklist
World Water Monitoring Day, High Creek Fen