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Kick Net Protocol

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Lesson Plan: Stream Ecosystem Field Activity
Overview Type of Organism: sampling for macroinvertebrates Habitat: stream

An alternative to leaf pack sampling for macroinvertebrates is using the kick netting technique. Kick netting does not require any advance preparation or stream visits. The kick netting technique is also useful if leaf packs are washed away or dislodged and contents are no longer present in the pack.

Materials:
  • kick nets
  • white plastic dishpans
  • plastic spoons
  • three buckets labeled “RIFFLE #1,” “RIFFLE #2,” and “RIFFLE #3”
  • three buckets labeled “POOL #1,” “POOL #2,” and “POOL #3”
  • hip boots/chest waders (or water shoes if weather is warm)

During the Field Trip

The entire kick net procedure will take place during the field trip. Students will go down to the stream for exploration, observations, and kick net sample collection. At the stream, students will work individually or with a partner to collect kick net samples from both the riffles and the pools. If working in pairs, instruct one student to hold the kick net and the other student to gently kick the substrate and pick up loose rocks. A total of three samples from the riffles and three samples from the pools will be collected per field trip.

Collecting Samples from Riffles - areas that are rockier, shallow and you can see the water break the surface

  1. Randomly select a spot in a riffle to sample.
  2. Position the net on the stream bottom with the opening facing upstream.
  3. Visually define a rectangular quadrat – that is one net width wide and two net widths long upstream of the net opening (this will equal about 0.5 m2).
  4. Hold the net securely in position while gently kicking the substrate within the quadrat for 20 seconds.
  5. Pick up loose rocks larger then a golf ball and rub any clinging organisms off the rocks and put them in the net. 
  6. Remove the net part way from the water and let clean water flow through to remove any fine sediment.
  7. Remove the net from the water and empty into a bucket labeled “RIFFLE.” This is considered one riffle sample.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 in a different spot until a total of three riffle samples have been collected.
  9. Bring buckets containing samples back to the classroom/lab for identification.

Collecting Samples from Pools - areas where the water is still and generally deeper than other areas of the stream

  1. Randomly select a spot in a pool to sample.
  2. Position the net on the stream bottom with the opening facing upstream.
  3. Visually define a rectangular quadrat – that is one net width wide and two net widths long upstream of the net opening (this will equal about 0.5 m2).
  4. Kick the substrate within the quadrat with your feet while dragging the net repeatedly through the disturbed area just above the bottom. Do this for 20 seconds.
  5. Pick up loose rocks larger then a golf ball and rub and clinging organisms off the rocks and put them in the net. 
  6. Remove the net part way from the water and let clean water flow through to remove any fine sediment.
  7. Remove the net from the water and empty into a bucket labeled “POOL.” This is considered one pool sample.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 in a different spot until a total of three pool samples have been collected.
  9. Bring buckets containing samples back to the classroom/lab for identification.

This protocol has been adapted from Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program Surface Waters:  Field operations and methods for measuring the ecological condition of wadeable streams.  Edited by James M. Lazorchak, Donald J. Klemm, and David V. Peck. September 1998  EPA/620/R-94/004F.