Students in three rural villages in Laos now have some new tools for checking the health of their local rivers in streams. For several years, FISHBIO has been collaborating with The Asia Foundation to help communities, including teachers and students, monitor their local water quality (see Water Bug Education). The approach uses aquatic insects and other animals (called macroinvertebrates) as indicators of river health based on their tolerance for disturbance. For example, the presence of mayfly larvae, which are very sensitive, would indicate good water quality, while maggots, which are very tolerant, may be present in poor-quality water.
When FISHBIO staff in Laos learned about the group IDEA WILD that provides equipment grants for conservation, they wrote a grant and received funding to purchase a microscope and kick nets to support macroinvertebrate surveys in three rural villages. In November, the FISHBIO Laos office, working together with The Asia Foundation and government partners, conducted a training on macroinvertebrate monitoring in the villages of Napork, Hadkhamhieng and Nyangkham, in Xebangfai District, Khammouane Province. Using the equipment, students and teachers learned how to collect invertebrate samples, sort them, identify them, and calculate a water quality score based on the composition of invertebrate species.
At the end of the training, FISHBIO handed over the equipment to the schools. They donated the microscope to the school in Nyangkham village, which has both primary and secondary students. We hope that the microscope will be useful not just for identifying macroinvertebrates and fishes, but also for other biology studies. The village volunteers, teachers and students were interested and happy to be learning about macroinvertebrates and fish, especially the students, who had fun during the field demonstration and enjoyed collecting macroinvertebrates in the rivers. On behalf of the three villages and the FISHBIO Laos office, we would like to thank IDEA WILD for their support in making this activity possible!