Kelly McCann – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

I am 2/3rds of the way finished with the Dragonfly Larvae Survey here at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. It is a nationwide study on mercury water contamination in National Parks across the country, read more here.  I’ve taken this project from start to finish. I had to ask for MISS to be added on last minute to the project, figure out a way to get the materials and lab work done for FREE, pick 3 sites along the river (correlating to Bald Eagle nest locations to identify areas of concern for mercury bio accumulation), recruit volunteers, lead a team of citizen scientists into the field, identify nymphs, and pack up and send in to Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring for analysis! Whew.

What a nymph looks like! Photo credit: IslandWood

The volunteers are having a great time learning and getting their hands dirty. I cannot stress enough how great citizen science is for the community; the public gets to learn more about the subject, they feel empowered by the work they’re contributing to, and we get to recruit for a new type of VIP program. Email me at if you want to talk more about getting one set up at your park!

Here is one of my groups after a successful morning (we caught 12 big nymphs sifting through the river bottom)!

5 Citizen Scientists for Day 2 of Survey
5 Citizen Scientists for Day 2 of Survey

I’ll be honest, I was so nervous on Day 1 that I didn’t even take one picture! It was a great first survey though, and I had 4 lovely women and one daring 5th grade boy as my citizen scientists.

The project has been an awesome way for me to get my feet wet (no pun intended) in volunteer recruitment and coordination. I’ve been helping rangers throughout the summer with that, but dragonflies gave me my first shot at a solo success. For that I’m truly thankful for those majestic little nymphs that gave their life to science.