Mission: Caddisfly Range

Caddisfly larva, VS user gmscod

Research Question

How is climate change affecting the range of caddisfly populations?

You're invited

Dr. Hamish Greig, from the University of Maine, Orono invites the Vital Signs community to join him in investigating caddisfly families and where they are located. Dr. Greig is comparing data on caddisflies at different latitudes and elevations, and he needs your help! Can you identify caddisflies and send Dr. Greig a sample? Can you determine the abundance of caddisflies in your area?

Mission steps

Caddisfly larva, VS user Glow Worms
    1. Identify a still body of water, such as a lake, pond, or marsh, to conduct your investigation.

    2. Gather your materials for fieldwork, including the Freshwater Species AND Habitat Survey, Vital Signs Caddisfly Larva Species ID card, Caddisfly Family ID Guide.

    3. Head to your field site to collect data. Look for caddisflies by flipping over rocks, lifting up logs, and digging through the muck (be sure to replace anything that you move). Scoop up any caddisflies you find with a small net or with your hands. Search for a total of 10 minutes.

    4. Record evidence indicating whether you found or did not find limnephilidae caddisflies and phryganeidae caddisflies on the Freshwater Species & Habitat Survey datasheet.
    Include the following information:

    • In your field notes: the amount of time you spent searching for caddisflies, the number of individuals in each family found, the depth of the water, and the substrate type (sand, muck, or cobble).
    • If you found caddisflies: clear photos of the head, the abdomen, and casings.

    5. Send any caddisflies you find to Dr. Greig. Place caddisflies in small vials of isopropyl alcohol. Ship them to:

    Caddisfly larva, VS user tatertot15
      Dr. Hamish Greig,
      Assistant Professor of Stream Ecology
      School of Biology & Ecology
      212 Deering Hall, University of Maine
      Orono, ME 04469

    6. Go to your My Vital Signs page to add your "found" or "not found" observations for both caddisfly families. If you found a caddisfly that does not belong to either family, post your observation as "caddisfly larva."

Why this Mission Matters

Caddisfly larva, VS user studysite10

Caddisflies are sensitive to pollution and ecosystem changes. Finding caddisflies in a freshwater body is often a good sign that the water quality is high and the ecosystem is healthy. Not finding caddisflies means that the environment may be unsuitable for them. Researchers suspect that warming temperatures are impacting where caddisflies are able to survive. Dr. Greig’s early observations in Colorado suggest that some caddisfly populations are moving to higher elevations. Are caddisfly distributions changing in the Northeast as well? Will caddisflies predict larger changes to our ecosystems?

Teacher Resources

Find the information you need to conduct this investigation with your class on the Mission: Caddisfly Range Teacher Resources Page.