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The Stream Key is an interactive, image-based tool aimed to provide identification and ecological information about stream insects to a variety of audiences. Stream insects are often useful in measuring water quality due to their varying tolerance to pollution. In many cases, tolerance to pollution is specific to particular insect families, thus making them a useful indicator of water quality (Hilsenhoff, 1987). The key starts at the Order level and navigates through a series of anatomical descriptions from referenced sources. Descriptions are accompanied by morphological images, taken by students, to aid in identifying stream insects to the family level.

The purpose of this key is to promote an interest in stream ecology by providing a user friendly method of identifiying freshwater stream insects to the familial level.

This user friendly, taxonomic key will allow the user to

  • Identify stream insects down to family level; using readily distinguishing characteristics
  • Learn ecological information specific to each family, with interactive “pop-ups” from scientific papers
  • Explore the morphology of each Order (lateral, dorsal, and ventral views)
  • Observe ecology and behavior with videos taken in their natural habitat and in the lab

The key is aimed for use in the classroom, directed toward teachers of K through 12, and up to college level. It will also be useful to citizen monitors, freshwater researchers, and of interest to the general public.

  • Aimed toward use by teachers and students of K-12
  • Interactive features to create interest in ecological sciences
  • Exposes first time learners to stream ecology and concepts of taxonomy

  • Gain knowledge of stream insects as well as get facilitate in identifications
  • Awareness of biotic indicators and implications for water quality

  • Citations, video, and ecological information allow for convenient research starting points
  • Image-based key provides a simple and direct visual aid to research

Work still continues on the Stream Key, and all completed aspects of the key, are functional. Partially completed pages, containing descriptive characteristics are linked through to the family pages to permit identification. The key also contains other various pages and tools helpful for the understanding of stream insect taxonomy (morphological pages), stream insect behavior (behavioral videos), and coming soon, the implications of stream insects for water quality (Biotic indicator page).

Hilsenhoff, W.L. 1987. An improved biotic index of organic stream pollution. Great Lakes Entomologist 20(11):9-13.