Benthic Macroinvertebrates Lesson Packet
- June 15, 2020 -
Learn more about these small yet important aquatic animals in this lesson packet.

Get this lesson: You can download the full packet here, and read a condensed version of this unit below.

Worksheet: Download just the worksheet, or there’s a copy included in the packet.


Benthic Macroinvertebrates are animals without a spine that you can see with your naked eye. Benthic means they live underwater on the bottoms of waterways like lakes, rivers, or oceans. Many of the benthic macroinvertebrates go through a 3 stage life cycle: egg, naiad (nymph in water), and adult. When we hunt for macroinvertebrates in streams we are usually finding the naiad/nymph stage, the one before it turns into a flying adult. Macroinvertebrates are often used as biological indicators of stream health, as they can be sensitive to pollution and changes in water chemistry, specifically oxygen. They are also an important part of the ecosystem as herbivores and a food source for native fish.

Many scientists study benthic macroinvertebrates to understand the health of a waterway. They collect data on the number and types of macroinvertebrates in an area and use that information to assess how healthy a body of water is, monitor for pollution, and/or measure the effectiveness of restoration programs.

Video resources:

Macroinvertebrates- A Love Story – a sassy, humorous view of why macroinvertebrates are cool, as only a teenager could tell.

Macroinvertebrates Close Up– a short close up of living, breathing macroinvertebrates in water.

Sample Research Project:

Find a flowing waterway nearby and make a prediction where you might find more macroinvertebrates.

Sample questions:

  • Are there more macroinvertebrates in the shady or sunny section?
  • Are there more macroinvertebrates in the faster or slower water?
  • How many different types of macroinvertebrates are there?

NGSS Standards:

MS-LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
HS-LS2-1: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

SEPs: Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing Explanations and designing solutions
Scientific knowledge based on empirical evidence

CC: Cause and effect
Stability and change


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