Kathleen Harris is a FOSC force. Not only does she lead a weekly restoration workday at Bridgeview Trailhead—tackling ivy and other invasives and tending to the pollinator garden—but she also leads monthly water quality testing at seven sites across the watershed and is our resident benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) monitoring lead.

The latter is a mouthful for young students to say, and is often initially followed by an "Ewww" or a "No way, gross!" response when it is revealed that BMI means bugs.

I recently had the opportunity to witness the magic touch that Kathleen has for getting kids (and adults) to go from "Ewww" to "Ooohl!!" in no time at all.

After giving some brief Oakland creek history background—including a nod to the mudflats once teeming with wildlife from the mouth to the bay—and giving the students an opportunity to find their neighborhoods on the map, Kathleen describes how the presence or absence of certain types of macroinvertebrates are incredible indicators of creek health.

Crouching over the Palo Seco Creek, one of the tributaries of Sausal Creek, the kids look at water striders skating gracefully (and fiercely) on the surface of the water. They're familiar with these insects but are excited to learn that they hunt in packs. We turn over a rock and some leaves, and there—visible only if you look very closely—are the teeny tiny creatures we're here to carefully observe.

Kathleen describes what lifestyles define the type of insect larvae we're looking for. "We want to identify carnivores (like the damselfly), omnivores (like the mayfly), and detritivores (like the caddisfly.) We call these last ones poopivores!" This gets a good laugh out of everyone and the students start excitedly pointing out the tiny movements in the water that have become apparent.