Category Archives: CREEK CRITTERS

App Lets People Take Action For Water Quality


New Mobile App Lets People Take Action for Water Quality

It’s an easy, fun and fascinating way to safely collect and report water quality data

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2020
Photos available upon request

CHEVY CHASE, MD – The Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) and Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) have launched a brand-new version of Creek Critters®, an innovative smartphone app that empowers people to collect valuable data and report on local water quality. Using only a smartphone and a small aquarium net, everyone can learn about stream health and become advocates for their own natural resources.

“It always fascinates me to see how excited people get by discovering life in their streams,” says Gregg Trilling, Conservation Outreach Manager for the Audubon Naturalist Society. “Creek Critters helps newcomers and experienced stream monitors alike experience that thrill of discovery.”

Water quality in the United States is under threat from a wide range of sources, from excessive road salt use to stormwater runoff. Professional water quality experts are unable to monitor even half of the more than 3.5 million miles of streams and rivers across the country. ANS and IWLA have trained community scientists for decades to collect critical water quality data and engage local communities.

Creek Critters uses simple step-by-step instructions and an interactive guide to help users find and identify organisms in local streams. Collecting and identifying these small, fascinating animals, called benthic macroinvertebrates, is one of the most effective ways to assess stream health. Benthic macroinvertebrates live in creeks and streams and have different tolerance levels to water pollution. By identifying and reporting the macroinvertebrates they find in a stream, anyone, including students, can help paint a picture of water quality and pollution threats across the country.

“For students, Creek Critters is a splashy introduction to the stunning biodiversity that can be found if you learn to look,” says Dani Moore, science teacher at Wilson High School in DC.

The data collected by app users is uploaded into the Clean Water Hub, the water quality database managed by IWLA. The first database of its kind, the Clean Water Hub brings together data collected by volunteers across the country in a single, user-friendly website.

“With the Creek Critters app now connected to the Clean Water Hub database, people across the country are empowered to do their own water quality monitoring, share their results and use their data,” says Samantha Briggs, Clean Water Program Director for IWLA.

The app can be used by people working alone or by small groups, making it an easy activity to do while social distancing. It is also family friendly and can be used by schools, camps and clubs to educate and engage students of all ages.

The free app is available for download on iOS and Android devices.


Caroline Brewer
Director of Marketing and Communications
Audubon Naturalist Society
(240) 899-9019 or

Gregg Trilling
Conservation Outreach Manager
Audubon Naturalist Society

Samantha Briggs
Clean Water Program Director
Izaak Walton League of America
(847) 650-5112 or


About The Izaak Walton League of America: Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America ( and our more than 40,000 members protect America’s outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.

About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has championed nature for all by playing a pivotal role in conserving our region's iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS's nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.

Follow ANS at:, 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

Smartphone App Uses Little Critters


Award-Winning Smartphone App uses Little Critters to do Big Things for Clean Water

ANS Hosts the Next Creek Critters Event September 29

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2018

For more information, contact Caroline Brewer at or 301-652-9188, ext. 23 or Gregg Trilling at or 240-426-7150.

CHEVY CHASE, MD – The Audubon Naturalist Society has won an innovation award from Bethesda Magazine for the ANS Creek Critters Program which features a free smartphone app where users can easily monitor water quality and protect local streams in the D.C. region. The award will be presented October 18 at the 10th annual Bethesda Green Gala.

The Creek Critters app allows users to identify small organisms – or critters – in local waterways. What lives at the bottom of streams -- benthic (meaning “bottom-dwelling”) macroinvertebrates – are indicators of water quality because these organisms exhibit a range of sensitivities to pollutants and stressors. Among the many critters are crayfish, snails, aquatic worms, and a large variety of insect larvae. App users generate Stream Health Reports based on their findings, and the reports are displayed on an interactive map. ANS and its partners have used Creek Critters to engage nearly 7,500 people at more than 200 events and activities. Adding those who have used the app independently of ANS, more than 10,000 people have been introduced to water quality monitoring through the app– with users posting data from all over the Washington, D.C. metro region, the United States, and abroad.

“The Creek Critters app is designed to make it easy for people to do this important work and the technology is turning users into powerful advocates,” said ANS Executive Director Lisa Alexander. “Now, with real-time knowledge, we can better protect our precious waterways.”

On September 29, ANS Creek Critter Program Manager Gregg Trilling will lead a field class for the Anacostia Watershed Society’s “Watershed Stewards Academy” students. Trilling and his band of trained interns, staff, and volunteers regularly fan out across the region to work with groups, visit schools, and present at conferences and festivals to maximize the number of people who hop into their local streams to check on water quality.

“I am still impressed with how this simple app along with a few nets and buckets has grown a community of clean water enthusiasts. Most people come to our events thinking only fish live in the creek. We can hear the oohs and ahhs when they find their first macro-invertebrate and by the time they leave, they are asking about the health of the stream and what they can do,” said award nominator Sarah Morse, Executive Director of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance.

An inspiration behind Creek Critters is ANS’s Water Quality Monitoring Program, one of the largest and longest-running citizen science programs in the country. Since the early 1990s, the program has operated throughout Montgomery County, Maryland, and in parts of the District of Columbia. The program is unique in that volunteers are trained to identify the organisms in the field and then release them alive, rather than preserving them in alcohol and sending them to a lab for identification.

The Creek Critters app launched in 2015. It’s available for free download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


Follow ANS at:, 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has played a pivotal role in conserving our region's iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS's nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.

Frank Sanford

Areas of Expertise:
Creek Critters
Outdoor Learning
Pond Study
Water Quality

Frank Sanford is an expert teacher. More than 400,000 hours of living as a teacher over the past 46 years has allowed him to impart knowledge to every age group from preschoolers to adults in their golden years. And Sanford has a grand old time doing it. Which is why some around here call him the Pied Piper of the Natural World. Before joining ANS four years ago, Sanford taught science in Montgomery County Public Schools and at the DC-based Sheridan School. His passion for teaching about science and the environment flows from a lifetime of outdoor learning and experimenting. From fishing to hiking, Sanford’s childhood in St. Louis, MO was flooded with wild adventures in the great outdoors. Working at ANS combines nature and education, two of Sanford’s favorite things. Every first Saturday, he leads our monthly, themed, family hikes, such as Change of Seasons and How Animals Use Color, and has co-taught summer camps on Pond Study, Exploration Hikes, and Ethnobotany (plants and their uses for making dyes and paints, for instance).

Sanford completed the ANS Master Naturalist Program four years ago, and continues taking new courses to build his environmental expertise. “I think my ability to transfer my enthusiasm about the natural world to kids (and adults, too, I hope) is my strength,” Sanford said.