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VIDEO: Join King County’s 'Stream Team,' the environmental scientists who hunt for bugs to monitor the health of local watersheds


Natural Resources and Parks
Public Affairs

VIDEO: Join King County’s 'Stream Team,' the environmental scientists who hunt for bugs to monitor the health of local watersheds


Recruiting for King County’s “Stream Team” will begin soon, hiring environmental scientists who will travel to 200 streams throughout the region to capture, collect, and study bugs that are key indicators of watershed health.


King County is tracking the health of local watersheds by deploying a small, elite team of young environmental scientists who capture and study bugs in local streams.

By collecting and categorizing aquatic insects, and studying the environment in and around the streams, the “Stream Team” provides valuable long-term data to inform King County about the impacts of development on local water quality and whether restoration efforts are working.

Recruiting for the 2022 Stream Team roster begins soon. Each summer, the paid Environmental Aides put on boots and waders to bushwhack their way to 200 streams throughout the county. They collect samples as part of an ongoing research project to track trends on water and habitat health.

The benthic macroinvertebrates that live in the gravel, wood, and debris in streams play a critical role in the nutrient cycle and larger ecosystem.

“They really are some of the best, most efficient tools we have to track water quality across the county,” said Kate Macneale, a King County Environmental Scientist who leads the research. “Their health helps indicate how well we’re managing urban growth, stormwater, and forests across the county.”

In addition to collecting and sorting stream bugs, the team documents physical characteristics of the streambed like measuring how much shade a stream is getting, its width and depth, the water’s speed and temperature, and the size of rocks.

“The good news is that over time, we are actually seeing a slow trend up,” said Beth Sosik, a Water Quality Planner with King County’s Water and Land Resources Division. “The data we’re collecting is helping us measure what are the places we need to protect. A place that is scoring great is a place that we would want to protect because it's a lot easier to protect a place than it is to restore it.”

The Stream Team contributes to three of the six goal areas established in Clean Water Healthy Habitat – better habitat, healthier forests, and cleaner stormwater runoff – that will produce better results sooner for people, salmon, and orcas.

Team members gain valuable work experience in stream ecology and data and project management. Although their days are long and hard, they’re also rewarding judging by the fact that staff frequently reapply for the seasonal work the following year.

The application period opens in mid-March. Anyone interested in applying can contact Jenée Colton for additional information. Find out more about the Water and Land Resources Division's Environmental Education program at

Relevant links

For more information, contact:

Doug Williams, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4543