Chris Linder Photography

Multimedia » The Polaris Project: Bugs

Kayla Henson and Max Janicek from Western Washington University describe their study of benthic macroinvertebrates in several Siberian lakes.

"Benthic macroinvertebrates are animals without a backbone large enough to be seen without a microscope that are found in the bottom of lakes or streams. They include insects, worms, snails, and spiders, and can act as indicators of freshwater ecosystem health. The greater the population and diversity of critters, the healthier the ecosystem. Habitats that are constantly changing or have an unfavorable environment might not contain many animals, or may have only a few species.

In the case of the flat Northeast Siberian landscape, many of the lakes are growing or shrinking depending on the state of the permafrost (frozen soil) underneath them. We are interested in looking at how the animals differ from lake to lake. To do so, we take samples of the top layer of sediment from each lake and sift through our sediment to find, collect, and identify each critter that we can see. We also take water samples at each site in order to understand the water quality. Little prior research has been done about benthic macroinvertebrates in this region, and our data will provide a first snapshot against which future changes can be gauged." -Max Janicek and Kayla Henson

More Polaris Project multimedia

  • Overview: why study climate change in Siberia?
  • Student Impact: testimonials from four students
  • Permafrost: frozen soil and a source of carbon
  • Lakes: thermokarst and floodplain lakes
  • Streams: linking the boreal forest to lakes and rivers
  • Rivers: studying Siberia's large rivers

Learn more