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Missouri River Macros – The Foundation of the Big Muddy Food Chain

Presentation by Barry Poulton, PhD, US Geological Survey

Barry Poulton will share the research he’s done into the macroinvertebrate communities of the Missouri River and what they tell us about the quality of the water and habitat on the channelized lower river.

Dragonfly and Stonefly Molt

An adult dragonfly emerges from the nymph form next to an empty stonefly molt on a Missouri River bank. photo by Lisa Hamilton.

Time and Place

Tuesday, October 9, 2018
7:00 pm

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro
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Presentation by biologist Barry Poulton, US Geological Survey

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Bistro Restaurant is now closed on Tuesday, but the bar will be open. You ARE welcome to come early, bring some food and gather with friends before the presentation. Speaker Series attendees are welcome after 5 p.m. 

Hosted by Missouri River Relief

The bridge at the Rocheport/Route BB exit is closed. If you are coming from the west, we suggest taking the next exit east, Route O/J. Head north on J for 0.1 mile, then take a left on Old Rocheport Rd. After 2.4 miles take a right at the “T” on Route BB, then look for the sign on your left for the Les Bourgeois Bistro. If you are coming from the east, you should be able to take the Rocheport exit as normal. But heading home, you will need to take a right out of Les Bourgeois, then a left on Old Rocheport Rd. After 2.4 miles, take a right on Route J toward I-70.  Here’s the information the winery has posted.

Mayfly Radar

In July 2018, a mayfly hatch along the Missouri River showed up on National Weather Service radar (the streaks radiating from the river on the Nebraska border).

The amount of small macro-invertebrate life in the Missouri River is staggering. Massive mayfly hatches have been known to show up on Dopplar radar, looking much like an approaching storm (see image on right, actually from the Mississippi River). When the river is at its lowest, usually in the winter, the rocks that line its banks are completely coated in millions of slimy caddisfly cases left high and dry by the depleted water. Sandbars have been known to erupt overnight with the emergence of adult dragonflies.

The importance of this teeming lifeforce, one of the foundations of the big river food chain, is undeniable. Yet very little is known about the populations, habitats and life history of the macroinvertebrate life in the Big Muddy. Much of what we do know is due to a USGS study led by Barry Poulton focused on developing big river sampling techniques classifying the various communities they found in different habitats, and using various indicators to evaluate the status of aquatic life in the Big Muddy.

Sampling such a huge ecosystem, with its diverse habitat sites and erratic river levels, was one of the biggest challenges the biologists face. Barry will also talk about some of the inventive methods the scientists came up with to collect their samples, including deployment of rock baskets and sucking out the water from river sediments to study quality of dike pool habitats.


From erratic river levels to oncoming barges, there are a lot of tricks to sampling macroinvertebrates on the Missouri River.
Photo courtesy of Barry Poulton, USGS

Barry Poulton, Ph.D, has been a research ecologist with the USGS River Studies Branch since 1990 studying aquatic entomology and pollution ecology. In addition to his work on Missouri River macroinvertebrates, he is studying the effects of urbanization on macroinvertebrate communities in streams surrounding the Kansas City metropolitan area, and is also studying the macroinvertebrate diet of invasive black carp that now inhabit our largest river systems.


  • 14020 W. Hwy BB, Rocheport, MO
  • Take I-70 to the Rocheport, MO, exit (Exit #115). It’s the first exit east of the Missouri River.
  • Head north toward Rocheport.
  • After about a mile, turn left at the sign for Les Bourgeois Bistro. Follow the signs to the Bistro. You will probably need to park in the lot above the Bistro and walk the trail down.
  • The presentations are held in upstairs in the restaurant. The restaurant is no longer open on Tuesdays but the bar is! You are welcome to bring your own food or snacks.

Resources & Links

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The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

Click here for a list of upcoming presentations»

Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place monthly in Kansas City and St. Charles.

The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.