Field Trips

Dragonfly Discovery

A ranger helps point out a bull frog in the marsh.
A ranger helps point out a bull frog in the marsh.

NPS/Bob Thayer

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This hands-on program is an opportunity for students to participate as citizen scientists in an ongoing research project studying ten water bodies in Acadia National Park. They will assist the ranger in collecting water, sediment, and dragonfly larvae from the shoreline and near-shore bottom of a lake, pond, or stream, actively using nets to search through mud and organic detritus on the lake-bottom to locate the dragonfly larvae, which must be collected without touching them to avoid contamination with mercury from human hands. Students will learn about the study design, the identification of several families of dragonfly larvae, mercury pollution, and preliminary results from previous years. They will also have the opportunity to identify and learn about numerous other species and groups of interesting aquatic invertebrates such as mayflies, caddisflies, damselflies, etc.

The collected dragonfly larvae will be analyzed in a laboratory for their mercury content, and the data will be used to better understand the way that inorganic mercury is processed as it travels through the landscape, and to learn whether dragonfly larvae are good indicators of ecosystem health. More than forty national parks across the United States are enlisting citizen scientists to help with the field work as part of study, which is giving scientists a broad picture of the extent of mercury contamination across the country. This is a unique opportunity to contribute toward that goal, and to have fun discovering the many fascinating creatures that live in our waters at the same time.



Acadia Education Office


Biology: Animals, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Hydrology, Physical Science
National/State Standards:
Maine State Learning Results 2007
Career and Education: A3 Interpersonal Skills
Science and Technology: A1 – 4, B1 Skills and Traits of Scientific Inquiry, D1 – 4, E1 Biodiversity and E2 Ecosystems
dragonfly, dragonfly nymph, mercury, aquatic, ecology, citizen science, water cycle, pollution
Field Trips