What creatures lurk in local water? Environmental Engineering students investigate

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of local water? Instructor Steve Arant knows, and he's teaching his Environmental Engineering degree students how to find out.

Arant took his students to Baird Creek to collect and analyze samples from the stream bed. He says that giving them an up-close and personal look at microscopic aquatic "monsters" just before Halloween was a coincidence.

"This is a routine biological assay for the health of streams," he said. "The macroinvertebrates are grouped into four groups, based on how well they tolerate polluted water." He said macroinvertebrates "are a critical part of the food chain for higher organisms, such as fish and birds." The number of invertebrates indicates the health of the stream.

What is environmental engineering?

An environmental engineer will analyze and test water, wastewater, air, and solid waste to ensure environmental protection and compliance while maintaining community health and safety.

Why conduct environmental tests in Baird Creek?

Arant said that Baird Creek was not chosen due to any concerns but because it provides a good place for students to work.

"It has a good variety of macroinvertebrates for the students to identify, and is also a very pretty site."

The skills they learn, though, are critical.

"We have a variety of activities, as part of the Environmental Engineering Technologies program, that prepare them to be field technicians for monitoring environmental quality.  There’s no substitute for hands-on learning for developing these important skills."

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Stephen Arant - Instr,Environmental Eng

About the Expert

Stephen Arant - Instr,Environmental Eng

Steve Arant is a Professional Engineer and is the instructor for NWTC's Environmental Engineering Technology associate degree program. His students help Wisconsin stay beautiful, help Wisconsinites stay healthy and help Wisconsin businesses achieve their goals. Learn more at