Riverkeepers, intern go on ‘spidey-sensing’ field day

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers

Posted on June 20th, 2024

Funnel weaver webs are tunnel-like in appearance.

A follow-up field day had Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman and water-quality intern Tierney Reardon searching for unlikely evidence of pollution along the Neuse River.

Joining staff members from the Environmental Justice Network, the group went “spidey-sensing” by kayak on Tuesday, searching for funnel weaver spider webs on the banks and in the woods surrounding the Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee coal-processing plant in Goldsboro.

The location of the spider-sensing area is not accessible by car, so kayaks were used to get there via the river.

“What a day! There’s no easy way to explain what we were doing out there. It’s a very innovative scientific approach to finding sources of pollution,” Samantha said. “Many of the webs we collected are right around the coal ash storage area, at which they are actively removing coal ash to be recycled.”

Funnel weaver webs have a wide, horizontal mouth that narrows into a funnel where the spider awaits its prey. The webs may be built to capture prey, but they can also capture airborne particles, including heavy metals responsible for air pollution. Since this was the spider-sensing group’s second collection foray — the first was in September 2023 — they were specifically looking for the same webs collected previously for comparison purposes.

“Talk about finding a needle in a haystack,” Samantha laughed. “But we did — we found all of them. Most of them had been rebuilt. That’s why we chose these spiders, because they do rebuild their webs.”

Over six and a half hours, a total of 14 webs were collected, most repeats, but some new ones.

“It involved a lot of poking around in muddy banks and forest, and the water level was so low, we saw a giant catfish,” Samantha said.

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Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman takes a break for a snack on the banks of the Neuse River.
Sound Rivers intern Tierney Reardon got an introduction to the Neuse, and the mud you can sink into.
Friend of Sound Rivers and experienced kayak tour operator Alan Capps provided kayaks and guidance on the trip.

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