Water Quality Monitoring
The Audubon Naturalist Society Water Quality Monitoring Program is one of the largest and longest-running citizen science programs in the country. Since the early 1990s, the program has operated throughout Montgomery County, Maryland, and in parts of the District of Columbia. We provide our data to government agencies and to others upon request. Learn more about the history of water quality monitoring at ANS.
How It Works
Teams of volunteer monitors visit stream sites in April, July, October, and optionally during the winter. They conduct habitat assessments and collect and identify “benthic macroinvertebrates,” small organisms that live in the streams. Because these organisms exhibit a range of sensitivities to pollutants and stressors, they help us determine the streams’ health. Our program is distinct in that our monitors identify aquatic insects to the taxonomic level of family. This gives us a clearer picture of aquatic diversity and stream health than more general identification practices. Our program is also unique in that monitors learn to identify the organisms in the field and then release them alive, rather than preserving them in alcohol and sending them to a lab for identification.
Each team has a designated leader who is certified in identification. New volunteers are teamed with experienced monitors at stream sites convenient to them. Our water quality classes give volunteers the information they need to monitor. See what it's like--check out the video below!
Become a Volunteer Water Quality Monitor
Before going into the field, new monitors should have a basic knowledge of macroinvertebrate identification and stream ecology, either from previous training or by attending ANS’s water quality classes. Volunteers should also be willing to commit to at least two seasons of monitoring.
Ready to join a monitoring team? Apply Today!
Reports & Data
Where We Monitor: see a map of all our citizen science data. Uncheck the box marked "Critter Survey" at the top left to see only Water Quality Monitoring sites.
- Check out the Conservation Blog for more news and reports from our citizen scientists!
- For questions about monitoring with ANS, email Cathy Wiss. For information about water quality monitoring in Northern Virginia, email Dan Schwartz with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.
- For information about the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative and bringing together volunteer data for government decision-making, click here.
STREAM SCIENCE CLASSES
Stream Science at ANS
For 25 years, ANS has been teaching the natural history of aquatic ecology and training volunteer stream monitors who track the health of our region’s streams. Learn from the experts: study stream science in our introductory classes, and you just might be inspired to become a stream monitor yourself! Our advanced classes are perfect for those interested in deepening their knowledge about biological stream monitoring and are taught by our Maryland Biological Stream Survey-certified instructor Cathy Wiss.
Registration & Fee Information
Registration required: click here to register online. The classes are open to anyone 10 years and older. Except for Macro ID Review & Quiz, prices for all classes are $15 Members/$25 non-members; waivers are available for existing monitors and students earning SSL credit—email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Introduction to Stream Science Series*
Healthy Stream Biology
Section A: Tuesday, January 22 (7-9:30 pm)
Section B: Thursday, March 28 (7-9:30 pm)
Both Sections A & B cover the same material
Woodend Sanctuary, Chevy Chase, MD
In the classroom, we will explore how “benthic macroinvertebrates” – organisms that live in the bottom of streams – help us assess a stream’s health. We will learn how to identify these organisms to the taxonomic level of order through a PowerPoint presentation and by examining preserved specimens through a hands-on session with microscopes. REGISTER ONLINE.
Section A: Saturday, March 30 (9:30 am-12 pm)
Ten Mile Creek, Boyds, MD
In the field workshop, we will visit a healthy stream to practice monitoring techniques and to collect and identify the benthic macroinvertebrates we find. REGISTER ONLINE.
How to Read Your Stream*
Tuesday, April 2 (7-9:30 pm)
Woodend Sanctuary, Chevy Chase, MD
Learn about the influence of land uses on streams, stream character and dynamics, bank erosion, bar formation, substrate composition, different velocity-depth regimes, and the importance of riffles and riparian vegetation. We will practice assessing stream habitat by using photographs of streams and the forms that monitors fill out in the field. This class is recommended for anyone who plans to participate in the ANS water quality monitoring program and is a good refresher on habitat assessment for experienced monitors. REGISTER ONLINE.
Advanced Series: Aquatic Insect Family ID**
Woodend Sanctuary, Chevy Chase, MD (7-9:30 pm)
A: Beetles, Megaloptera & Water Bugs, Tuesday, 1/29
B: Caddisflies & Aquatic Moths, Tuesday, 2/5
C: Dragonflies, Damselflies & True Flies, Tuesday, 2/12
D: Mayflies, Tuesday, 2/19
E: Stoneflies & Review, Tuesday, 2/26
Learn how to identify aquatic insects to the taxonomic level of family through this series of five classes. Identification to family level greatly enhances our understanding of stream ecology and the power of our monitoring data. These classes are great for fly fishermen, citizen science program or team leaders, aquatic resource biologists, and anyone interested in monitoring and understanding stream health. REGISTER ONLINE.
Aquatic Insect ID Review & Quiz **
Woodend Sanctuary, Chevy Chase, MD (No fee)
Section A: Thursday, March 7 (6:30-9 pm)
Section B: Saturday, March 9 (9:30-noon)
Section C: Tuesday, March 12 (6:30-9 pm)
(Sections A, B, and C cover the same material)
Time to separate the mayflies from the stoneflies! Those who wish to be certified to identify macroinvertebrates in the field in ANS’ program must demonstrate their ability annually by taking a quiz using preserved specimens. Those who do not take the quiz may still be assigned to a monitoring team to assist with data collection and other field logistics, but only those who have taken and passed the quiz will identify macroinvertebrates for data recording. REGISTER ONLINE.
*Recommended for anyone who plans to participate in the ANS Water Quality Monitoring Program
**Required for ANS Water Quality Monitoring Program team leaders
Resources for Volunteer Monitors
Are you an ANS or partner organization citizen-scientist who monitors regional streams? Here are some useful links to brush up on your protocols, download and print data forms, and more:
Macroinvertebrate Collection Forms
- ANS Benthos Taxonomic Listing Form v4-2017 (complete every visit)
- Instructions on how to conduct a stream habitat rapid bioassessment (long file w color photos)
- MCDEP Riffle-Run Habitat Assessment Form (complete every visit)
- Instructions for Summer Habitat Data Sheet
- Summer Habitat Data Sheet (complete in July)
- Instructions for Spring Habitat Data Sheet
- Spring Habitat Data Sheet v9-2017 (complete in April)
Program Scientific Resources
Are you interested in how we ensure the integrity of our data and calculate our stream health scores? Read up on the fundamentals behind our program:
- Quality Assurance/ Quality Control Plan
- Calculating an Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) for Maryland Streams: The family-level calculations for a Benthic Index of Biological Integrity (BIBI) are described on pp 27-34.