The Audubon Naturalist Society Water Quality Monitoring Program is one of the largest and longest-running community 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!

Get Involved

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 community science data. Uncheck the box marked "Critter Survey" at the top left to see only Water Quality Monitoring sites.

Learn More

  • Check out the Conservation Blog for more news and reports from our community 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

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 (plus a $1 non-refundable registration fee per class); waivers are available for existing monitors and students earning SSL credit—email cathy.wiss@anshome.org for details.

See below for upcoming classes. Typically we teach our Introductory series twice each year, in spring & fall, and our Advanced series (required for ANS volunteer team leaders) January - March.

may

30may9:30 am12:00 pmKnow Your Invasive Plants

june

02jun7:00 pm9:30 pmClassroom Session: Healthy Stream BiologyIntroduction to Stream Science Series

06jun9:30 am12:00 pmField WorkshopIntroduction to Stream Science Series

16jun7:00 pm9:30 pmClassroom Session: How to Read Your StreamIntroduction to Stream Science Series

Resources for Volunteer Monitors

Are you an ANS or partner organization community-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

Habitat Forms

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: