Water Quality Monitoring
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!
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.
- 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 email@example.com 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.
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
- ANS Benthos Taxonomic Listing Form v5-2019 (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 (July)
- Summer Habitat Data Sheet (complete in July)
- Instructions for Spring Habitat Data Sheet (April)
- 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.