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 in Washington, DC, and nearby counties of Maryland.
What do monitors do?
Adults and children 10 or older, accompanied by their parents, visit local streams to find and identify small animals that live in the streambed called “benthic macroinvertebrates.” Because these small animals, many of them immature insects, have a range of sensitivities to pollutants and stressors, they help us determine the streams’ health. Monitors also record information on the condition of the stream and its banks, test the pH of the water, and measure the temperature of the water and air. Everyone who enters the program is assigned to a team that monitors a given stream site. Each team is led by an experienced monitor who has passed a test in benthic macroinvertebrate identification.
How often do monitors visit their streams?
The teams visit their stream sites once in every season -- in April, July, October, and optionally during the winter (December to February). This gives us a record of aquatic life throughout the year.
How does the ANS program differ from other monitoring programs?
Our monitors identify aquatic insects to the taxonomic level of family. This gives us a clearer picture of aquatic diversity and stream health than programs with more general identification practices. Because our monitors identify organisms in the field and then release them alive, they do not have to preserve them in alcohol and send them to a lab for identification.
How is the monitoring data used?
We provide data to government agencies and to others upon request. Periodically we issue special reports of our data. [Link to reports?] ANS also contributes data to the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative.
How can I become a stream monitor?
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.
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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!
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.
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.
Typically we teach our Introductory series twice each year, in spring & fall, and our Advanced series (required for ANS volunteer team leaders) January - March.
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