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.

Learn more about the history of water quality monitoring at ANS

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 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?  

Apply here to become a stream monitor. No prior experience is necessary. We ask that new monitors take at least one introductory stream science class 

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.

Watch Our Video

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! 

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:


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