Citizen Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (cQHEI)

What is the cQHEI?

The Citizen Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (cQHEI) is a habitat assessment tool developed at Ohio EPA in the 1990's as an “easier to use” version of the professional-level QHEI habitat assessment tool.  The professional-level QHEI was designed to accompany the Ohio EPA bioassessments conducted in streams and rivers throughout Ohio. The cQHEI’s main purpose, on the other hand, is to provide a way for more people to cover more area, collect a greater pool of data, and thus expand the habitat assessment data network. It also provides a way to educate the public about the importance of physical stream and floodplain habitats and the many ecological benefits provided by natural streams. With training and guidance, those attending will be able to provide useful and comprehensive data. The cQHEI has already been used in multiple states by a number of volunteer monitoring organizations, including the Indiana “Hoosier” Riverwatch program (http://www.hoosierriverwatch.com).  

The focus of our cQHEI training is to foster an appreciation of 1) essential functions the physical habitat that a creek and its floodplain provides and 2) the way habitat influences the stream biota (e.g., fish and macroinvertebrates) and the stream’s chemical characteristics (e.g. nutrients, etc. ). For those who wish to participate in a watershed group or to monitor local streams on an ongoing basis, the training is ideal and will provide the details to ensure precision and accuracy.  The course will also provide the option for a Level I certification by Ohio EPA and access to the MBI cQHEI database currently under development.

It’s important to note that this course is not for regulatory purposes.  If you are assessing habitat to meet EPA’s credible data guidelines, we suggest that you consider the professional level QHEI, also offered by MBI.

Morning: cQHEI Classroom Instruction

Includes a detailed overview of the cQHEI, along with an introduction to Ohio Water Quality Standards (WQS) and biological monitoring, and their relationship to the Citizen QHEI. We will focus on the importance of habitat in your local stream, and  also how cumulative habitat losses can affect stream quality at watershed and larger scales. This will help to illustrate, for example, how the condition of your local  stream can affect conditions such as the harmful algal blooms and hypoxia (loss of oxygen) seen in the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, and the Ohio River.

Afternoon: Field Exploration of the cQHEI

While in the field we will apply what was learned in the classroom.  We will review scoring methods, and each participant will practice scoring while trainers provide feedback. The field work will provide a practical experience in objective data collection and evaluation.

Recommended Background

No experience needed - just an interest in nature and the desire to protect our aquatic resources. Be prepared to get wet. You can wade in your sneakers, but even better, bring waders or hip boots.

Results

This course will provide trainees with exposure to cQHEI and its uses. Trainees may pursue, if they desire, Level 1 certification with Ohio EPA.  IF so, MBI will send a certificate of cQHEI course completion to Ohio EPA, who will then register you as Level I cQHEI QDC.