Stream Monitoring Using Aquatic Insects

Many people are now feeling motivated to participate in community and citizen science and volunteer stream monitoring. These individuals can make a difference by performing regular biological assessments of our local streams. Macroinvertebrates are excellent indicators of water quality and have been used to measure the health of freshwater rivers, streams and wetlands.  MBI has developed a one-day macroinvertebrate course aimed at volunteers and community or citizen scientists who might have a basic understanding of macroinvertebrates, and would like to expand their knowledge and possibly participate in environmental opportunities. 

Common macroinvertebrates include worms, crayfish, snails, clams and many different insects.  Insects make up the majority of the organisms present, and include mayflies, stoneflies, damselflies and dragonflies, caddisflies, beetles and different types of midges.  Methods for sampling macroinvertebrates can vary widely depending on the level of assessment, sampling equipment used and areas of the stream sampled.  These methods are used to identify sensitive and tolerant organisms present in order to determine the quality of the stream. Since biological indicators are one of the best ways to detect changes in water quality, people who are trained to identify macroinvertebrates can play an important role in monitoring long-term surface water quality trends in a watershed. The levels of identification are:

  • Common field identification (Level 1) taught in this course.
  • Family Identification (Level 2)
  • Genus and Species Identification (Level 3).  

Depending on the Level of sampling, macroinvertebrates can be used to promote public awareness and education about surface waters of the state (Level 1); to evaluate the effectiveness of pollution controls and conduct initial screening of water quality conditions (Level 2); and to make water quality designations, measure attainment status of rivers, and evaluate pollution sources (Level 3).  This course will provide a basis that can be applied to all Levels of sampling.

Register soon as space is limited.  Lunch on Saturday is included!

Friday Evening: Lab Instruction (5 PM – 8 PM) OPTIONAL 

Includes detailed instruction on macroinvertebrate Family Level identification using family reference material and dissecting microscopes. Lab instruction must be arranged in advance.

Saturday Morning: Classroom and Lab Instruction (9:30 AM – 12:30 PM)

We will cover many of the current volunteer methods of collecting macroinvertebrates at stream sites.  Hands-on identification of common aquatic insects and organisms will provide participants with the ability to identify common macroinvertebrates without the use of microscopes for the field portion. However, a few microscopes will be available in the classroom to assist in the identification process.  We will include an overview of the Fundamentals of Aquatic Ecology, Monitoring and Assessment; Ohio Water quality Standards; the Ohio Credible Data Program and the development of biocriteria.


Lunch and Networking: 12:30 – 1:30 PM (Lunch Provided by MBI)


Saturday Afternoon: Field Exploration (1:30 – 4:30 PM)

This session includes in-field instruction on macroinvertebrate sample collection primarily using the Ohio EPA qualitative sampling of natural substrates.  Other common methods of macroinvertebrate collection used by volunteer groups (such as ODNR Scenic Rivers and the Izaac Walton League) will also be demonstrated.  Depending on stream conditions and the location of training, participants might need to travel separately to local filed sites. 

Recommended Background

No previous experience is necessary to take this course.  Those wishing to continue on to QDC Level 2 Certification for Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessment may need other experience or general knowledge of stream and riverine physical forms and habitat features, the ability to use taxonomic references to identify macroinvertebrate families, and experience with study plans.


This course will provide participants with a basic knowledge of macroinvertebrate collection and identification.  Those who complete this course will automatically be eligible for Level 1 Certification and will have the option for MBI to submit their information to Ohio EPA.  This course is designed for community and citizen scientists, volunteers, teachers and educators in order to promote public awareness and education about macroinvertebrates and their role surface waters of the state.