Level 3 Bioassessment: Macroinvertebrates

Macroinvertebrates have been used to assess river and stream health for decades and they are the longest-used biological assemblage. Methods for sampling macroinvertebrates can vary widely between states, as does the level to which they are identified. As such the level of taxonomy is a critical aspect of any macroinvertebrate-based assessment method. MBI offers training in bioassessment using macroinvertebrates at two levels – to family and the lowest practical level, which is to genus or species. MBI offers two Level 3 macroinvertebrate training specialties: Sample Collection and Data Analysis, and, if qualified, Sample Collection/Data Analysis/Identification. The focus of the Level 3 training is on the methods and biocriteria used by Ohio EPA and as such it fulfills the training required for those who are pursuing Level 3 Qualified Data Collector (QDC) status under the Ohio Credible Data Program. The training also includes instruction on using the QHEI thus fulfilling the QDC requirements for Level 2.

MBI and Ohio EPA work together to provide all that is necessary to obtain Level 3 QDC status under the Ohio Credible Data Program. MBI provides the facilities, equipment and materials, and conducts the training over 4 consecutive days. Ohio EPA conducts the laboratory testing and grading on the fifth day, and provides certification once all lab and field testing has been completed and submitted by an applicant.  

New in 2019 are revised requirements for conducting the sampling and data analysis as part of the testing requirement by Ohio EPA. These and other requirements will be covered in the four-day training class at MBI.

Please Note:  Participants completing just the Sample Collection and Data Analysis portion of the course will have additional Ohio EPA requirements of collecting 3 samples on their own during the field season and to have those samples analyzed by a current Level 3 Benthic Macroinvertebrate Qualified Identifier, which may incur an additional cost. Those completing Sample Collection/Data Analysis/Identification will have the same additional Ohio EPA requirements, but will be analyzing the samples themselves for certification. 

Additional Note:  Participants will be afforded time in the late afternoon and evenings at MBI to examine macroinvertebrate taxa in preparation for a family-level test or the lowest level of taxonomy test administered by Ohio EPA on Day Five for trainees who are pursuing the taxonomic certification part of a Level 3 certification.  

Day One: Introduction to Ohio WQS, Biocriteria and QHEI – Classroom Instruction

We will provide a detailed overview of the Fundamentals of Aquatic Ecology, Monitoring and Assessment Design, the Ohio Water Quality Standards (WQS), and the development of biocriteria and their usage, ie. the ICI. We will also cover the origins and the components of the QHEI as a habitat assessment tool, and will provide an overview of the Ohio Credible Data Program and instructions about obtaining QDC status.  

Day Two: Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI) – Field Training

This is the field training day for QHEI, which includes a Level 2 test for the QHEI.     

Day Three: Level 3 Field Training

This includes in-field instruction for Level 3 macroinvertebrate sample collection, including setting and retrieving artificial substrates and collecting qualitative samples. All participants will be instructed in Level 3 macroinvertebrate sample collection, and participants will prepare an artificial substrate sample for processing.  Participants pursuing Sample Collection/Data Analysis/Identification will also be instructed in sample identification procedures. 

Day Four: Data Analysis & Use Designation Determination – Classroom Instruction

Day Four is classroom instruction for managing and analyzing macroinvertebrate data including calculating the indices that comprise the Ohio biocriteria. Case studies will cover the analysis of data, determining the appropriate aquatic life use designation, assessing use attainment status, and an introduction to stressor identification. We will also provide instruction on how to develop a Project Study Plan (PSP) for submittal to Ohio EPA as a prerequisite to Level 3 certification.  

This concludes the Level 3 training at and by MBI.  

Day Five: Testing and Wrap-up (at Ohio EPA)

Day 5 is the laboratory testing day conducted at the Ohio EPA Groveport Field Facility.  The test covers a macroinvertebrate identification of 20 specimens to family level or 25 specimens to lowest practical taxonomic level conducted exclusively by Ohio EPA, and consistent with Level 3 identification specifications. Participants will need to report to the Ohio EPA Groveport Field Facility for this session, and Ohio EPA will conduct and oversee all required testing and grading from this point forward. This half-day session wraps up with instructions about post-training testing, results submission to Ohio EPA, and an overview about how and when to apply to Ohio EPA for Level 3 QDC status. 

Recommended Background

Participants should be proficient in the identification of Ohio macroinvertebrate taxa to family level for Level 3 Sample Collection/Data Analysis and to the lowest level of taxonomy for trainees pursuing Level 3 Sample Collection/Data Analysis/Identification. All Level 3 participants should be familiar with macroinvertebrate sampling techniques as outlined by Ohio EPA. 


This course will provide participants with the information needed to complete the testing requirements for the two Level 3 certifications. Ohio EPA conducts the testing and grading for all Level 3 candidates. Participants who receive a passing grade can apply to Ohio EPA for QDC status. All Level 3 participants should be familiar with macroinvertebrate sampling techniques as outlined in the Ohio EPA methods manual for collection of OCD L3 data. This manual can be found by clicking here, and will also be provided as part of the training materials.  For the latest Ohio Credible Data Program requirements, visit the Ohio EPA website by clicking here.