National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 02-150

Revised Protocols for Sampling Algal, Invertebrate, and Fish Communities as Part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program

By Stephen R. Moulton II, Jonathan G. Kennen, Robert M. Goldstein, and Julie A. Hambrook

Cover image


Algal, invertebrate, and fish communities are characterized as part of ecological studies in the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Information from these ecological studies, together with chemical and physical data, provide an integrated assessment of water quality at local, regional, and national scales. Analysis and interpretation of water-quality data at these various geographic scales require accurate and consistent application of sampling protocols and sample-processing procedures. This report revises and unifies into a single document the algal, invertebrate, and fish community sampling protocols used in the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.

Table of Contents

Overview of the NAWQA Program
Purpose and scope
Summary of revisions to original protocols
Field protocols
1. Overview of the sampling approach
   1.1 Establishing the sampling reach
   1.2 Types of samples collected
   1.3 Identifying instream-habitat types for sampling
   1.4 Factors determining when to sample
   1.5 Coordination of field activities
2. Pre-field activities
   2.1 Preparing a sampling plan
   2.2 Collecting permits
   2.3 Supplies and chemicals
   2.4 Sample preservatives
   2.5 Sample identification and tracking
   2.6 Sampling gear maintenance
3. Safety in the field
   3.1 Personal and environmental safety
   3.2 Chemical safety
   3.3 Vehicles, boats, and sampling gear safety
4. Algal sampling protocols
   4.1 Algal sample types collected
   4.2 Identifying instream habitats for sampling
   4.3 Quantitative targeted-habitat sampling methods
   4.4 Qualitative multihabitat sampling methods
   4.5 Sample processing procedures
   4.6 Quality-control recommendations
   4.7 Field data sheets
5. Invertebrate sampling protocols
   5.1 Invertebrate sample types collected
   5.2 Identifying instream habitats for sampling
   5.3 Semi-quantitative targeted-habitat methods for sampling wadeable and nonwadeable streams
   5.4 Qualitative multihabitat methods for sampling wadeable and nonwadeable streams
   5.5 Sample processing procedures
   5.6 Field data sheets
6. Fish Sampling Protocols
   6.1 Overview of sampling methods
   6.2 Sampling methods for wadeable streams
   6.3 Sampling methods for nonwadeable streams
   6.4 Alternative sampling methods
   6.5 Sample processing procedures
   6.6 Field data sheet
7. Post-Field Activities
   7.1 Logging samples into the Biological Transactional Data Base
   7.2 Replacing field sample labels
   7.3 Preparing packing lists and Analytical Services Request Forms
   7.4 Shipping samples to analytical laboratories
References cited

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the report (PDF, 8.6 MB)

Document Accessibility: Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools convert Adobe PDF documents into HTML or ASCII text, which then can be read by a number of common screen-reading programs that synthesize text as audible speech. In addition, an accessible version of Adobe Reader 8.0 for Windows (English only), which contains support for screen readers, is available. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.

For further information about this report, contact the National Water-Quality Assessment Program office.

FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button