Macrobenthic invertebrates are important indicators of water quality in many aquatic systems, but accurately identifying these organisms is a challenge, particularly for citizen scientists, due to insufficient funding for training programs and events and a dwindling pool of training personnel. Accurately identifying these organisms is key to the accuracy of the models used to generate the water quality assessments. To help address these issues, this project has developed an interactive online photographic key for macrobenthic invertebrates, designed to improve classification accuracy with minimal training for use by citizen scientists. The online digital photographic field guide was created and tested against a widely used paper key (the Izaac Walton key). Classification exercises and user satisfaction surveys were conducted at different events over two years in order to compare the two identification methods. Results indicate that most participants preferred the online field guide, but that the digital field guide did not necessarily increase classification accuracy within all user groups. The results suggest the need for some basic experience or training in using macrobethic invertebrates for water quality assessment, similar to what high school or college students receive in aquatic ecology or field science courses. Another obstacle to improve water quality assessment is the dissemination of data. A tool currently being developed as part of this project is a digital map and linked database created using ArcGIS 10. This map incorporates spatial data helpful for water quality analyses (e.g. land use/cover) from different sources and has web-enabled links to other water quality databases through hyperlinks built into the map features. This will help account for multiple variables that can affect water quality and to help scientists with outreach, data dissemination, and networking. The map project at this point is still conceptual, but is intended to demonstrate its potential utility.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Water quality biological assessment; Invertebrates--Identification--Data processing

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Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Peres, Michael


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: QH90.57.B5 T74 2012


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