The National Aquatic Monitoring Center operates an aquatic invertebrate processing laboratory, a.k.a. the BugLab, on the campus of Utah State University in beautiful Logan, Utah. Go here to see pictures of the lab. We process aquatic macroinvertebrate and zooplankton samples for many government agencies, universities, and conservation organizations. The majority of our samples have come from the western United States (Figure 1). Since 1992, we have processed more than 16,000 samples and identified more than 5 million organisms from 47 taxonomic orders, 185 families and 630 genera. Aquatic invertebrates are collected from streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands to evaluate many land management activities including, timber harvesting, livestock grazing, road building, mining, fire, and recreational activities. Samples are collected for baseline data, monitoring management activities, and for basic and applied research projects. Once the invertebrate samples are collected, the samples are sent to our laboratory where the samples are processed, i.e., the animals are separated from the mud, sand, gravel, detritus, and aquatic vegetation and then identified.
Data from more than 14,000 samples that we have processed are maintained in a computer database along with accompanying field sampling procedures, laboratory procedures, and habitat and geographical information. This database allows us to ask questions and evaluate trends over broader spatial scales and longer temporal scales than was previously possible. Information on the natural variation in ecological measures at broad spatial and temporal scales is critical to establishing realistic water quality criteria and understanding how to stratify the nation into biologically similar regions. Follow this link to view maps depicting some of this variation in aquatic invertebrate assemblages. Improved classification systems lessen some of the natural variation that might otherwise hinder our ability to detect water quality impairments. We have also used this database to analyze and improve how samples are collected in the field and processed in the laboratory.
Fig. 2 Sample locations - the red dots.