Aquatic Biology Associates has completed over five hundred projects from freshwater, terrestrial, and estuarine habitats in western North America, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska and Canada south into Arizona. Our projects have ranged from a single samples to over 1,000 samples in size. We have been retained by the U.S. EPA to consult on development of the Biological Condition Gradient model for the Pacific Northwest; actively work on standard taxonomic effort issues in the PNW through PNAMP; and chair the taxonomic workshop committee for SAFIT.org.
Our clients include federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. We also serve tribal communities, various state natural resource agencies, counties, cities, private industry, conservation and irrigation districts, citizen and nonprofit groups, universities, K-12 schools, and museums.
The types of projects we have completed include:
To see the locations of our projects on the map, move your mouse over the list above.
Biomonitoring & Bioassessment
ABA has analyzed over 20,000 macroinvertebrate samples from over 200 projects in 16 western states and provinces in North America. Although the bulk of the samples have come from streams, we have also analyzed samples from springs, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands for biomonitoring purposes.
Biomonitoring Protocol Research & Development
ABA designs and implements biomonitoring programs for clients to assess non-point and point source impacts on aquatic ecosystem integrity. We work with the U.S. EPA and western states to develop and test protocols for their specific programs. Species traits developed by ABA (e.g. tolerant, intolerant and long-lived taxa) are widely used in data analysis by programs in western North America. Our laboratory took the lead in addressing standard taxonomic effort to ensure that data sets from new and ongoing programs and different labs are compatible. ABA continues to assist in metric and index development, such as the Karr Benthic Index of Biological Integrity (BIBI).
Springs are a unique and vulnerable habitat in the western landscape. They harbor rare invertebrates which often have a very limited geographic range. ABA has been examining spring macroinvertebrates since the 1980s, with a focus on caddisflies. The Oregon Coast Range, Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge are regions of special interest to us.
Seasonal temperature and flow regimes, habitat complexity and stability, substrates, water quality, energy flow, and disturbance (whether chemical or physical), are all reflected in the benthic macroinvertebrate community that develops at a stream site. We have participated in many kinds of projects in stream ecosystems. Benthic macroinvertebrates from several thousand western streams have passed beneath our microscopes, and no, we never tire of looking at them!
Sampling the benthos of western rivers is a challenge. ABA has participated in riverine projects that have employed kick nets, dredges, drift nets, ultraviolet light traps, artificial substrates, and Hess, Surber and Slack benthos samplers. We pioneered the use of diver-operated suction dredges to sample the bottom of large rivers, such the lower Snake River in Idaho. We are experienced with the benthic fauna of both hard-bottom montane rivers and soft-bottom valley rivers. We have examined samples from the Copper River Delta in Alaska to the Rio Grande in New Mexico.
Lakes & Ponds
We have examined the invertebrate benthos of pristine lakes such as Crater Lake, volcanic caldera lakes in Alaska, and high mountain lakes throughout the Cascade Range and Yellowstone for the U.S. National Park Service and Forest Service. We have also studied the benthic fauna from urban lakes in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles; assessed heavy metal contamination in lake sediments receiving run-off from Interstate 5; intensively examined reservoir benthos for dam relicensing; and tracked benthic community development in created ponds.
In cooperation with the University of Washington, we studied the invertebrate fauna of palustrine wetlands in King County, WA with emergence trapping over a two year period. The equipment and methods developed by ABA for this study were subsequently used for a national pilot study program conducted by the Corvallis Environmental Research Laboratory (EPA). In cooperation with the Xerces Society, we identified benthic macroinvertebrates from another pilot study on wetlands in the Willamette Valley funded by the EPA to develop wetland specific protocols for their national Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. We have surveyed the benthic fauna of created wetlands in several western states and provinces.
ABA examined juvenile salmonid feeding patterns for the Nisqually Indian Tribe in Washington, and for the U.S. Forest Science Laboratory in the Copper River Delta, Alaska. ABA also analyzed the diet of juvenile salmonids found off the coast of Oregon and Washington for Oregon State University.
Since 1984 ABA has assisted a myriad of cities and citizen groups tracking trends in the biological integrity of urban streams from Vancouver, BC south to Los Angeles. Through volunteer efforts, citizens learn about their local freshwater ecosystems, work to improve habitat and water quality, and monitor the health of neighborhood streams using benthic macroinvertebrates.
ABA has worked with 20 National Forests, 10 Bureau of Land Management Districts, and private timber companies in western North America to monitor trends in the biological integrity of their streams and rivers. We have monitored the impacts of chemical and biological pesticides on non-target aquatic organisms for both the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Regions of the U.S. Forest Service. Through participation in studies conducted by Oregon State University and Ecotrust, we have characterized the insect communities of streams in old-growth, second-growth, and clear-cut forests, using both benthic and emergence trap sampling.
ABA analyzed the benthic macroinvertebrate component for grazing impact, stream restoration, and grazing exclusion studies in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Grand Ronde River tributaries for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the Blue Mountains of Oregon for the Blue Mountain Institute and Oregon State University.
Our first client was the Genesis Copper Mine in northwestern Montana. This project is ongoing, and we continue to provide our services for this client and many other mining companies. We use benthic macroinvertebrates to assess mining impacts on freshwater habitats, to monitor for compliance during mine operations, and to address the efficacy of remediation efforts after mine closures.
ABA has analyzed the impacts of industrial discharges on benthic communities from petrochemical plants, paper mills, waste water treatment plants, Superfund sites, and landfills. We have also provided rapid response and results for oil, diesel, fire retardant and fertilizer spills.
ABA is frequently retained to examine real and potential impacts to freshwater benthos from highway construction, channel dredging, suburban and urban development, and ski area expansion.
Regulated Rivers & Dams
Dam operations in the United States are relicensed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) every 50 years. Relicensing requires an extensive analysis of the impacts of dams and diversions to water and habitat quality, as well as to the aquatic biota. ABA has analyzed benthic samples for relicensing projects on the Pend Oreille, Elwha, Lewis, Lake and Skagit Rivers (WA), Calapooia, Clackamas, Hood, McKenzie, Umpqua and Rogue Rivers (OR), Cascade Creek (CO), and the Klamath and Feather Rivers (CA).
Fish are the original macroinvertebrate benthos and drift samplers. ABA has generated data from thousands of benthos, fish stomach, drift, emergence and pan trap samples for salmonid food web studies in stream, river, lake and estuarine habitats from Alaska to Big Sur, California. We have worked on nutrient enrichment projects using salmon carcasses for the Mount Hood National Forest and the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. ABA has implemented benthic biomonitoring studies to assess impacts to stream and lake biota from fish poisons used to remove non-native fish in Yellowstone and Crater Lake National Parks, and in Diamond Lake, Oregon.
ABA has examined the freshwater invertebrate diversity of unique aquatic habitats in western North America such as the Kowesus River in northern British Columbia, part of the largest intact temperate rain forest remaining in the world. Other ABA projects have been in U.S. National Parks and Monuments, including Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Redwood and Teton. As a recognized authority on western North American caddisflies, Bob Wisseman has been called upon to conduct many surveys for rare and sensitive species, and to review and provide biological and distributional information for candidate species for state and federal agencies.
ABA contributes to the ecological knowledge and classification of freshwater macroinvertebrates. One of ABA’s first field projects was collecting caddisflies throughout the Sierra Nevada for the Royal Ontario Museum. ABA has contributed caddisfly specimens to the Smithsonian. We donate important freshwater invertebrate specimens encountered in our work to the Monte L. Bean Museum of Natural History in Provo, Utah. Bob Wisseman has authored 8 papers on caddisfly taxonomy and biology.
ABA volunteers time, knowledge and equipment to assist middle and high school students and teachers with their benthic biomonitoring lessons and projects. We participate in Outdoor School camps in local school districts, as well as the Salmon Watch program sponsored by Oregon Trout. We have assisted graduate students working on freshwater macroinvertebrate thesis projects at Oregon State and California State Universities, and the Universities of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.