The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures: A Comparison of Electrofishing Crew Performance in a Statewide Biomonitoring Program

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 2:00 PM
Harris Brake (The Marriott Little Rock)
Christopher J. Millard , Center for Ecological Sciences, Tetra Tech, Inc., Owings Mills, MD
Lei Zheng , Center for Ecological Sciences, Tetra Tech, Inc., Owings Mills, MD
The development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and use of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) systems are critical elements of biological assessments, helping promote standardization of data collections and managing variability of biological samples. Despite the widespread use of these elements, few programs conduct retrospective analyses of the resulting data as a means of implementing corrective actions. We evaluated electrofishing performance and adherence to SOPs of three crews of the Maryland Biological Stream Survey, a statewide biomonitoring program of 1st - 4th order systems. Data from over 2,100 sampling sites were reduced to 207 locations within a single physiographic province and with similar wetted width, depth, and water clarity conditions. Electrofishing effort (number of anodes, time sampled) was compared among crews and used to evaluate differences in catch statistics (total catch, biomass, number of species). Analysis of variance with pairwise comparisons revealed significant differences (p < 0.05) in effort, resulting in a 47% difference in total catch and a 63% difference in total biomass. Number of species was not significant. These results are important to biomonitoring programs using fish assemblages as an indicator because they affect data quality and potentially affect biological indices. Our results demonstrate the importance of a rigorous QC program.