What We Do

NAMC provides research and outreach services to our partners and collaborators and education and training to both Utah State University students and agency partners.

Mountain with a river running through it

Beach and mountians

Marshy area


Our research focuses on two elements critical to the success of all environmental assessment programs:

  • developing numerical indices that measure ecological status, and
  • establishing criteria protective of aquatic species and their habitats.

Some research questions we are pursuing include:

  • How can we most effectively distinguish the effects of human-caused disturbance to aquatic ecosystems from that caused by natural environmental variability?
  • How do different numerical indices compare in their accuracy and precision in detecting and quantifying environmental and ecological impairment?
  • What is the chemical, physical, and biological status at specific sites and regions as a whole and what trends in condition are occurring over time?
  • What are the causes of observed impairment?
  • Are restoration practices improving conditions?

Outreach Services

We work with our partners to assess the ecological condition of streams and rivers in the western United States and elsewhere. Specifically, we apply state- or region-specific indices that we and others have developed to quantify environmental and biological conditions. Currently available assessments are based on benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and water chemistry (total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and specific conductance), but we are working to develop and apply condition indices based on fine sediment, overhead canopy cover, and other habitat features.

NAMC operates a macroinvertebrate sample processing lab in support of our biological assessment services. We process benthic macroinvertebrate samples collected from streams, rivers, lakes, springs, and reservoirs and provide taxa counts and overall condition scores to our collaborators and partners. We compile the data generated from these samples into a database that currently contains taxa counts from > 33,000 sampled sites, which we and our collaborators use to both further refine assessment tools and pursue basic ecological questions regarding the distributional ecology of benthic macroinvertebrates.

Education and Training

The NAMC Director teaches classes in freshwater invertebrate biology, stream ecology, and science communication to Utah State University students. NAMC also provides training to agency practitioners on how to design surveys; sample macroinvertebrates, water chemistry, and physical habitat; and interpret assessments and other analyses. In addition, we provide on-the-job training and experience to 30-40 undergraduates a year in benthic macroinvertebrate sample processing.