Maryland Biological Stream Survey
Training and Certification


Registration for MBSS Summer Training is Full. Thanks for your interest!


Please Note: Here is the list of recent changes to the certification requirements.


Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) stream sampling protocols are currently required by some counties and state agencies. To accommodate these requirements, Maryland DNR offers five certifications and two training opportunities in MBSS protocols. The certifications include benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling, fish sampling, fish crew leader, and fish taxonomy. To be certified by DNR for benthic macroinvertebrate taxonomy, a Society for Freshwater Science (formerly known as the North American Benthological Society) certification, not offered by DNR, is required (http://www.nabstcp.com/).

Trainings are usually offered in late February (spring sampling) for benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and late May (summer sampling) for fish sampling, fish crew leader and fish taxonomy certifications.

Attendance at these trainings is a partial requirement for the three certifications. Passing field audits and written tests will be required, as well as passing additional tests and quality assurance procedures. Passing a laboratory audit and a written test will be required for benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling certification.


  1. To be considered consistent with MBSS protocols, benthic macroinvertebrate data must be collected by a person certified in benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, the sample must be processed by an individual who is certified in laboratory processing and subsampling, and a person who is a certified Society for Freshwater Science taxonomist must perform the benthic macroinvertebrate taxonomy.
  2. To be considered consistent with MBSS protocols, the fish data must be collected by a crew led by a certified crew leader. Additionally, a certified fish taxonomist must identify the fish species collected by the crew.
  3. To maintain an active certification in benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, persons certified in 2014 must attend spring training in 2015.
  4. To maintain an active certification in fish sampling and field crew leader, persons certified in 2014 must attend summer training in 2015.

After successful completion of a particular certification process, the certified person's name will be listed as being certified for that aspect of MBSS data collection in a registry on the MBSS website and provided upon request. An overview of certification requirements can be found HERE, and a Frequently Asked Questions for benthic macroinvertebrate and fish certifications can be found HERE and HERE, respectively.

2015 MBSS training

While attending MBSS training is a requirement for certain certifications as described above, the training sessions will also cover additional aspects of MBSS field sampling beyond those included in each certification. Examples include crayfish, freshwater mussel, reptile, amphibian, and invasive plant taxonomy, physical habitat assessment, and frog calls. Although proficiency tests may be administered for these taxonomic groups, test performance in no way constitutes certification in survey methods at this time. However, DNR may consider adding certification for these other aspects of MBSS sampling at a later date.

Spring Training was held at the Howard County Conservancy's Gudelsky Center in Woodstock on February 25th. Please click here for directions and information. Summer Training will be held at Hood College in Frederick on May 18-21. Because these trainings include hands-on, in-the-stream activities, please bring waders and clothing appropriate for the weather. The agenda for the spring can be found HERE and the summer agenda can be found HERE.

For certain MBSS certifications, the scheduling of field and laboratory quality control audits prior to conducting actual sampling is required. Choice of days for the field audits will be given in the order of receipt of registration materials.

Certification field audits must be conducted during the appropriate index period. Fish crew leader and fish taxonomy field audits must be completed June - September. Scheduling of field audits must be determined by the end of July.

The training and certification activities will be more effective if all crew members have an advanced understanding of protocols before the training actually occurs. We highly recommend that you review the MBSS Sampling Manual with your crew prior to training. A Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling Field Audit Checklist is HERE.

If you have any questions about registration, please feel free to contact Joanne Alewine (410) 260-8613; joanne.alewine@maryland.gov. Receipts will be available at the training site.

If you have questions about MBSS training and certification or MBSS protocols, please contact either Jay Kilian(410-260-8617; jay.kilian@maryland.gov) or Dan Boward (410-260-8605; dan.boward@maryland.gov).


  1. Please make checks payable to Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  2. DNR will not accept checks for certification fees from individuals who register for benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, fish crew leader, or fish taxonomy certification until after the written tests administered at training have been passed. If the written test is passed, DNR will accept the check and the certification process will continue. If the written test is not passed, no payment is required.
  3. The FIRST actual site where data will be reported can potentially be used as an audit site by someone seeking benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, fish crew leader, or fish taxonomy certification, as long as the location and scheduling for the site is also agreeable to the DNR Quality Control Officer conducting the audit, and the audit takes place during the index period. Audits may be conducted either at a "regular" site (i.e., a site on the crew's sampling schedule) or at a muturally-agreed upon site convenient for both parties. It is important to note that, if the audit is not passed, the person will not be certified and DNR will be unable to document the quality of the data compared to data collected by a DNR crew. DNR will allow no more than one “resample” of a site audit if the person does not pass the first field audit.

Detailed Physical and Nutrient Monitoring 2015

Registration for the 2015 training is nearly full. If you would like to register, please email Luke Roberson for more information.

Link to Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund website, including training materials


DNR provides training (not certification) on geomorphology, nutrient, and stream discharge sampling protocols. These protocols are being used to document changes to streams associated with restoration projects funded by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and could also be used with other restoration projects. This training provides an opportunity to use comparable protocols to document improvements in nutrient, sediment, and geomorphic properties of streams in Maryland. The 2015 training will be held at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, MD on May 13th. There is no charge for this training but space is limited and registration will be held on a first come/first served basis. Detailed physical and nutrient monitoring protocols are available here. Questions regarding this special training session should be referred to Luke Roberson at (410) 260-8618; luke.roberson@maryland.gov.