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To guarantee that these protocols are being used properly and conducted by qualified field and laboratory staff, project staff/or consultants should prepare and make available to DFG a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) that addresses the required bioassessment monitoring. The QAPP should follow USEPA guidance and requirements as found in USEPA Requirements for Quality Assurance Project Plans (EPA QA/R-5, EPA/240/B-01-003, March 2001), and USEPA Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans (EPA QA/G-5, EPA/240/R-02/009, December 2002).
The QAPP (or umbrella document) shall include, or be supplemented to include, a specific requirement for external quality assurance checks (i.e., verification of taxonomic identifications and correction of data where errors are identified). External QA checks shall be performed on one macroinvertebrate sample per year, or ten percent of the samples per year (whichever is greater). QA samples shall be randomly selected. The external QA checks shall be paid for by the project, and performed by the California Department of Fish and Game’s Aquatic Bioassessment Laboratory. An alternate laboratory with equivalent or better expertise and performance may be used if approved in advance by DFG staff. (Note: There are currently no formal performance standards or “certification” programs for bioassessment labs in California. Most external QA samples should therefore be sent to the DFG-ABL, which is a recognized expert at macroinvertebrate taxonomy. However, this language allows for alternate labs to be used where a project can demonstrate the proficiency of the alternate lab.)
Sample Preservation and Archiving (recommended laboratory procedures)
The original sample material shall be stored in 70 percent ethanol and retained by the project staff until: 1) all QA analyses specified herein and in the relevant QA plan are completed; and 2) any data corrections and/or re-analyses recommended by the external QA laboratory have been implemented. The remaining subsampled material shall be stored in 70 percent ethanol and retained until completeness checks have been performed according to the relevant QA plan. The identified organisms shall be stored in 70 percent ethanol, in separate glass vials for each final ID taxon. (For example, a sample with 45 identified taxa would be archived in a minimum of 45 vials, each containing all individuals of the identified taxon.) Each of the vials containing identified organisms shall be labeled with taxonomic information (i.e., taxon name, organism count) and collection information (i.e., site name/site code, waterbody name, date collected, method of collection). The identified organisms shall be archived (i.e., retained) by the project staff for a period of not less than three years from the date that all QA steps are completed, and shall be checked at least once per year and “topped off” with ethanol to prevent desiccation.
Definitions: The “original sample material” is that material (i.e., macroinvertebrates, organic material, gravel, etc.) remaining after the subsample has been removed for identification. The “remaining subsampled material” is that material (e.g., organic material, gravel, etc.) that remains after the organisms to be identified have been removed from the subsample for identification. (Generally, no macroinvertebrates are present in the remaining subsampled material, but this needs to be verified via QA completeness checks.) The “identified organisms” are those organisms within the subsample that are specifically identified and counted.