Maryland Biological Stream Survey

Training & Certification

A group of biologist wading through a stream electrofishing.Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) stream sampling protocols are currently required by some counties and state agencies. To accommodate these requirements, Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers four certifications and two training opportunities in MBSS protocols. The certifications include benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling, fish crew leader, and fish taxonomy. To be certified by the Department of Natural Resources for benthic macroinvertebrate taxonomy, a Society for Freshwater Science (formerly known as the North American Benthological Society) certification (not offered by the department) is required.

Attendance at MBSS spring and summer trainings is a partial requirement for three of the four certifications. Passing written tests and field audits 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 collected by the crew.
  3. The department 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, the department will accept the check and the certification process will continue. If the written test is not passed, no payment is required.
  4. 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 Department of Natural Resources 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 mutually-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 department will be unable to document the quality of the data compared to data collected by a Department of Natural Resources crew.
  5. To maintain an active certification in benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, persons certified in 2016 and 2017 must attend spring training in 2018.
  6. To maintain an active certification as fish crew leader, persons certified in 2016 and 2017 must attend Day 1 (May 29) of summer training in 2018.

After successful completion of a particular certification process, the certified person's name will be listed as being certified for that aspect of MBSS sampling protocols in a registry on the MBSS website and provided upon request.

2018 MBSS Certification Documents

2018 MBSS Training

The 2018 Maryland Biological Stream Survey spring training was held on February 26 and summer training was held from May 29 to June 1 (both at Harford Community College) Click the links below for spring and summer training agendas. Congratulations to Sean Sipple (Coastal Resources, Inc.) for winning the MBSS Taxonomy Champion Award for the second straight year! An announcement for 2019 MBSS trainings is expected in December, 2018.

2018 Spring Training Agenda

2018 Summer Training Agenda

While attending MBSS training is a requirement for certain certifications as described above, the training sessions also cover additional aspects of MBSS field sampling beyond those included in each certification. Examples include crayfish, freshwater mussel, reptile, amphibian, 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, the department may consider adding certification for these other aspects of MBSS sampling at a later date.

2018 Spring Training Presentations 2018 Summer Training Presentations

Training registration and certification fees are different for those associated with for-profit and non-profit organizations. The number of interested participants may exceed the capacity for certification or training. With that in mind, we will accept registrations on a first come, first served basis.

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.

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.

If you have questions about MBSS training and certification or MBSS protocols, please contact either Jay Kilian (410) 260-8617; or Dan Boward (410) 260-8605;