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Waterbug monitoring methodology

The Waterbug Census teaches techniques that can be used in the field, without the need for lab equipment or microscopes.

What is Agreed Level Taxonomy?

Waterbug Census volunteers learn how to identify macroinvertebrates by using Agreed Level Taxonomy (ALT). This method has been developed by the Waterbug Company to identify invertebrates without microscopes. 

Animals are identified based on their features and the way they move while alive, rather than being preserved. This also means they can be returned to the waterway after the data has been collected. ALT identifications result in data sets of mixed taxonomic levels, some at genus or species, and others at higher levels. The ‘agreed levels’ referred to in the name describe the fact that the taxonomic levels to which invertebrates are identified are agreed upon by the people using the method. 

Benefits of the ALT method

  • Identification can be completed in the field without microscopes 
  • Macroinvertebrates are kept alive 
  • Data can be equivalent to SIGNAL 2 (a scoring system used for identifying macroinvertebrate samples from Australian rivers).

The following video explains how Water Census volunteers monitor and identify the macroinvertebrates as part of this citizen science program.

Guides and resources

Identification guides and data sheets from The Waterbug Company:

Identification and ecology of Australian freshwater invertebrates: Interactive bug guide managed by the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems.

Last updated:
12 June 2020