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Biological Studies conduct studies of fish and macroinvertebrate communities, as well as stream habitats, to establish biological conditions to which other streams may be compared in order to identify impaired streams or watersheds. This section also coordinates IDEM's Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program. The data collected by the volunteers provide additional overall water quality trends information for lakes and wetlands. Also, this section conducts fish tissue and sediment sampling to pinpoint sources of toxic and bioconcentrating substances. Fish tissue data serve as the basis for fish consumption advisories which are issued to protect the health of Indiana citizens. The Section participates in the development of site-specific water quality standards.
Biological Studies is responsible for determining the biological integrity of aquatic communities of Indiana lakes, rivers and streams. They do this through a variety of field and laboratory studies that involve several different forms of aquatic life. These data are used to determine compliance with the existing narrative biological criteria in the Indiana Water Quality Standards [PDF] to form the basis for new specific numerical biological criteria, determine the extent of ecological harm, and make correlations to physical and/or chemical impairments which may occur.
Biological Studies relies on its Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program to provide additional data on lakes and wetlands that may not be sampling sites in the Monitoring Strategy. Volunteer collected data provides IDEM scientists with overall water quality trends and early warning of problems that may be occurring in a lake or wetland. If volunteers detect that a lake or wetland is severely degraded, professional IDEM scientists will conduct follow up investigation.
Biological Studies also conducts fish tissue and sediment sampling to locate sources of contaminants whose concentrations in other environmental media are often too low to be easily found with routine sampling procedures. The fish tissue monitoring program provides the majority of data used for Indiana Fish Consumption Advisories, wildlife health risk assessments for fish-eating birds and mammals, and finally provides the information needed to develop models to assess changes in Indiana ecosystems that affect aquatic life and human health.