The Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network

Matt and Oleysa sampling in the fieldThe Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN) is a multi-sector collaboration. The OBBN features standard sampling protocols, training, and a centralized database. Led by staff at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre (DESC) this monitoring focuses on bottom-dwelling aquatic invertebrates to check the condition of Ontario's lakes, streams, and wetlands. 

The OBBN allows for organizations to

  • compare data from different times or locations,
  • access reference site data needed to assess the condition of lakes, streams, and wetlands,
  • access technical support and analytical tools, and 
  • have input on the scientific questions to be addressed by the OBBN. 

Two types of training courses are organized periodically by OBBN certified Network trainers. 

OBBN Basic Training (3-day course) 

This course will cover

  • biomonitoring theory
  • sampling methods,
  • laboratory methods,
  • bioassessment calculations.

Tests covering sampling methods and invertebrate identification are offered at the end of the course. Students passing the tests receive a certificate that signifies their status as OBBN members. Basic training courses are typically provided in May and September. 

 More courses coming soon

Family ID (3-day course) 

This course prepares registrants for the Family-level Taxonomic Certification Exam that is administered by the Society for Freshwater Science’s (SFS’s) Taxonomic Certification Program. To pass the SFS certification, taxonomists must master the

  • terminology used in family-level keys, 
  • the characters that distinguish families in each major group of invertebrates, and the
  • morphological variability that exists within families. 

This course provides students with an opportunity to acquire such skills and experience. Emphasis is on taxa from eastern North America (especially Ontario). The format of the course includes a combination of lectures, demonstrations, instructor-guided practice and mock tests.

OBBN Field Sheets

The OBBN has released 3 standardized field sheets for stream, lake and wetland habitats. The field sheets have been created to align closely with the data entry process for the OBBN Database, thus reducing the amount of time that is needed for bulk uploads. There are two versions for stream field sheets to allow for organizations to pick the one which meets their needs best. 

 Stream Field Sheet #1

 Stream Field Sheet #2

 Lakes/Wetland Field Sheet

Contact Chris Jones if your organization requires any kind of accommodations to the field sheets provided.  

OBBN Database

The OBBN has a centrally managed database that allows data to be freely shared among OBBN members and the public.

The database includes:

  • information about the dataset (e.g., sampling agencies, collection dates, and waterbody types)
  • data that describes sampled locations
  • data that describes the amount of effort and type of gear used to collect invertebrate samples
  • data that characterizes habitat characteristics at sampled locations
  • water chemistry data for sampled locations
  • data that quantifies the relative abundances of different benthic-invertebrate taxa

OBBN members are encouraged to share their data with the OBBN database. Please contact for assistance to upload your data.

Data is uploaded via a two-step process: In the first step, sampled locations are created and assigned unique codes. In the second step, data is uploaded to the database from a standardized Excel template. Current versions of data-upload templates are available for download at the links below ...

Step 1: Site Creation

Survey 123 Method (best for one-at-a-time site creation while you're in the field)

  1. Download the “Survey 123 for ArcGIS” app from the App Store (iPhone) or Play Store (Android).  
  2. Click the link, OBBN Survey, and select “Open in the Survey 123 field app” (the survey downloads automatically and will be saved in the app)
  3. Select the “OBBN Site Creator v2” Survey under “My Surveys”
  4. Select the “Collect” tab
  5. When prompted, log-in with your username and password (contact to obtain these) to pen the survey form
  6. Enter data in all the survey fields. Mandatory fields are denoted by a red asterisk
  7. For coordinates, follow prompts to allow Survey123 to “access your location” (this allows the app to use location data from your device
  8. Upload using check mark in the bottom right corner of the screen
  9. Click the “Send Now” button to submit your site

Excel method (best for uploading batches of sites)

Populate all fields in the Excel Site Creator,and submit this file to

Step 2: Data Upload

Add data to the Data Template and submit the template to

OBBN Data is freely available by contacting Data holdings can be visualized using the OBBN Data Mapper.

No restrictions are placed on public use of the OBBN dataset; however, any author intending to use the data in a publication is asked to cite their sources appropriately, and acknowledge the data owner (i.e., the agency that contributed the data).

Contact the OBBN ( for more information, or to subscribe to the mailing list.