Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Alan Christian

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bowen

Third Advisor

Robert Stevenson


Adequate supply and sufficient quality of water is essential to human survival, as is reflected by its paramount economic importance. Water quality, for the purposes of this thesis, is defined as the physical and chemical state of water, relative to the state required for human uses, and is a complex integration of conditions over the course of a watershed. One approach to monitoring water quality is to utilize biological species and habitat compositions as proxies to predict physical and chemical conditions. Macroinvertebrates are used, often by governmental agencies, as a water quality biomonitoring approach, as macroinvertebrates remain localized, have appropriate life-cycles for reflecting impacts, and have an extensively investigated relationship with physical water conditions. Citizen science arose from the concept that concerned and interested citizens could facilitate data collection for the benefit of ecological science in the course of their normal activities. Recently, citizen science projects have begun to involve active participation in scientific research. The Charles River Watershed, located within metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts has been inhabited by humans for at least 4000 years, has been subject to industrial development since as early as 1640, and has endured almost all possible human uses and impacts. The goals of this study were to assess the water and habitat quality at 10 sites in the Charles River Watershed, Massachusetts using several biomonitoring approaches including citizen science level biomonitoring (Stream Biotic Index (SBI), Invertebrate Community Index (ICI) and Environmental Protection Agency Rapid Bioassessment Protocols (EPA RBP) habitat assessment) and to assess the efficacy of citizen science as a biomonitoring approach. Site selection were mainly in small main stem or tributaries of the Charles River and represented a range of land-uses and the full rural-urban gradient in a watershed that has a long history of human use, impact, and management. Overall, water quality in the Charles River Watershed was found to be moderately impacted with variation based on sites and bioassessment approach. All the bioassessment methods showed consistency and correlation with each other; however, some sensitivities and considerations for interpretation were discovered. Effectiveness of the citizen science macroinvertebrate water quality biomonitoring project in the Charles River Watershed, through Charles River Watershed Association, provided useable results through citizen science SBI analysis with fairly good quality control quality assurance performance. The results indicate that water quality in the watershed is slightly to moderately impacted overall, and that citizen science was largely successful in its aims, but also provided recommendations for ongoing and future citizen science projects. Therefore, with proper adjustments and oversight, a citizen science approach to biomonitoring could be a useful in producing informative water quality information for conservation and management decisions in lieu of more resource and skill level intensive methods.


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