2020 MSEF Senior Division Grand Prize Winner Abstract

Using macroinvertebrates for freshwater bioassessment was popularized by Hilsenhoff in 1977, as macroinvertebrates show cumulative effects of habitat alteration and pollutants that chemical testing and field sensors do not. Currently there are hundreds of bioassessment protocol in use globally, however expert error rates as high as 65% have been observed at the genus and species levels. There is no standard freshwater bioassessment method, especially one that leverages the power of DNA Barcoding. The World Economic Forum lists water scarcity as one of the greatest global risks of the coming decade. It is forecast that 66% of our population will experience water scarcitywithin a decade, leaving us more dependent on surface water for drinking. This requires more filtration infrastructure, and more bioassessment of surface water sources. DNABarcoding of Chironomidae, the most widespread macroinvertebrate family, may be a move toward a global bioassessment method.

Bland Altman statistical analyses were conducted to further validate DNA Barcoding of Chironomidae Method as a moreaccurate and precise waterway measurement health data, adding significant value for monitoring scarce water resources. This project explored the optimal standard taxonomiclevel for waterway health assessment globally as well as the statistical power at each taxonomic level. Taxonomic levels of identification were compared through phylogenetictree analyses and an optimal level was determined. Statistical analysis was also used to compare taxonomic levels: family, subfamily, genus, and species. The revised and validated method was used to track nonpoint source pollutants on a local waterway that feeds into a municipal drinking water source. The learnings from these data were applied to building a microbiology and genetics lab at a nonprofit scientific water study institute,and demonstrated capability with samples gathered in the Arctic Circle.