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Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Welcome to the Aquatic AIM data
management, quality assurance, and quality control video. A key component of Aquatic
AIM is ensuring that collected data have gone through standardized quality
assurance and control checks and are stored in a centralized national
database. This video outlines standard operating procedures for conducting
these checks and who is responsible for completing them. These QA QC checks and
roles and responsibilities are outlined in Section two and three of the AIM data
management protocol. This video will first go over what QA and QC are and
what these steps entail for the Aquatic AIM data. Then, it will go into specifics
of how to complete each step. QA QC occurs during all processes of Aquatic
AIM data life cycle: Training, data collection, data submission, check-ins, and
post collection data processing. There are many steps associated with each
process, but, in general, these steps seek to ensure the following components of
data quality, data accuracy, precision completeness, and chain of custody. For
example, all data collectors must have attended an Aquatic AIM field methods
training. This ensures that collected data are accurate, precise, and complete. Prior to data submission to the National AIM Team, supervisors should review data
summaries and sign off on all data. This formal process not only checks for data
accuracy, precision, and completeness but also tracks the chain of custody of data
from field crews to supervisors and finally to the National AIM Team. Table
2 in the data management protocol can serve as a quick reference guide of when
each step should occur and who should complete them. However, responsibilities may vary by project so each project should refer to
their specific roles and responsibilities table. The rest of this
video will briefly explain each of the steps and who performs them. First we
will discuss QA QC steps that occur during training. The National AIM Team
leads annual week-long Aquatic AIM field methods trainings in late spring and
early summer to teach field collection methods in
accordance with technical reference 1735-2 field protocol. All members of the
AIM Implementation Team, which includes crew members, project leads, and crew
supervisors, must participate in training. Those collecting AIM data in the field
must attend every year. Project leads and crew supervisors must attend the first
three and a half days of field methods training at least every two years and be
sure to review updates to the protocols every year. Part of training includes pre-training course work which includes this video in all the other training videos. Pre-training coursework is required for those attending the field methods
training and should to be completed before arriving at an in-person training. During training, collected data are compared among trainees and trainers. If
any discrepancies are found, these are used as a learning opportunity and to
improve teaching methods. This serves to calibrate crews with each other and
trainers. The in-person training cannot fully introduce individuals to the
diversity of stream types present on BLM lands, so it is required that project
leads give a local orientation of the stream types in their area before data
collection begins. This part of training should focus on familiarizing crews with
critical concepts like bankfull and floodplain on the streams they will be
working on. This process can include reviewing local crew photos for previous
years, going out to the field sites, and reviewing existing regional reference
curves for local gauged sites. The next steps in the Aquatic AIM QA QC process
occurres during data collection and submission. QA QC occurs during data
collection through electronic data capture and data backup. All data
including photos and GPS coordinates are collected electronically using an iPad
in the data collection application SARAH. SARAH has numerous QA QC checks built
into the system. These include, but are not limited to, providing pop-ups when
there are missing data and warning users if values are outside
typical ranges for a specific measurement. Additionally, when data
collection has concluded at a site, the program will list all missing data and
outlier values. This allows for corrections in collection of data in
the field before leaving a site. For more information on SARAH, watch the data
collection using SARAH video, go to an in person Aquatic AIM training, or reference
the data management protocol. Crews backup data it’s the National AIM Team
server during each field trip whenever internet access is available. Preferably,
this occurs daily after every site but it must occur after every three sites. This will allow data recovery if, for example, the iPad is lost or stolen. Crews
should record all visited sites and the Trip Planning and Field Tracking
Worksheet of the Design Management Spreadsheet. This helps manage sample
designs and it is also a chain-of-custody forum for electronic
data submission of benthic macroinvertebrate and water quality
samples. They can be filled out after each site or all at once at the end of
the trip. Once data have been collected, and entered into the Field Tracking
Spreadsheet, project leads or crew supervisors review data summaries and
photos and then meet with field crews to resolve any issues that are found. Crews and project leads or supervisors should consult Appendix A of the data
management protocol for specifics on how data should be checked during this
review process. The process of identifying scour line, bankfull, and
floodplain geomorphic features, i.e. critical concepts, are particularly importatnt. Therefore, data reviews should also include review of critical concept
photos for the first month of data collection. For more information about
these photos please see the supplemental photo protocol and for more information
on the pre submission data process, watch the data backup and submission video. Once data have been reviewed and signed
off on by project leads or supervisors in the Design Management Spreadsheet,
crews make any final edits to the and submit it to the National AIM Team
through the SARAH application. Crews should submit data as frequently as
possible and preferably on a weekly basis to avoid memory issues on the iPad
and so that the National AIM Team can start additional QC of data. For more
information on the data submission process, watch the data backup in data
submission video. Crew supervisors or project leads submit macroinvertebrate
and water quality samples to NAMC at the end of the season following the
submission protocol found at this link. Other components to the QA QC process
are the 1 month and end of season check-ins. All members of the AIM Implementation Team will meet at the end of the first
month of the sampling and at the end of the field season to make sure QA QC
steps are being completed. The mid-season check-in addresses any unresolved
protocol questions, data issues, SARAH quirks, and logistical and gear issues. The state leads or monitoring coordinators should schedule and lead
these meetings and all other parties should come prepared to discuss any
issues that have arisen thus far during the field season. For more information
see Appendix B of the data management protocol. The end of season check-in
resolves all data questions and confirms all data have been submitted. Prior to
the check-in, all final data should have been submitted and the Design Management
Spreadsheet should have been finalized and submitted to the National AIM Team. Additionally, the end of season check-in should be before the end of contracts
such that crews and crew supervisors are still available to clear up any data
questions that may arise. For more information see Appendix C and the data
management protocol. The final steps in the QA QC process occurres during post
collection data processing. The National AIM Team runs weekly QC reports on
submitted raw data. Checks include missing data, typical value violations,
logic checks, and outliers. Crew supervisors, project leads, and field
crews may be contacted with specific data questions generated from QC
reports if further information is needed to resolve issues. Edits and decisions on
questionable data will be made and appropriately documented. For example,
this QC report found issues with side channel data, GPS coordinates, and slope
units. Side channel data could not be fixed since crews had already left the
site, but this issue can be prevented in the future by revisiting the SARAH training
videos. GPS coordinates were incorrect but can likely be corrected after
reviewing coordinates on aerial imagery. Slope can be converted to proper units
once collected units are confirmed. Once a month, indicators will be calculated
and posted on Google Drive for project leads. The National AIM Team will do some
preliminary checks on these computed indicators to ensure values fall with in possible ranges but QC of computed indicators is primarily each project
leads responsibility. Indicator values should be evaluated in eco regional and
other ecological context after reviewing the values and photos. Specifically, QC
could include viewing min and max indicator values, creating box plots to
view the distribution of values, and comparing recent values to values from
previous years. Determining if the data tells a consistent story across multiple
indicators can be particularly helpful. For example, if a site has unstable banks
it may also have poor riparian vegetative complexity and excessive fine
sediment. If it doesn’t, there might be an ecological concern about the site or the
crew might have made a mistake in data collection. The benchmark tool could
assist with determining the condition of indicators. Indicator values can be
pasted into the tool in the default or project benchmarks can be used to assign
site condition classes. It’s important to give special attention to indicator
values early in the season to ensure the crew does not continue to incorrectly
collect data. Any issues found should be discussed with the National AIM Team
which will make and appropriately document any final edits. Finally, the
National AIM Team computes final indicators and data are ingested into
AquADat every February, with the exception of macroinvertebrate
data which are ingested into AquADat in August of the following year. This
concludes the data QA QC and data management video. As a reminder, table 2
and the protocol can serve as a quick summary of everything covered in this
video and for more information please consult section 3 of the data management
and SARAH protocol.

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