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MBI offers specialized expertise in aquatic and terrestrial biological assessment, monitoring, and technical evaluation. Our goal is to assist our clients toward better management, restoration, protection, and improvement of our nation’s natural resources. MBI also offers specialized training in aquatic resource ecology, evaluation, and restoration, as well as personalized training to meet the unique needs of individuals and organizations.
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Top Notch Field Sites for Training Courses

Author: Mick Micacchion

Most of our courses involve training in the use of different assessment methods: QHEI, IBI, ICI, ORAM, VIBI, AmphIBI, HHEI, HMFEI or others. To best instruct in their use we visit aquatic resources that span the range of disturbance, from those that are highly disturbed from human activities to those that are minimally impacted which includes the best of what is present in Ohio. In that way the attendees get experience in gaging the resources they assess compared to the range of disturbance levels seen across the landscape.

As this year’s training schedule comes to an end I am reminded of the high quality of some of the wetlands and streams we visited during the field sessions of our courses. What a great opportunity it is to visit these intact ecosystems and observe with our course participants the standards against which all Ohio aquatic resources are measured. I find people really enjoy being at these high end sites and that the intensity of their observations for assessment is always elevated. More is expected of these rare and often preserved resources and seldom are we disappointed.

I remember visiting Calamus Swamp, a diverse kettle hole wetland near Circleville, where we saw swamp loosestrife, Decodon verticillatus, growing. I was happy to find this plant as there are few locations in central Ohio where it grows. Calamus Swamp is also home to a population of Ohio’s largest terrestrial salamander, the Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, as well as eight species of frogs and toads. Calamus Swamp has somewhat of a ring pattern of wetland plants communities with a forest community at the exterior, followed by a shrub community and then an emergent marsh community with areas of shrub islands at the interior. Some of the memorable plants encountered during our visit were Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, River Bulrush, Schoenoplectus fluviatilis, Prickly Hornwort, Ceratophyllum echinatum, and Bulb Bearing Water Hemlock, Cicuta bulbifera. The diversity in the plant community, including most of the common wetland plants found in central Ohio, made it an ideal venue for seeing a host of wetland species which was perfect for our Identification of Common Wetland Plants course. Surprisingly, Sweetflag or Calamus, Acorus calamus, the kettle hole’s namesake does not grow at the swamp. Apparently Giant Bur-reed, Sparganium eurycarpum, which is common at Calamus Swamp, was mistaken for Calamus by some of the kettle hole’s early visitors and the name has stuck through time.

We conducted our Primary Headwater Habitat course’s field sessions at Slate Run Metro Park using the headwater stream named, oddly enough, Slate Run. This primary headwater stream supports a large salamander population of predominately the Southern Two-lined Salamander, Eurycera cirrigera but also has a smaller population of Northern Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus fuscus. The macroinvertebrate community is also at the extreme high end of the spectrum with a taxa rich composition including Cranefly larvae, Water Penny beetles, EPT taxa (Caddisfly larvae and Mayfly and Stonefly nymphs) along with several species indicative of coldwater habitat. The fish species we collected through seining some of the pools included Mottled Sculpin, Cottus bairdii, Blacknose Dace, Rhinichthys atratulus, Southern Red-bellied Dace, Phoxinus erythrogaster, Central Stoneroller, Campostoma anomalum, Silverjaw Minnow, Notropis buccatus, Creek Chub, Semotilus atromaculatus, and Bluntnose Minnow, Pinephales notatus. The substrates are diverse both in size and composition and the water runs as clear as a glass of bottled drinking water. The results of our physical habitat and biological assessments assign this Slate Run to Class 3B, the highest quality classification for primary headwater streams. This outcome agreed with our observations as Slate Run is a truly beautiful stream.

We are lucky to have resources like Calamus Swamp and Slate Run to make trips to in central Ohio. The foresight and importance afforded to preservation by the Percy May family, Columbus Audubon, and Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks have made this possible and they should be applauded. Thanks to their efforts we are able to visit intact, high quality resources and get a feel for what the Ohio landscape looked like centuries ago.

Wetlands, Headwater Streams, and Nutrients

Author: Pete Precario

It seems that every day we hear new stories of nuisance algal blooms, Microcystis cyanobacteria and water borne toxins causing our water supply to be unpleasant and unsafe to drink and making recreation impossible. This is no small or isolated problem. Grand Lake St. Mary’s near Celina, Ohio has made news and suffered from a number of toxic algal blooms making the water unsafe for years and causing substantial monetary loss to the recreational uses of the water. The latest and most unnerving story is in Lake Erie. While Lake Erie has suffered from staggering algal blooms for many years now, it wasn’t until the water supply for the City of Toledo was shut down that many people began to recognize the magnitude of the problem that has been right in front of us for a long time. It wasn’t until more than 400,000 people discovered that their water was unsafe that the issue made headline news across the state and the entire country. The fishing, boating and recreational business in the western basin of Lake Erie have lost large amounts of money resulting from the massive blooms for a number of years now. In virtually every algal bloom crisis we’ve seen the cause is the same – nutrient contamination. There are a number of sources of nutrient contamination. The same fertilizers that lead to bumper crops and beautiful green lawns on land lead to bumper crops of algae. The run-off of animal wastes from confined feeding facilities and pens add tons of nutrients to our waterways. Nutrients, mostly phosphorus and nitrogen, when applied to lawns, farm fields or stored on site are very vulnerable to being washed off and finding their way into some of our most significant water ways ultimately ending in Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The result is a massive and explosive growth of algae on a scale that is hard to imagine if you have never seen it. Nutrients carried by the Ohio River to the Mississippi have contributed to the loss of oxygen or hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. How have we gotten to a point where these blooms and anoxic conditions seem to be a perennial problem with no solution in sight? Are we in a world where we must simply learn to live with this cycle of contamination? The answer is a definite no! There are significant steps we can take to reduce nutrient contamination and help clean-up our waterways. One common characteristic of most, if not all, of these nutrient contamination producing areas is the large scale loss of functioning wetlands and headwater stream systems. This in turn allows large volumes of nutrient rich water to quickly reach our lakes and “fertilize” the algal blooms we now experience regularly. Not only has northwestern Ohio lost its historic Black Swamp wetlands but, in more recent times, we have destroyed and continue to destroy significant wetland areas by draining and developing them and then simply redirecting the nutrient contaminated waters directly into rivers and lakes. Instead of the nutrients leisurely travelling through wetlands and being consumed and retained by natural processes we have blindly constructed veritable waterway super highways, speeding the contaminating nutrients into our lakes. This is as true for Buckeye Lake and Grand Lake St. Mary’s as it is for Lake Erie. We have all heard the analogy that wetlands are the “kidneys” of our water ways. This is a case where the continued loss of wetlands and headwater streams has severely damaged or removed our “kidneys” and we are now paying the price for that neglect and short-sightedness. We need to take significant steps to get back to a more natural, balanced system that will protect our waters and restore the biological integrity of our waterways. Clearly we need to begin to control the deposition of nutrients on land and to develop management practices that minimize runoff and contamination. But this is not enough. In addition we need to renew our efforts to not only protect our existing wetlands and headwater streams but to also begin to restore and rehabilitate our historic and valuable wetlands to their natural functions. We need to rethink and redesign drainage ditches to stop the rapid transportation of water. The key function of nutrient reduction can be readily restored to the streams and wetlands which can once again provide serious nutrient reduction in our water ways before it reaches our lakes and large rivers. A natural stream with a healthy habitat, stream bed and a connection to its flood plain can provide a substantial amount of nutrient reduction. Likewise, a healthy, functioning wetland can sequester vast amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen that would otherwise travel directly into our lakes only to fuel yet another devastating algal bloom. We have neglected and avoided dealing with this problem for far too long. It is time to take a serious look at this situation and take the important steps needed to get us back to normal.
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2014 Training Season Wraps Up

MBI continues to offer specialized training in aquatic Bioassessment. We hosted the following courses during 2014:

  • Ohio Rapid Assessment Method (ORAM) for Wetlands
  • Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity (VIBI)
  • Identification of Common Wetland Plants
  • Primary Headwater Habitat (PHWH) Training
  • Level 2 and 3 Ohio Credible Data Training, Fish and Macroinvertebrate specialties

  • We also provided a variety of personalized training to multiple organizations.

    We are planning to expand our educational offerings for the 2015 season, and will begin posting our courses in October of this year. Visit the training tab for complete details. As always, we can also work with your organization to develop personalized courses that will meet your unique training needs.

    Phone: (614) 457-6000 Office: 4673 Northwest Parkway, Hilliard, OH 43026