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Cumacean (Photo - Hans Hilleweart)The NMBAQC Scheme was established over 15 years ago to establish and monitor data quality standards for marine benthic faunal studies. Their activities include developing procedures and processes for quality control (techniques and activities that are used to fulfill the requirements for quality), audit of methods and documentation; and provision of training. The aim of Quality Assurance in monitoring is to give confidence that the monitoring date are of a high and known quality.

Under the NMBAQC scheme, which supports the Clean Seas Evidence Gathering group (CSEG) a series of exercises (modules) is undertaken each year in which participating laboratories receive samples for analysis from the scheme at approximately three-monthly intervals. Samples distributed include grab samples for macro benthic analysis, sets of fauna for identification (a Ring Test) and sediment samples for particle size analysis. Laboratories also submit samples from their own field activities for re-examination (Own Samples) and also from their own laboratory work for re-examination (Laboratory Reference).

To date, the NMBAQC has focused on the identification of infaunal species although QA modules for assessing expertise in epifaunal taxonomy and in the interpretation of underwater video/TV footage are currently under development.

Worm (Photo - Aberdeen University)At present, Marine Scotland Science participates in two modules of the NMBAQC, namely

  • the Own Sample exercise where the fauna and sediment residues from analysed infaunal grab samples (collected each year from offshore sites) are submitted to the scheme for Quality Assurance
  • the Particle Size Analysis exercise where pre-prepared test samples (provided by the examining authority) are processed by FRS staff and the results submitted for comparison and scoring.