News Story

Release of online resource for biological assessment: “Diatoms of the United States”



01 June, 2010

Sarah Spaulding

With funds from the Rocky Mountain Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, David Lubinski (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado at Boulder) and Sarah Spaulding (USGS) worked together to design a web-based identification and ecological guide for diatoms of the western U.S. ( This guide builds on the previous work and success of the NSF-funded web resource Antarctic Freshwater Diatoms (, created by Spaulding, Lubinski, and others.

The new guide takes advantage of a large diatom dataset for the western U.S., created by the EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. The guide integrates diatom taxonomy, nomenclature, reference images, maps, sample information, species count data, literature references, and ecological analysis. The guide promotes taxonomic consistency by analysts working on state and federal programs, including the USGS National Water Quality Assessment program. In particular, this resource allows agencies to implement EPA recommendations to accurately assess diatom assemblages, thereby supporting compliance with the Clean Water Act. The guide built for this project is a pilot, with species pages for 25 initial species. In 2010, the USGS is funding expert contributors to include 200 more species pages and expansion of the geographic coverage of the site to the entire U.S.