The accurate and precise identification and classification of organisms provides the foundation for many ecological investigations of streams, rivers, and lakes, including biological assessment and monitoring programs aimed at evaluating the quality of habitat and water. High quality taxonomy is crucial to credible ecological studies and reliable bioassessment programs. However, there was concern that:
- There were many errors and inaccuracies associated with the taxonomy of some ongoing programs.
- There was no recognized protocol in North America for evaluating the taxonomic ability of people identifying invertebrates
- Academic support for faculty positions and student training related to non-molecular, organism taxonomy was declining.
These concerns were expressed to the North American Benthological Society (NABS, now the Society for Freshwater Science) leadership by a number of state and federal agencies involved in environmental regulation and monitoring as well as by individuals involved in both basic and applied scientific research. The Taxonomic Certification Program (TCP) was developed by NABS in response to these concerns.
To develop the program, NABS selected an eleven member subcommittee of the Technical Information Committee that convened in January 2002, supported and funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), to discuss the initiative to certify taxonomists. A discussion paper describing this initiative was published in the Spring 2002 NABS Bulletin (Volume 19, Number 1). Following review of this document, the concept was presented to the NABS Executive Committee at the 2003 annual meeting in Athens, Georgia.
Taxonomic Certification Committee
NABS established a Taxonomic Certification Committee at the 2003 annual meeting. The charge to this committee was the design, implementation, and management of a certification program for aquatic invertebrate identification in North America.
The TCP is inherently dependent upon recognized taxonomic/systematic experts for supplying and verifying the identifications of all aquatic macroinvertebrate specimens that are used during its certification tests.
From August 2004 until March 2017, Acadia University and the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research hosted the TCP with funding received from Environment Canada, U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. EPA. In March 2017, administration of the program was transferred from Acadia University to Stroud Water Research Center.