Ecosystem Characterization and Assessment


An accurate ecosystem characterization is critical to the ecological assessment, which is a central tool to guide good land use management, biodiversity management, mitigation and restoration. Ecosystems comprise the whole suite of interacting, interdependent components and can vary dramatically across space and time. Our goal is to properly and adequately delineate the boundaries of these systems at relevant and appropriate ecological and landscape scales.


Ecological Assessments

Ecological assessments utilize the environmental characterization by focusing on the processes of populations within the environment. This data gathering exercise narrows in on ecologically significant traits of the biota across multiple spatial scales. By obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the biological processes occurring within a system, land managers can make a more informed decision regarding risk of impacts or harms from intervention.   

We utilize a wide array of reliable biotic and abiotic indicators of environmental conditions to produce rigorous, reproducible protocols that provide reliable data from which we quantify potential impacts. This enables us to more accurately and reliably calculate risk and advise on mitigation. Finally, because the protocols are practiced in a variety of habitats, including aquatic, marine and terrestrial communities, we monitor at regular and predetermined intervals to provide current assessments for adaptable management plans.  


Ecosystem characterization utilizes a variety of tools to detect patterns, structures, and most importantly, processes. We employ a wide range of methods to gain the most comprehensive description of spatial and temporal variation of the biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem. Geophysical, chemical and hydrological information, in addition to landscape and population ecological processes, are combined to create highly detailed, spatially explicit maps. These ecosystem maps are our major push of the ongoing, multi-layered, multi-disciplinary process of ecosystem characterization that can be updated and applied to predictive models.  

  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to capture high resolution images and video 

  • Providing 3-Dimensional topographic data of site conditions for planning/designing, construction monitoring, and ecological restoration monitoring. 

  • Evaluate aquatic and terrestrial plant health using chlorophyll reflectance and other metrics.  

  • LIDAR, or 3D scanning, from manned aerial vehicles to capture and compare vegetation indices as indications of habitat condition.  

  • Many ecological restoration projects begin with and include LIDAR-based imaging as the initial planning tool. As the design progresses, due to more information requirements or terrain complexity, more precision is required than can be obtained remotely. Both drone and ground truthing are performed, often enhancing the remote imaging. 

We offer many types of remote monitoring and advanced technology services, depending on the project’s demands. As a company, we recognize that novel innovations can rapidly reshape our industry, and we actively pursue opportunities to offer our clients access to new technologies. These opportunities can often provide cost savings by reducing labor, increased safety by reducing employee exposure to risk, and better and faster data acquisition and assessment. 


At EcoAnalysts, we also account for the human element of the environment, including human-mediated impacts, ecosystem goods and services, other economic factors and input from stakeholders. A fuller, more accurate picture may be obtained by incorporating biological, physical and human factors into the future plans. We specialize in the following: 

  • Taxonomy and Bioassessments 

  • Ecotoxicological assessments (in situ and ex situ with specific species of concern) 

  • Field Services 

  • Natural Resource Inventories 

  • Aquatic surveys 

  • Terrestrial and Wetland surveys 

  • Threatened and Endangered Species Surveys 

  • Freshwater mussel surveys and relocation 

  • Ecological Impact Assessments 

  • Assessment of a proposed activity’s impacts to the ecosystem 

  • Assessment of applicable laws and requirements for a proposed activity 

Ecology Field Survey Support 

We routinely provide sampling equipment and experienced personnel to support a range of ecological investigations including freshwater, nearshore and deep-water benthic surveys. This includes field sampling using agency standard methodologies with van Veen, Ponar, vibracores, kick nets, box-cores or specially designed grab sampling devices to obtain samples of sediment and biota for assessments. 

Ecosystem Analysis 

The analysis and interpretation of benthic community data is performed entirely in-house by qualified scientists with prolific experience in aquatic toxicology, sediment field sampling, invertebrate taxonomy, and/or marine benthic ecology. Analyses using multivariate approaches are conducted to further examine structural similarities/differences between benthic communities at stations and investigate potential correlations between abiotic and biotic variables. These supplemental analyses are conducted with multivariate software (PRIMER-E) by ecologists formally trained in its use and data interpretation. 

Laboratory Services for Biological Community Assessment 

Since 1995, EcoAnalysts has grown to become a recognized leader in the bioassessment industry. We have built one of the most rigorous and accurate sample sorting, taxonomy, and quality assurance and control processes in North America. 

EcoAnalysts provides taxonomic identification of marine and freshwater species, including: 

  • Benthic Infauna 

  • Terrestrial invertebrates 

  • Periphyton (diatoms and soft algae) and Phytoplankton 

  • Zooplankton 

  • Fish (eggs, larvae, juvenile, and adult) and fish stomach contents

  • Chlorophyll a,b,c, and pheophytin corrections (Spectrophotometry-EPA 446.0, Fluorescence-EPA 445.0)

Ecotoxicology Laboratory and Consulting Services 

EcoAnalysts aquatic and sediment toxicology laboratory offers technology-based solutions and bench-scale environmental effects testing, which it combines with classical field sampling and environmental data analysis. A wide variety of freshwater and saltwater taxa are used to evaluate toxic effects and/or bioaccumulation of chemicals under controlled experimental conditions. In addition to routinely conducting standardized tests on an array of freshwater and marine organisms, we also develop and employ test methodologies with unique endpoints (such as edema differentiation using early life stages of fish) and new test species (Pacific herring, Arctic cod, the copepod Calanus glacialis, and freshwater mussels). These services have been provided under a variety of regulatory formats, including USEPA and numerous state NPDES permits, as well as international programs necessitating the use of other test protocols. 

Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Tests  

Freshwater Acute Bioassays  
Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Daphnid (water flea) (Ceriodaphnia dubia)

Freshwater Chronic Bioassays
Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) – Survival and Growth
Daphnid (water flea) (Ceriodaphnia dubia) – Survival and Growth 

Marine Acute Bioassays
Inland Silversides (Menidia beryllina) – Survival and Growth
Opossum Shrimp (Americamysis bahia) – Survival and Growth
Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis) – Survival and Growth 

Marine Chronic Bioassays
Inland Silversides (Menidia beryllina)- Survival and Growth
Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis) – Survival and Growth
Opossum Shrimp (Americamysis bahia) – Survival, Growth, and Fecundity
Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) – Embryo Development, Larval Survival and Growth
Bivalve Larvae Development (Crassostrea sp., Mytilus sp.)
Echinoderm Larvae Development (S. purpuratus, S. droebachiensis, S. franciscanus, D. excentricus, A. punctulata.)
Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) Germination and Growth 

Bedded Sediment Tests 

Solid-Phase Sediment Toxicity Test

Ampelisca abdita - 10 Day Survival
Eohaustorius estuarius - 10 Day Survival
Rhepoxynius abronius - 10 Day Survival
Grandidierella japonica - 10 Day Survival
Leptocheirus plumulosus - 10 Day Survival, 28 Day Survival, Growth, and Reproduction
Hyalella azteca - 10 Day survival and growth, 28 Day survival and growth, 42 Day Survival, Growth, and Reproduction 

Chironomus tentans (C. dilutus) - 10 Day Survival and Growth, 20 Day Survival and Growth 

Neanthes arenaceodentata - 10 Day Survival, 20 Day Survival and Growth, 28 Day Survival and Growth 

Suspended-Particulate Phase
Inland Silversides (M. beryllina) – 96 Hour Survival
Opossum Shrimp (Americamysis bahia) – 96 Hour Survival
Zooplankton Development Test (Bivalve or Echinoderm) 

Sediment Bioaccumulation 

Macoma nasuta – 28 Day Bioaccumulation Exposure
Nereis virens – 28 Day Bioaccumulation Exposure
Nephtys caecoides – 28 Day Bioaccumulation Exposure 

Fresh Water
Lumbriculus Sp. – 28 Day Bioaccumulation Exposure