Carol Milner, APEM’s benthic invertebrate component administrator, explained: “The NMBAQC scheme is very prestigious and we were delighted to bring it to APEM.

“But when we won the contract in 2014 the committee instructed us to bring the annual exercises and reporting within the financial year calendar as soon as possible, by gradually reducing the overrun of analysis and reporting that had developed over  previous years.

“We are very pleased to announce that APEM has achieved this objective for both the particle size analysis and benthic invertebrate components this year, less than 24 months into the contract.”

The scheme is open to laboratories undertaking marine biological assessment in NE Atlantic waters and participants include the Environment Agency, SEPA, CEFAS, Marine Scotland, AFBI, NIEA, JNCC and a number of independent environmental consultancies.

Microscope picture of sample

A total of 45 laboratories from across Europe took part in the scheme this year. Sixty-four sediment replicate samples were circulated to 16 laboratories and a total of 1,075 invertebrate samples circulated to 22 laboratories.

In total 24 sediment samples, 147 laboratory reference specimens and 96 macrobenthic samples were supplied to APEM for expert auditing and verification.

Lydia Finbow, APEM’s particle size analysis administrator, said “We are now looking in great detail at particle size data variables to ensure that consistent data are being produced by the scheme’s participants. These physical data support biological assessment and form an integral function in the assignment of habitat classifications and our ability to detect change.”

The NMBAQC scheme was set up in 1994 to provide quality control and assurance to the macrobenthic invertebrate elements of the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme (formerly the NMMP). Its principal aim is to provide assessment of marine biological data contributing to UK national or European monitoring programmes.

The scheme also aims to develop and promote best practice in relation to sampling and analysis procedures through a range of training exercises, workshops and literature guides.  There are six biological components each with its own set of training exercises and assessment modules.

Performance of all the participants is summarised in various bulletins and reports and in some exercises participant samples are selected and assessed against scheme standards to determine whether sample batches achieve acceptable quality. Participating labs are issued annually with a Statement of Performance certificate.

Membership in the scheme continues to grow year on year and its exercises are continually assessed by the NMBAQC committee to ensure that they are fit for purpose and offer value for money.

If you have any queries, please contact David Hall, head of laboratories.
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