The formaldehyde solution used as a fixative for invertebrates is considered to be a hazardous material; consequently, there are specific Federal guidelines governing the shipment of these samples. In addition, individual shipping companies can have their own more stringent requirements for the packaging and labeling of preserved samples. Therefore, it is important to adhere to the following procedures when packaging, labeling, and shipping preserved samples: (1) consult the shipping company regarding its requirements prior to collecting any samples; (2) make sure that the shipping company understands that the samples contain a solution of 10-percent formalin (not 10-percent formaldehyde); and (3) be prepared to provide information on the maximum amount of preservative in each container and the total in each package. Packaging and labeling standards can require special boxes, packing materials, and labels that need to be ordered well in advance of their use. Therefore, the necessary shipping material s and instructions should be on hand prior to leaving for the field so that samples can be shipped directly from the field to the appropriate contract laboratory.
A complete list of the contents of each package, including appropriate information from the sample-identification code, is placed in the package as a packing list. Copies of the packing list are sent to the contractor and the BQAU, and one copy is retained by the study unit. The field sample log (fig. 17) serves as the basis for the packing list by indicating information on each container returned from the field. Entries listed under the "Sample description" heading include a description of the type of sample (QMH, RTH, and DTH), and the sample component (M is main-body, L is large-rare organisms, E is elutriate, and S is split). The disposition column indicates the date that the containers were shipped and their destination: BQAU or the name of the contract laboratory (XYZ Laboratory). A copy of the field sample log should be sent to the BQAU to aid in inventorying and tracking samples.
Data are returned by the contractor directly to the BQAU, which reviews the data for quality and accuracy. Provisional data are released to the study units by way of NWIS-II and are available only on the local study-unit node. Once appropriate QA/QC che cks have been completed, the BQAU, in consultation with the study-unit chief, releases taxonomic data to general access.
The sample collection methods and techniques outlined here primarily relate to characterizing invertebrate communities at sites associated with basic fixed sites. However, these methods and procedures are readily adaptable for other objectives of the NAWQA Program that require characterization of the benthic invertebrate community, such as synoptic spatial surveys and case studies. For the most part, sample-collection and processing procedures will not have to be modified; however, samples must be label ed to ensure that they are uniquely identified as to their location and purpose. The BQAU, regional biologists, and North Carolina Ecology Group should be consulted to ensure that unique identifiers are being applied.