Bioassays, the use of a living system to test or assay an effect or response, are finding expanding use in environmental management. Testing procedures have become standardized and new technologies support development of biosensors with the sensitivity and accuracy needed for routine application in monitoring and assessment programs. While new methods allow more accurate and sensitive detection of biological response, if response measurement is not connected with an environmental or ecological consequence, testing may have little use in management or regulation. It is possible to optimize bioassay use in environmental management by following study design assurance procedures that carefully select testing procedures and batteries of tests to meet defined objectives. This paper first reviews procedures for selecting measurement metrics for wastewater treatment process control and environmental assessment. Test systems are suggested that optimize bioassay use in the management of complex environmental systems. For example, an ecological paradigm can be applied to wastewater treatment processes as well as receiving water ecosystems. This paradigm considers both the structure and function of the system in selection of measurement metrics and test batteries in the development of a test system. Examples are provided that demonstrate how optimal bioassay use can lead to improved environmental management.

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