Riparia is an arm of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment dedicated to using science to improve watershed management. Since 1993, the center has developed several novel monitoring tools.

One such tool is the Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQI).

Developed for Midwest prairies, researchers realized the index could be applied to wetlands as well. However, users must know all flora in a given wetland — not particularly easy considering that wetlands have more than 80 plant species.

To classify as a wetland, federal regulators require documentation of dominant species. Riparia's Robert Brooks and Sarah Chamberlain tested a streamlined version of FQI using 87 of the 200-plus wetlands Riparia monitors and found that it's just as effective at predicting wetland quality.

You can also use the free "rapid" model to assess other habitats, such as highlands and mountainous regions. Bonus!