Marine Conservation & Water Quality

Coastal Rivers promotes marine conservation and monitors estuary water quality.

waterOur focus areas include Damariscotta River estuary, Great Salt Bay as a whole, Johns Bay and the landscape that drains into these waters. Citizen volunteers collect estuary water monitoring data, count horseshoe crabs and keep an eye on the Damariscotta River estuary under expert staff guidance and in consultation with leading scientists. We are now providing leadership for a collaborative effort with partners from Casco Bay to Rockport to align our water quality data across the region so we can make meaningful comparisons and assess the effects of local versus regional variables. Volunteer opportunities in Marine Conservation and Water Quality are available here.

Estuarine Monitoring Program (Tidewater Watch 2.0)

Grandfathers Point on Great Salt Bay

Tidewater Watch was created in 1988 to monitor estuary water quality and shellfish habitat with the help of trained citizen volunteers. It is known today as Tidewater Watch 2.0. Citizen volunteers currently monitor dissolved oxygen, salinity, total nitrogen, transparency and temperature at seven sites every two weeks May through October. Volunteer training and analysis in partnership with the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center provide data quality assurance.

Coastal Rivers’ center console boat, the Wendy J, is our transportation to the sampling sites, and volunteer positions in the program, while coveted, may be available. Data are shared regularly with Maine DEP, regionally with other coastal citizen monitoring groups (through Maine Coastal Observing Alliance) and the community. See information about becoming a Coastal Rivers estuary monitoring volunteer here.

Coastal Rivers Provides Leadership for Regional Estuarine Monitoring Alliance

Rockport Conservation Commission volunteers monitoring for MCOAMaine Coastal Observing Alliance (MCOA) consists of eight citizen volunteer coastal water quality monitoring groups gathering data from Blue Hill to Casco Bay. MCOA strives to standardize methods, share data, increase capacity, network with larger regional groups and increase access to scientific information related to environmental monitoring in coastal regions. Coastal Rivers is a member of MCOA and Coastal Rivers Director of Education and Environmental Monitoring Sarah Gladu currently chairs MCOA.

In 2014, the Alliance received funds from Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Sea Grant and the Davis Conservation Foundation to conduct their first project which included gathering data on pH, total nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature with a special focus on the issue of ocean acidification in eight coastal regions. This coast-wide survey of Maine’s coastal water quality is the first undertaken since a 1996 Department of Environmental Protection study.

The 2014 pilot project focused on developing a track record of using identical and intercalibrated equipment, methods and operators. This initial effort was limited to projected worst-case conditions of late summer, when the water temperatures are highest, biological activity is greatest, and low pH and dissolved oxygen are most likely to occur. The extraordinary power of this study lies in its regional scope and the use of an expert technician who provided surface to bottom “profile” measurements that serve as baseline information for future monitoring.

Through the collaborative capacity of MCOA the monitoring partners are for the first time beginning to be able to compare their results, knowing that all results were gathered with consistent instrumentation, personnel, and methodology. Through this work we can begin to answer such questions as:

  1. Are there chronic marine water-quality problems occurring, and if so, where and under what localized conditions?
  2. If alarming conditions are discovered, do the causes originate from the land or from the Gulf of Maine?
  3. How does the water-column pH vary across the region, and what other conditions co-occur with low pH?

The MCOA report summarizing the data from this project in 2014 is available here.

MCOA Members:

  • Boothbay Regional Land Trust
  • Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust
  • Friends of Casco Bay
  • Georges River Tidewater Association
  • Kennebec Estuary Land Trust
  • Midcoast Conservancy
  • Rockport Conservation Commission

MCOA Partners:

  • Angie Brewer, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
  • Chris Davis, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center
  • Ivona Cetinic and Larry Mayer and Kathleen Thorton, Lab Manager of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center
  • Keri Kazor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant
  • Carter Newell, Pemaquid Oysters Company
  • Jeffrey Runge, University of Maine and Gulf of Maine Research Institute


Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Program

600_8199Volunteers monitor 2 sites every day for several weeks in May and June. They count horseshoe crabs, record gender ratios, and measure water salinity and temperature. The volunteers are trained annually by Coastal Rivers staff. Data are shared with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the community.

A report synthesizing 10 years of the data contributed by Coastal Rivers citizen volunteers and written by Dr. Richard Wahle, University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Andrew Goode is available here. Learn about becoming a horseshoe crab monitoring volunteer here.