Marine Conservation & Water Quality

DRA promotes marine conservation and monitors 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 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)

Tidewater Watch was created in 1988 to monitor 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.

DRA’s 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 DRA water monitoring volunteer here.


DRA 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. The DRA is a member of MCOA and DRA 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
  • Damariscotta River Association
  • Friends of Casco Bay
  • Georges River Tidewater Association
  • Kennebec Estuary Land Trust
  • Medomak Valley Land Trust
  • Rockport Conservation Commission
  • Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association

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_8199Citizen volunteers monitor 3 sites every day at diurnal high tide late April through mid-June. They count horseshoe crabs, record sex ratios, measure water salinity and temperature. The volunteers are trained annually by DRA staff and the data is shared with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the community. A report synthesizing 10 years of the data contributed by DRA 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.