Volunteer Opportunities

Learn new skills. Build community. Support conservation and education.

As we have since our beginnings, Coastal Rivers depends on volunteers to accomplish our mission. Volunteering in all aspects of Coastal Rivers programming connects members with our work, offers new training and skills, and strengthens community, while building capacity for conservation.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the following opportunities please contact us. From trail construction to events to counting horseshoe crabs, the options are many and are certain to connect members with staff and one another.

Where to start

For an overview of current volunteer opportunities, scroll down to read about a selection of volunteer roles. To let us know of your interest, please fill out the Volunteer Opportunities Form below and return it to us. We look forward to hearing from you!

To use this form, please download the pdf to your computer, fill it out either digitally or after printing it out, and return it to us by email or mail following the instructions on the form.

Oh, the many ways to be involved!

Click on any link to learn more.

Bittersweet Brigade Volunteer

Join our efforts to eradicate invasive plants at Round Top Farm and Salt Bay Farm
During the summer months, you’ll find us deep in the hedgerows of Round Top Farm, tackling bittersweet, multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed, barberry and honeysuckle. This is immensely satisfying work. Pulling bittersweet from trees and seeing that you’ve saved that tree is an awesome experience.

Bob Barkalow and Joy Vaughan (Stewardship Committee Co-Chairs) lead an invasives crew at Round Top Farm on Tuesdays from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. All are welcome!

Community Outreach Volunteer

Share information about Coastal Rivers and our lands and waters at community events

These friendly and outgoing folks represent Coastal Rivers at local events such as Olde Bristol Days, Oyster Fest, PumpkinFest and the weekly Farmers Market. They set up displays about Coastal Rivers, talk to the public about the Coastal Rivers mission, activities, and current projects, and recruit new members. Community Outreach volunteers may also offer activities, games, ornatural history interpretation with artifacts (like skulls or shells) to draw in the public and help them understand how education about nature connects people to the resources of the region.

These volunteers need to be people who can comfortably engage strangers in conversation about Coastal Rivers at public events. We will provide training about Coastal Rivers’ mission and organization, current projects and land stewardship, the watershed, and natural history interpretation. We will also provide membership recruitment information. Volunteers should be able to work at an event for two or three hour shifts, which generally requires standing outside for the duration.

Feel free to share information about this volunteer position with anyone you think might be interested in the opportunity.

Courtesy Boat Inspector

Join the frontline defense against the spread of invasive aquatic plants in our lakes and ponds

Friendly volunteers fill 2-hour shifts at the Pemaquid Pond boat launch in Nobleboro and at the Biscay Beach boat launch in Damariscotta on weekends during July and August. CBI volunteers check incoming and outgoing boats for plant fragments and talk to boaters about the threats posed by invasive aquatic plants. Training provided.

Front Office Volunteer

Become an ambassador for Coastal Rivers

Dennis McKenna at the Desk Front Office VolunteersOn a weekly basis or as a substitute, welcome visitors to the Denny Center and introduce them to Coastal Rivers.

Answer the phone and provide information, connect callers with Coastal Rivers staff. Help visitors plan walks or participate in organized Coastal Rivers activities. Be at the center of day-to-day Coastal Rivers operations and a critical link to the public we serve. Orientation and training provided. Commit to no more than one three- hour shift per week, 9:00 to 12:30 or 12:30 to 4:00, or be a substitute as needed.

Frost Fish Survey Volunteer

An early winter community science opportunity

Tomcod, also known as frost fish, move into Maine’s rivers and streams to spawn during the winter. We would like to know where, when, and how many tomcod are spawning to help us better understand how well they are doing here in Maine. For three weeks in December and into early January, volunteers survey streams just above head of tide once a week. Volunteers can either survey during the day, by documenting bird species that feed on fish, or at night, looking for spawning tomcod in rocky streams.

Training is provided on-line, and we match volunteers with a partner. This is a great way to get outdoors and help us gather data on these important but not-well-documented fish during the early winter. The program is the result of a partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Maine Department of Marine Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and Downeast Salmon Federation. Learn more about the program here.


Review those episodes of This Old House and put your skills to work

Coastal Rivers is blessed with an assortment of community facilities, from the historic farmhouse at Salt Bay Farm to the 1920s hay barn at Round Top Farm, that require ongoing maintenance and TLC. From repairing cabinets or window sashes to installing built-ins for education storage, if you have some carpentry chops you’d be willing to share, we know several old buildings and thousands of community members and kids who will appreciate your involvement.

Horseshoe Crab Counter

Discover the habits of this ancient creature as you observe them on the estuary

600_8193Each spring, from the end of April through mid-June, volunteers spend an hour or so during high tide counting the crabs they see along the rocky shore. This is done on a daily basis and requires one volunteer to do the spotting and counting, while a second volunteer records the information. The salinity and temperature of the water are measured as well. This information is vital inasmuch as the crabs cannot survive if the salinity becomes too low.

The count information is recorded in a database and will be used to determine population statistics over time. Information such as this can be vital in determining the health of the overall environment, particularly in Great Salt Bay.

Volunteers sign up for shifts using an online scheduling tool, and may commit to one shift or multiple days of counting. Annual training generally takes place in mid-April.

Midden Minder

Help monitor changes to a unique cultural and historical resource

The first coastal residents were the indigenous hunters and gatherers who relied on the natural resources of the region’s forests, marshes, and coastline. Many cultural artifacts of these people are preserved in the region’s shell middens – accumulations of shells, bones, and artifacts – and these middens are critical to understanding the history of the people who lived here before us.

Unfortunately, shell middens are disappearing as a result of a number of factors. As sea levels rise, the water reaches higher and higher, gradually washing away coastal bluffs and middens. Cycles of freezing and thawing in the colder months break apart the midden surfaces. Collectors who dig into the middens looking for artifacts contribute to erosion, as do visitors who walk on the middens.

The first step in protecting this cultural and historical resource is to document how changes are occurring over time. That is the goal of Maine Midden Minders, a new initiative working with a network of individuals and conservation groups, including Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, to develop a database of erosion conditions at middens around the state.

Volunteer Midden Minders are needed to make regular visits to one or more of Coastal Rivers’ many middens to take measurements and record changes through observations and photographs. Volunteers will also document storm impacts, which will help researchers and resource managers understand threats to the middens and plan for data rescue and conservation. Volunteers will need to commit to visiting their midden or middens at least twice a month during the warmer months.

Based at the University of Maine and funded by Maine Sea Grant, Midden Minders is managed by geoarchaeologist Dr. Alice Kelly, who initiated the program. Kelly is an instructor at the University of Maine School of Earth and Climate Sciences and a Research Associate Professor with the Climate Change Institute. Coastal Rivers has been a local leader in establishing this effort.

Nature Center Docent

Be a welcoming resource for visitors
Nature Center Docents offer a friendly welcome to visitors either at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm in Damariscotta or the Beachcomber’s Rest Nature Center at Pemaquid Beach in Bristol. In the course of an exchange with families and visitors they might share their love of nature, provide natural history interpretation, or offer information about Coastal Rivers programs and trails. Docents may also assist naturalist staff with nature programs like Camp Mummichog, Coastal Rivers’ nature-adventure summer day camp at Salt Bay Farm. In the winter, docents host our Pop-Up Sledding Parties, serving hot chocolate and tending a fire for preserve guests. All training is provided!

Phytoplankton Monitor

Help protect public health
Coastal Rivers is part of the Maine Phytoplankton Monitoring Program, which serves as a first alert system for the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Shellfish Sanitation Program. The object of the program is to monitor water samples for target species that have the potential to cause harmful algal blooms.

Volunteers take water samples at Pemaquid Point and analyze them under a microscope in Coastal Rivers’ lab to look for the presence of certain species of phytoplankton which create toxins as a by-product of their metabolism.

Preserve Steward/Conservation Easement Monitor

Visit and report on Coastal Rivers conservation properties

A critical part of our land stewardship efforts are folks that volunteer as Preserve Stewards and Conservation Easement Monitors. Preserve Stewards monitor Coastal Rivers preserves, perform light maintenance, and work with the Stewardship Committee to call in the Trail Tamers for bigger projects.

Conservation easements are restrictions that landowners voluntarily place on their land. Part of Coastal Rivers’ responsibility as holder of these easements is annual monitoring. Conservation Easement Monitors visit easements once every year to walk the property, check for compliance with the terms of the easement, and complete a brief report.

Trail Tamers℠

“As trail stewards slowly dropped off and left a morning of trail work, they filed out like a basketball team, slapping hands as if it were the end of a game. With a nickname like Trail Tamers, this group could have been a hoops team. With the enthusiasm they brought to the task, their work unfolded like a winning game.”  Deirdre Fleming, Portland Press Herald

Take part in trail work parties once a year, monthly or more

Trail Tamers℠ monthly work parties get together to accomplish a specific stewardship project like building a bridge or clearing a section of trail. They’re scheduled for the third Thursday of each month from March to November plus some Saturdays to be determined.

As the inevitable other work projects arise we’ll also schedule special work events. Signing up will put you on the e-mail notice list for notifications, you’re welcome to join us for one or all of the events. Kids under 18 with adult supervision are also most welcome at all Trail Tamers℠ events.

Trail Trimmers

Help keep trails in good shape and well marked
This group meets weekly on Monday and Thursday mornings from April through October (or later) to trim and blaze trails. Trimming involves using clippers or loppers to trim back saplings, shrubs, and other plants that might be encroaching on the trail. This benefits trail users by helping to keep ticks at bay. Blazing involves deciding as a group where the markings should be placed, then scraping the bark and painting the blaze.

Water Quality Monitor

Gather key data about the health of the rivers, lakes and ponds

“A free boat ride on the Damariscotta? Watching a beautiful sunset over the river? It’s a ‘no brainer.’ It’s lots of fun and helps a good cause.” Bob Barkalow, Water Quality Monitor

The Damariscotta River Estuary and the chain of lakes and ponds that make up the Pemaquid River system are critical components of this area’s environment and economy. In order to better understand and act to protect our waters, Coastal Rivers has been involved with a variety of water quality monitoring projects for more than two decades.

There are three monitoring programs:

Estuary water quality monitoring

Water samples are taken from seven locations beginning at the Darling Center and ending at the Damariscotta town float. In addition to a boat operator, two volunteers perform the tasks of lowering the equipment into the water, taking measurements, and noting them on a data collection form.

The monitoring is done once a month, during high tide, from the first week of May through the middle of October. Coastal Rivers provides all technical training except boat captaining. Volunteers should expect that each monitoring session will take approximately two hours and the schedule will vary depending on tides.

Lake and pond monitoring

Coastal Rivers works closely with Lake Stewards of Maine to gather data from our local freshwater bodies, including Webber, Biscay, and Pemaquid Ponds. Data are used to observe environmental changes over time and provide information about how activities on land affects water quality in the sensitive lakes and ponds.

Volunteers conduct water quality monitoring in lakes and ponds throughout the summer by paddle craft or small boat, beginning in early June.

Swim beach water quality monitoring

To help protect public health, Coastal Rivers monitors the water at the three primary swim beaches in the area – Biscay Pond, Bristol Mills, and Pemaquid Beach – for pathogenic contamination. Coastal Rivers does this beachwater monitoring as a service to the towns that manage the beaches (the Town of Bristol owns Pemaquid Beach and the Bristol Mills swimming hole; the Town of Damariscotta owns Biscay Beach).

…And more!

Keep in mind, the above list is just a sampling of the volunteer opportunities available at Coastal Rivers.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, please fill out the form below and return it to us. We look forward to hearing from you!

To use this form, please download the pdf to your computer, fill it out either digitally or after printing it out, and return it to us by email or mail following the instructions on the form.