Local Partners Support Citizen Scientists Monitoring Coastal Waters

Local Partners Support Citizen Scientists Monitoring Coastal Waters

water quality monitoring volunteer using a secchi disc“The atmosphere of excitement, enthusiasm, and commitment in the room was palpable,” enthused Jim Belano, a retired fisherman. Belano was a participant in TORCH, the Training for Observation and Research of Coastal Habitats, a one day workshop hosted by the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole on April 10. Damariscotta River Association, the Maine Coastal Observing Alliance (MCOA) and the University of Maine Darling Marine Center jointly co-sponsored TORCH.

“The idea for the TORCH workshop grew out of my work with groups like MCOA and DRA and their desire to meet high standards for quality assurance, quality control and calibration of their instruments, as well as to find the proper technologies and methods to best address the issues of concern”, said event founder Kathleen Thornton of the Darling Marine Center. The workshop was intended, say organizers Kathleen Thornton and Sarah Gladu of DRA, to help individuals and groups find the best indicators and measurement methods to understand the changing conditions of Maine’s coastal waters, learn about current monitoring efforts, get hands-on experience with a wide variety of monitoring methods and equipment, and network with others involved in estuarine and coastal monitoring.

TORCH was attended by educators, citizen scientists, aquaculturists, fishermen, scientists, coastal residents, community groups and other interested individuals from up and down the Maine coast, as well as from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. One attendee, Tam Green who volunteers with DRA’s estuary monitoring program said, “I am excited about the spectrum of attendees – there was a balance of conversation. There was scientific and anecdotal information discussed as people talked who are concerned about the same issues.”

Heather Leslie, Director of the Darling Marine Center, explained enthusiastically, “I’m so glad that we at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center had the opportunity to co-sponsor this event. Programs like this are vital to our mission and crucial to building the capacity we need as a nation to adapt to our changing world.” In addition to representatives from government agencies, conservation groups, shellfish committees, academic institutions and industry groups, more than a dozen faculty, staff and students from the Darling Marine Center served as training session leaders and speakers.

Talks focused on reasons for monitoring, what parameters should be monitored, the concerns of various stakeholders, description of current programs, possible ways to collaborate and design monitoring programs and more. Training sessions focused on understanding the commonly measured parameters, the proper use and calibration of the gear and instrumentation used in monitoring, sampling methods and protocols, and how attendees can use public accessible monitoring data through collaborations with existing programs and organizations.
There were many opportunities for networking and discussing collaboration throughout the day.

The workshop was partially funded by Maine Sea Grant and a National Science Foundation award to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

The University of Maine Darling Marine Center is located on the Damariscotta River estuary in Maine’s midcoast region. The Center is committed to strengthening the knowledge of coastal and marine ecosystems and the communities who are part of them through research, teaching and outreach in Maine and world-wide. Learn more at dmc.umaine.edu. If you interested in more information about the TORCH workshop or are interested in attending a future TORCH workshop, please contact Kathleen Thornton at kthornton@maine.edu.

MCOA is a collaboration among volunteer supported organizations and researchers along the coast of Maine. The Alliance promotes the common interests of groups actively involved in monitoring Maine’s estuaries and coastal watersheds in order to understand and promote the ecological health of these systems. MCOA partners are Boothbay Regional Land Trust, Damariscotta River Association, Friends of Casco Bay, Georges River Land Trust, Hurricane Island Foundation, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Medomak Valley Land Trust, Rockport Conservation Commission and Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association (now part of Midcoast Conservancy).