The Clean Water Act directs National Estuary Programs (NEPs) to periodically document environmental trends and conditions. For MassBays, an NEP encompassing three bays and 47 sub-embayments along 1100 miles of coastline from Salisbury to Provincetown, this represents a massive undertaking that is beyond the reach of an individual program. We have traditionally relied on sister government agencies to provide us with information about water quality, habitat condition, and species status. Government-led monitoring programs, however, are often focused on regulatory need, and over time have encompassed a narrower set of parameters and geographic range.
About the network
To fulfill the goals of its Blueprint for the Bays, MassBays relies to citizen monitoring carried out by community-based environmental organizations for help. In fact, nonprofit, citizen-led efforts are the primary source of current water quality and pathogen data for most of our region.
- To bring volunteer-generated data—which in many cases have been inaccessible to decisionmakers—to bear on policy and management decisions.
- To support citizen monitoring groups in meeting their own goals for volunteer recruitment and training, data collection and analysis, and long-term sustainability.
The next steps for MassBays are to use all of this information to develop its own monitoring framework, and build the citizen monitoring coordinators’ network into an effective means for collaboration. We have several initiatives underway or completed (marked ø) and others are in process or planning (marked o)
ø Exploring options for data hosting, management, and analytics (see Exchange Network Project, below).
o Connecting organizations with scientists who can help them formulate their own questions and approaches to answering those questions.
o Facilitating equipment exchanges and joint training for volunteers.
ø Providing training in communicating results to local and state decision makers (see data visualization workshop, below).
o Helping to secure funding to sustain long-term programs and jump-start lapsed ones (see grant-writing training).
To find out more, contact Pam DiBona.
Additional Resources for Initiatives
2019-2021 Exchange Network Grant Project
MassBays received funding from EPA's Exchange Network Program and MassDEP to build capacity among citizen monitoring groups that contribute to baseline monitoring in the Bays, as well as inland.
Over the course of the next two years, MassBays and partners (DEP, EPA New England, and Eastern Research Group) will produce a new online application called "AquaQAPP" for developing sampling and quality assurance project plans, hire a circuit rider to provide one-on-one technical support and host workshops, and facilitate data upload to WQX, EPA's national data management and archiving system.
MassBays will use the information gathered to build a visual report on the State of the Bays, beginning in 2020 and into the future, with help from the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science/Integration and Application Network.
We'll provide more detail here as we develop the products. For more information in the meantime, contact Pam DiBona.
Launching the network
On September 29, 2016, MassBays convened more than 45 monitoring coordinators for a meeting to launch a network of Massachusetts coastal monitoring programs. The Summit included plenty of networking time, opportunities to articulate each program's needs, resources materials, and practical presentations. A combination of expert panels and three concurrent breakout sessions provided opportunities for participants to discuss potential connections among researchers, government agencies, and other monitoring programs to inform future monitoring and to collaborate assessment efforts. Summaries of the meeting and breakout discussions.are provided.
Handouts and presentations from the Summit are available at the links below:
The purpose of the Summit was to bring together a majority of the identified stakeholders, including them in the discussion and assessing each organization’s needs. Participants indicated a strong willingness and desire to be part of a collaborative network with annual meetings. Suggestions focused around setting aside more time for group discussions and reaching out to smaller programs to expand the network. Major needs included: analyzing and managing the data that have already been collected, grant writers to obtain funding, and effective ways to present their data to various audiences.