Citizen Monitoring Coordinators' Network

Making all data matter

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

In order to fulfill the goals of its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) MassBays has turned to citizen monitoring carried out by community-based environmental organizations for help. Indeed, nonprofit, citizen-led efforts are the primary source of current water quality and pathogen data for most of our region. 

Our goals:

  1. To bring volunteer-generated data—which in many cases have been inaccessible to decisionmakers—to bear on policy and management decisions.
  2. To support citizen monitoring groups in meeting their own goals for volunteer recruitment and training, data collection and analysis, and long-term sustainability.

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:

List of participants
Speaker bios 


Summit Opening
Panel 1 - Reimagining the Quality Assurance Project Plan 
Panel 2 - Data Management: From Collection to Dissemination

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.

    What's next?

    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. Top priorities include:

    • Creating a dedicated newsletter and establishing a listserv as a forum for citizen monitoring coordinators to share ideas and resources.
    • Exploring options for data hosting, management, and analytics..
    • Connecting organizations with scientists who can help them formulate their own questions and approaches to answering those questions.
    • Facilitating equipment exchanges and joint training for volunteers.
    • Providing training in communicating results to local and state decision makers.
    • Helping to secure funding to sustain long-term programs and jump-start lapsed ones.

    As we move this work forward and make the necessary links to our work, we hope to develop a strong coordination with citizen science groups to improve our estuaries. We will keep the network alive through regular updates in a newsletter dedicated to this effort.

    To join the MassBays Monitoring Network listserve, or to find out more contact Pam DiBona.  

    Subscribe to the Monitoring Coordinators’ Network Newsletter. Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 1 is now available. 

    Previous newsletters:
    Volume 2 Issue 1

    Additional Resources for What's next?


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