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.
A network of dedicated leaders in citizen science
To fulfill the goals of its Blueprint for the Bays, MassBays relies on 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 monitoring coordinators’ network into an effective means for collaboration. We have several initiatives underway or completed (marked ø) and others are planned or in process (marked o).
ø Creating a dedicated newsletter to share ideas and resources (subscribe below).
Current Issue of the Citizen Coordinators' Network newsletter: Winter 2021
ø Establishing a MassBays' YouTube channel for webinar recordings, training, and other resources pertaining to community-based coastal monitoring. Our most recent additions include:
- 6/10/20: Emerging contaminants - Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products This MassBays and CZM webinar provided an overview of various PPCPs that may be detectable in our waters, and discussed the field protocols used in sampling.
- 4/28/20: Data Quality Resource - Ask Me Anything This MassBays and Citizen Science Association webinar covered a new compendium of guidance documents, manuals, and workbooks on data quality/management for citizen science research.
- 4/21/20: Citizen-Based Aquatic Field Sampling in the Time of COVID This MassBays and University of Vermont presentation was a “brainstorm” session for watershed groups to discover and share best practices for field work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- 3/31/20: Water Quality Exchange (WQX) Data Framework Beginner's Training This MassBays and EPA webinar provided beginner-level training for EPA's Water Quality Exchange (WQX) data framework including creating an account, formatting data, submitting data, and more.
o Advising on options for data hosting, management, and analytics (see Exchange Network Project).
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 one-on-one technical assistance to monitoring groups. Contact Jill Carr, our Coastal Monitoring Circuit Rider
ø Providing training in communicating results to local and state decision makers. See for example materials from the data visualization workshop, below.
ø Helping to secure funding to sustain long-term programs and jump-start lapsed ones (see grant-writing training).
To find out more about these initiatives, contact Jill Carr.
Additional Resources for
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.