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Information collected by citizen scientists on waterbodies (such as streams, rivers, estuaries and bays) increases the amount of data available for decision making and builds awareness of the extent, causes and ways of reducing water pollution problems. Volunteer water monitoring is the oldest volunteer program supported by EPA and the number, complexity and variety of water projects in which volunteers participate in is continually growing. Some examples of local water projects involving citizen scientists/volunteers are NEIWPCC’s bacteria pathogens monitoring and the Long Island Sound Study about the habitat restoration, stewardship, and invasive plant removal.
Citizen scientists monitor the physical (e.g., flow, temperature, electrical conductivity) biological (e.g., macroinvertebrate community, bacteria, chlorophyll-a) and chemical characteristics ( e.g. nutrients, metals) of water bodies and underlying sediments, make visual observations of habitat or assess the abundance and diversity of living creatures in the aquatic environment. Volunteers also participate in cleaning up debris, removing invasive species, surveillance and/or long-term restoration and stewardship of waterbodies and associated habitats.
- EPA’s National Volunteer Water Monitoring Program and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council websites have many resources for citizen scientists looking to get involved in projects in their communities.
- Current EPA R2 Water Projects [PDF 54 KB, 8 pp]
- Starting Out in Volunteer Water Monitoring [PDF 800 KB, 4 pp]: Fact Sheet on how to get involved in volunteer water monitoring.
- Volunteer Estuary Monitoring: A Methods Manual: Guidance on the development of an estuarine monitoring program, including information on QAPP, sampling and data management.
- Volunteer Lake Monitoring: A Methods Manual: Guidance on the development of a volunteer lake monitoring program, including information on QAPP, sampling and data management.
- Volunteer Stream Monitoring: A Methods Manual: Guidance on the development of a volunteer stream monitoring program, including quality monitoring issues, methodology and data management.
- Volunteer Wetland Monitoring: An Introduction and Resource Guide: Introduction to volunteer wetland monitoring, including references of handbooks and manuals with detailed information on volunteer wetland monitoring.
- The Volunteer Monitor Project: National Newsletter of Volunteer Water Monitoring.
- MyEnvironment – Great site that gathers data from EPA and other resources in an easily used platform for your area code – includes MyAir, MyWater, MyHealth, MyEnergy and MyCommunity
- Green Apps – List of available environmental apps for Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows and web. User can filter for Topic, i.e. “water”
- Region 2 Resources
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Volunteer Monitoring Program
- The New Jersey Watershed Watch Network: the umbrella organization for citizen monitoring groups in the state, defining the four-tiered approach created by NJDEP to volunteer water quality monitoring.
- US EPA Region 2 Guidance for the Development of Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) for Citizen Science Projects [PDF 247 KB, 25 pp]
From an interview with Patricia Aitken, Friends of the Bay (Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY)
“I joined Friends of the Bay in 2005, and I was in charge of running the Water Quality Monitoring Program. It’s a great program. We have Citizen Scientists that come out with us and collect samples at 19 sites throughout the harbor and this is becoming a more and more viable program because there’s a lot of budget cut backs…we’re able to fill in a lot of gaps.”
“We have citizen scientists. We’ve had some that have been doing the program for 10 to 12 years. So they know very well what they’re doing and there’s enormous dedication…its data collection. Once you’re trained to do it (data collection), it’s not that difficult, but you do have to follow proper protocols.”