Coastal Rivers is seeking volunteers for two annual citizen science initiatives. One involves monitoring water quality in the Damariscotta River estuary, while the other collects data on horseshoe crab populations in Great Salt Bay.
Coastal Rivers provides all technical training for both programs, which offer the chance to get out on the water and be part of data-gathering efforts to inform the broader community about the health of the estuary.
A training session for those interested in the estuary water monitoring program will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 22, at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, in collaboration with Dr. Larry Mayer and Kathleen Thornton. Participants will learn about water monitoring protocols and logistics.
Volunteers for the water quality monitoring program take water samples from seven locations between the Darling Center and the town landing in Damariscotta, twice a month during high tide, from the first week of May through the middle of October.
Each monitoring session takes approximately three hours, and scheduling is based on tide and weather conditions. In addition to a boat operator, two additional volunteers collect the samples and take measurements, noting results on a data collection form. Volunteers may sign up for monitoring dates based on their own schedules.
A training session for the horseshoe crab monitoring program will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm at 110 Belvedere Road in Damariscotta. Participants should bring rubber boots suitable for wading. Potential volunteers should be aware that this program requires people to navigate a rocky shoreline and steep banks.
The horseshoe crab monitoring program is the sole source of data on horseshoe crab populations in this region. From the beginning of May through mid-June, volunteers with the horseshoe crab monitoring program spend approximately one hour during high tide each day counting horseshoe crabs. The process requires one volunteer to spot and count, while a second volunteer records the information. The salinity and temperature of the water are also measured since these factors have a bearing on horseshoe crab behavior.
The count information is used to determine changes in population over time and develop an understanding of horseshoe crab behavior in this region. The data are critical in determining the health of the overall environment, particularly in Great Salt Bay.
Volunteers do not need to be available to monitor every day, as volunteers sign up for specific days depending on their availability. The schedules are variable since monitoring times for both programs are tide-dependent.