DV-16-08 Training for Observation and Research of Coastal Habitats

Heather Leslie
University of Maine School of Marine Sciences

Kathleen Thornton
University of Maine School of Marine Sciences

The estuaries and coastal waters of Maine are complex ecosystems, influenced by salt water from the Gulf of Maine and freshwater entering from rivers and streams. They provide essential habitat for wildlife including seafood species. They are also highly impacted by human activity, as much of Maine’s population lives within 10 miles of the coast. Yet scientists know much more about areas farther offshore in the Gulf of Maine and about inland freshwater ponds, lakes, stream and rivers. Many people in Maine are recognizing that estuarine and coastal monitoring is vital to document human impacts, including those associated with climate change.

No single organization has the resources to effectively monitor Maine’s large and varied coastline. It is essential to enlist and support citizen science groups, such as the Maine Coastal Observing Alliance (MCOA) to assist. Such groups do a tremendous job educating their volunteers, but it is also essential that citizen monitoring follows acceptable, standardized methods to ensure accurate data. To meet this need, citizen scientists must be trained in basic quality assurance and control protocols, instrument calibration, proper use of sensors and monitoring equipment, metadata collection and other issues. Training opportunities also create space for networking among various nonprofit, government, industry and academic groups.

The Training for Observation and Research of Coastal Habitats (TORCH) workshop, held on Sunday, April 10, 2016, supported citizen-scientists by developing effective, efficient and collaborative approaches to confront real world problems facing our coastal waters. Professionals and citizen scientists gave brief talks and demonstrations as well as hands-on training on the use of monitoring technology and equipment. Presenters included aquaculturists, fishermen, conservationists, government and academic researchers and members of community groups.

Sea Grant funds: $1,500