Coastal Rivers seeks volunteers for two citizen science programs

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Coastal Rivers is looking for volunteers for two annual citizen science initiatives. One is to monitor 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 provide the opportunity to get out on the water and be part of data collection efforts to inform the wider community about the health of the estuary.

A training session for those interested in the estuary water monitoring program will be held on Friday, April 22 from 4-6 p.m. at the Darling Marine Center at the University of Maine, 193 Clarks Cove Road, Walpole, in collaboration with Dr. Larry Mayer and Kathleen Thornton. Participants will learn water monitoring protocols and logistics.

Water quality monitoring program volunteers take water samples at seven locations between the University of Maine’s Darling Center in Walpole and the town’s landing in Damariscotta, twice a month at high tide , from the first week of May to mid-October.

Each monitoring session lasts 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 the results on a data collection form. Volunteers can sign up for monitoring dates to suit their own schedules.

A Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Program training session will be held Saturday, April 23 from 2-4 p.m. 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 rocky shores and steep banks.

The horseshoe crab monitoring program is the only source of data on horseshoe crab populations in this region. From early May to mid-June, horseshoe crab monitoring program volunteers spend about an hour at high tide each day counting horseshoe crabs. The process requires one volunteer to spot and count, while a second volunteer records the information. Salinity and water temperature are also measured since these factors affect the behavior of horseshoe crabs.

Count information is used to determine population changes over time and develop an understanding of horseshoe crab behavior in this region. Data is essential in determining the health of the overall environment, especially in Great Salt Bay.

Volunteers do not need to be available to monitor every day, as volunteers sign up for specific days based on their availability. The schedules are variable since the monitoring hours of the two programs depend on the tides.

Registration for these volunteer trainings is mandatory at coastrivers.org/events.

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