Home » A New Way to Volunteer: Measure the Color of Casco Bay

A New Way to Volunteer: Measure the Color of Casco Bay

From Homer’s “wine dark seas” to David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet,” the color of the ocean has held our fascination throughout the ages.

People often consider blue water as a sign of a healthy ocean and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. Turns out, color is a valuable indicator of the environmental health of our waters.

For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale to document the color of oceans and lakes. When seawater is clear and contains only a small amount of particulate matter and marine life, it can appear dark blue. When phytoplankton, the single-cell plants that provide about half the oxygen we breathe, are abundant in seawater, it can appear bluish-green. When the ocean is brown or yellow, it is likely that dissolved organic and inorganic materials are washing off the land.

Colleagues at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences tell us that the waters of the Gulf of Maine have become increasingly yellow over the last century.

While it is likely the color of Casco Bay is changing, too, not much data has been collected in our nearshore areas. So our plan is to mobilize scores of volunteers to collect hundreds of color measurements. The more measurements we collect, the more accurate our understanding of the Bay.

This 2016 Portland Press Herald Article covering Dr. Wiliam Balch and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences research on the color of the Gulf of Maine. We consulted Dr. Balch as we decided to launch the Color by Numbers pilot project. The article notes the “decades-long shift toward yellower waters is most noticeable along Maine’s coastal areas.” As a Color by Numbers Volunteer, you are taking measurements that we hope will expand the understanding of this in Casco Bay. If you want more scientific background on the Forel-Ule scale and the importance of measuring color, you can read this scientific journal article.

You can help!

We are putting a modern spin on this old way of assessing water quality. With a click of the camera on your cell phone, you can help address the question, “How is the Bay changing?”

As a volunteer, you will use a smartphone app, EyeOnWater, containing the Forel-Ule color scale. Working around mid-day high tides, volunteers will use their smartphones to photograph and measure the color of the water. The data, along with location and time, become part of a worldwide catalog of water color. Thank you to everyone involved in the Citclops project for creating, and providing the EyeOnWater app and website we utilize in this projectYou can learn more about those involved with the Citclops project here.

Please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to join as a Color by Numbers volunteer.

Sign up to measure the color of Casco Bay

Please fill out the form below to join our email list and get the manual for Color By Numbers.
  • Volunteer Release and Waiver of Liability Form This Release and Waiver of Liability (the “release”) executed on the date this form is completed by the volunteer ("Volunteer") who completes this form releases Friends of Casco Bay, a nonprofit corporation existing under the laws of the State of Maine and each of its directors, officers, employees, and agents. The Volunteer desires to provide volunteer services for Friends of Casco Bay and engage in activities relating to serving as a volunteer to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Volunteer understands that the scope of Volunteer’s relationship with Friends of Casco Bay is limited to a volunteer position and that no compensation is expected in return for services provided by Volunteer; that Friends of Casco Bay will not provide any benefits traditionally associated with employment to Volunteer; and that Volunteer is responsible for his/her own insurance coverage in the event of personal injury or illness as a result of Volunteer’s service to Friends of Casco Bay.
    1. Waiver and Release: I, the Volunteer, release and forever discharge and hold harmless Friends of Casco Bay and its successors and assigns from any and all liability, claims, and demands of whatever kind of nature, either in law or in equity, which arise or may hereafter arise from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay. I understand and acknowledge that this Release discharges Friends of Casco Bay from any liability or claim that I may have against Friends of Casco Bay with respect to bodily injury, personal injury, illness, death, or property damage that may result from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    2. Insurance: Further I understand that Friends of Casco Bay does not assume any responsibility for or obligation to provide me with financial or other assistance, including but not limited to medical, health or disability benefits or insurance of any nature in the event of my injury, illness, death or damage to my property. I expressly waive any such claim for compensation or liability on the part of Friends of Casco Bay beyond what may be offered freely by Friends of Casco Bay in the event of such injury or medical expenses incurred by me.
    3. Medical Treatment: I hereby Release and forever discharge Friends of Casco Bay from any claim whatsoever which arises or may hereafter arise on account of any first-aid treatment or other medical services rendered in connection with an emergency during my tenure as a volunteer with Friends of Casco Bay.
    4. Assumption of Risk: I understand that the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay may include inherently dangerous activities that may be hazardous to me including, but not limited to water sampling and/or attending events that are near or on the ocean, slippery docks, rocks, piers, wharves, and boats. As a volunteer, I hereby expressly assume the risk of injury or harm from these activities and release Friends of Casco Bay from all liability for injury, illness, death, or property damage resulting from the services I provide as a volunteer and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    5. Photographic Release: I grant and convey to Friends of Casco Bay all rights, title, and interests in any and all photographs, images, video, or audio recordings of me or my likeness or voice made by Friends of Casco Bay in connection with my providing volunteer services to Friends of Casco Bay.
    6. Other: As a volunteer, I expressly agree that this Release is intended to be as broad and inclusive as permitted by the laws of the State of Maine and that this Release shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine. I agree that in the event that any clause or provision of this Release is deemed invalid, the enforceability of the remaining provisions of this Release shall not be affected.
    By completing this form and checking the box below, I express my understanding and intent to enter into this Release and Waiver of Liability willingly and voluntarily.
  • When you click the submit button below, you will be taken to a new page.

If you have already signed up by filling out the form above, you can see the manual here.

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk