Do you want to help keep Casco Bay clean? Volunteer to help out at our public coastal cleanup!
Trash is an unsightly blight that makes it hard for everyone to enjoy a special place like Casco Bay. Litter and marine debris on our shores come from many sources. Careless beach goers, boaters, fishing vessels, and other ships can leave trash behind. Stormwater washes trash from yards and parking lots into storm drains that empty into Casco Bay.
When you volunteer to help us with a cleanup, you are:
Collecting data on the types and size of materials removed
The data is then used locally and internationally for marine debris advocacy efforts
Making our shores cleaner and safer
Ensuring our coast is a place people can go to recreate and relax
Helping protect wildlife
Supporting the local economy as our coast is part of Maine’s brand; it as an ideal tourist attraction that creates a stream of revenue that supports our community
Yesterday was the first anniversary of our launching Friends of Casco Bay’s Water Reporter effort. To date, 162 volunteers have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!
A standing-room only crowd of 37 Friends of the Bay gathered in South Portland on June 24th for an informal training on the app. Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, volunteer Rick Frantz, and summer intern Alexis Burns guided newbies and veterans through the steps to post and comment on what they are seeing on the water.
Sarah explained that using hashtags to identify the type of incident helps organize reports. “If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!”
Great questions from the volunteers showed that they already had a good grasp of the Water Reporter app. After Sarah answered questions, she referred people to our website to reinforce her explanations. We recently updated our guide, www.cascobay.org/water-reporter, to include detailed instructions for posting on iPhone or Android device and troubleshooting tips.
After the training, Trish Peterson posted, “The water reporting training we recently received was confidence building for sure. Water reporting is not only interesting, but fun!”
Our summer intern Alexis Burns explained that she is monitoring nusiance algal blooms at three locations in South Portland on a weekly basis: Mill Cove behind Hannaford Supermarket, Pleasantdale Cove off Broadway, and behind Forest Lawn Cemetery on Lincoln Street.
Several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay.
Sarah explained that we are connected to a worldwide network through our engagement with the Water Reporter app, developed by a group called Chesapeake Commons. Erin Hofmann, their Data Science and Communications Lead, told us, “Friends of Casco Bay is one our most active groups in terms of members, number of posts, and endurance of ongoing efforts. Some groups get their volunteers to share reports on one issue or event, and then fade away – but the Friends of Casco Bay team has found some really great ways to train volunteers and then keep them active and engaged on the app.”
Water Reporters, this is your reference for using the Water Reporter app. It summarizes the topics covered at the Water Reporter training event held in June 2019. We are so pleased to see how volunteers like you are having an impact by being Water Reporters.
Types of Water Reporter Posts we want to see
There are a variety of posts that are helpful. Using hashtags to identify the type of incident you are reporting helps organize your reports. If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!
We have new resources on our Water Reporter webpage. Some sections that may be of interest to you:
See a visual guide to creating a post on an iPhone
Note: This is especially helpful if you are having trouble sharing to our group. It is the least intuitive part of posting on an iPhone and it is an important step of posting. In short, you have to click the group icon and then our logo. A small green dot will appear next to our logo when you have successfully set it to share with our group.
You can help us collect observations on two special issues we are tracking.
Nuisance Algal Blooms (#algae)
At the training, several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay. We are still looking for volunteers to cover the following locations on a regular basis:
#sealevelrise is all about capturing photos of extreme high tides and storm surges and their impacts on our coast. Water Reporters are helping us envision what our coastline may look like in the future as sea levels continue to rise:
when there is a King Tide, a predicted extra high tide, or
when we have storm surge.
When these two conditions happen at the same time, we see the greatest impact. You can see more about this on the Water Reporter webpage as well. Click the Sea level rise tab in the Special Water Reporter Posting Types section. The next opportunity to document a King Tide will be during the first few days of August.
Rick Frantz keeps an eye on Casco Bay as he commutes between his home on Great Diamond Island and Andy’s Old Port Pub, the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer Fox own on the Portland waterfront. When he sees something out of the ordinary, good or bad, he takes a photo using the Water Reporter app on his smartphone. During his work day, Rick may pause to capture images of an extreme high tide flooding the waterfront or trash adrift in the Bay.
Rick was one of the first friends of Casco Bay to start using the app that is building a network of observers to document, organize, and share their posts. Rick is an incredible ambassador for this volunteer effort. He has been recruiting friends and neighbors to join the observing community.
Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman oversees the program. She says, “Water Reporter is transforming how we connect with our volunteers to identify and help us address threats to the Bay, building a community around clean water.”
Currently, 114 Water Reporters are recording their observations on how the Bay may be changing. These observations can be cause for worry or for celebration. One day, Rick posted a photo of a large accumulation of fish scales floating near a wharf. His report, complete with date, time, and location, led to the Department of Environmental Protection halting unpermitted discharges from a fishing vessel.
Another day, Rick noticed a new patch of eelgrass growing off Diamond Cove, a sign of healthy waters. Having a smartphone or camera at the ready encourages volunteers to capture unusual events, like his neighbor’s sighting of nearly 200 cormorants and gulls herding fish onto the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.
A photo is worth a thousand…
In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. King Tides, the highest tides of the year, give us a glimpse of the future. The photos can document current coastal flooding such as submerged streets and eroding beaches. These images help us all visualize what the “new normal” high tides may look like as sea levels continue to rise.
Chesapeake Commons created the Water Reporter app in partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance (of which we are a founding member). Says Erin Hofmann, Data Science and Communications Lead for Chesapeake Commons, “Friends of Casco Bay is one our most active groups in terms of members, number of posts, and ongoing efforts. Water Reporter has been around since 2014. Every winter, posts would slow to a trickle or stop altogether. I couldn’t believe how frequently posts kept rolling in from Maine this winter — bucking our long-held belief that people don’t engage in environmental efforts in the cold months. Leave it to Mainers to get outside, regardless of the weather, to keep the observations flowing!”
The more of us who are keeping watch on the environmental health of the Bay, the better protected our coastal waters can be. Sign up to become part of our observing network or just check on what is being posted at cascobay.org/waterreporter.
Can you think of a better combination than lobster, beer, and the Bay?
On Saturday, May 11, Friends of Casco Bay, Luke’s Lobster, and Allagash Brewing are teaming up to host a community cleanup of Back Cove in Portland from 9 AM to Noon. Afterward, participants are invited to regroup at Portland Pier for a preview of Luke’s Lobster’s new restaurant, set to open on the site this June.
It takes a community to protect our coastal waters. A Coastal cleanup is a great way to work together to take care of our fragile marine environment. Storm Drain Stenciling is a hands‐on way for you to “take to the streets” and create a greater awareness for reducing stormwater pollution.
The litter and marine debris that wind up on our shores come from many sources and we are delighted to work with Luke’s and Allagash to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Join us by registering below.
Note: The cleanup is limited to 60 participants, so don’t forget to sign up in advance!
9:00 – 9:30 AM: sign in, learn about Friends of Casco Bay and get your cleanup supplies
9:30 – 11:45 AM: Cleanup or Stencil Storm Drains
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM: Wrap up
12:30 – 2:00 PM: After-party with food & drink from Luke’s & Allagash Cleanup participants are encouraged to join us at Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier (60 Portland Pier, Portland)
The Back Cove cleanup is part of a partnership between Luke’s and Allagash to clean up oceans and raise awareness for The Keeper Fund, a charitable initiative founded in 2018 by Luke’s Lobster and the Ocean Foundation. The purpose of The Keeper Fund is to invest in projects that spur environmentally friendly economic initiatives along the coast and keep our oceans and waterways clean. Last year, The Keeper Fund made a contribution to the Island Institute in Rockland to further research on the potential for kelp aquaculture to act as a carbon sink. This year, starting on Earth Day, Luke’s Lobster and Allagash will donate $1 to The Keeper Fund for every Allagash White sold at Luke’s, up to $10,000.To date, The Keeper Fund has donated over $18,000 in grants and in-kind donations to support aquaculture-related research and other coastal projects both within and outside of Maine.
And of course, Friends of Casco Bay has its own Keeper, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, who works year-round, along with volunteers, staff, and partners, to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.
This event is limited to 60 participants, and we have reached that limit. Please consider signing up as a volunteer here: https://www.cascobay.org/about-us/volunteer.
A King Tide is an astronomically high tide. A King Tide is a natural, predictable occurrence that happens a few times a year. This provides the opportunity to envision what our coastal areas may experience as sea levels continue to rise. These extra-high tides can help us spot areas that could be most vulnerable to sea level rise. King Tides are also known as perigean spring tides.
Casco Bay will experience a King Tide on Wednesday, February 20th, at 11:18 AM., which is estimated to reach 11.6 feet. A normal high tide in the Bay ranges from 8 to 10 feet.
We are mobilizing our volunteer Water Reporters to help us document the February King Tide to help our us visualize what sea level rise may mean for our region. Between 10:48 and 11:48 on February 20, our volunteers will don their rainboots and pull out their smartphones to capture this extreme tide using the Water Reporter app.
Water Reporter is an easy-to-use “Instagram-like” tool that enables our volunteers to document, catalogue, organize, and share observations of the Bay. This information is aiding our collaborations with other scientists, expand our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and helping with our advocacy, to illustrate changes happening around the Bay to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers.
Sea level is rising and we need your help to capture the changes.
Community members have observed the rise in sea level over the years. Coastal communities are experiencing greater storm surges and King Tides (astronomically high tides that occur a few times year). Maine geologists are planning for a three-foot sea level rise along the Maine coast over the next 100 years. The predicted impacts include beach erosion; landslides; loss of wildlife habitats; and drowned infrastructure, causing more sewage overflows, flooded streets, broken pipes, and costly repairs.
Now we need your help to capture these changes.
On January 5th, Maine Day of Service, you can take the first step towards helping Friends of Casco Bay record these changes over time by becoming a Water Reporter.
Your job will be to take photos during a “normal” high tide using your smartphone and the Water Reporter App. It is easy to take part and everything you need to do can be done between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. You will download the Water Reporter App, create an account, find a good location, and take a photo of the coast of Casco Bay between 10 AM and 11 AM. Some steps can be completed in advance, and they are noted below.
We will use the images to shine a light on the impacts of sea level rise and support local, state, and national policies to affect positive change.
Join Water Reporter following these instructions: https://www.cascobay.org/water-reporter/. We’d love to help you get set up. Call Sarah Lyman at (207) 370-7553. She is happy to help! Sarah can help you install the app and get set up quickly over the phone. This can be done before January 5th.
After getting set up with Water Reporter, follow these steps to take a sea level rise photo:
Find a good location: beaches, coastal parks, and public access sites along Casco Bay are perfect locations, for example, Back Cove or East End Beach in Portland, Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth, Willard Beach, Bug Light, and Spring Point Light Parks in South Portland, Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Wolf Neck State Park in Freeport, Graveyard Point Town Landing in Harpswell, any of the islands in Casco Bay, and many many more places. Make sure you can stay safe!
Plan your arrival time so that you have enough time to get to your location and take a photo, or series of photos between 10 AM and 11 AM on January 5, 2019. High tide is at 10:30 AM in Portland.
Stand at least two strides up from the water line. Take the photo looking down the shoreline. Include some sort of structure or landmark in your picture, such as a pier, jetty, breakwater, building, or dock, for perspective. This will help you and others take images from the same location and angle in the future.
In the Water Reporter App, click on the center icon with the “+” symbol at the bottom of the screen which will bring you to the “Create Post” page.
Click on the camera icon and choose “camera” or “take a photo”. Ideally, you’ll want your picture to catch the wave as it reaches the highest water line. This definitely requires some patience and luck that no one walks through your picture just as the wave hits the highest point! But, even pictures that show the water line and some water from the waves are still very useful.
Stay in the same location as you complete the rest of the steps: confirm your location by clicking on the location pin, allow Water Reporter to access your location while using the app, and make sure the red dot is in the correct spot on the map (where the photo was taken) and click “Set.”
Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay.
iPhone: Click on the icon with the two figures and then also click on the Friends of Casco Bay logo. You will know you clicked the logo because a small green circle will appear next to it.
Android: Under “Share with your groups” click on the toggle next to Friends of Casco Bay, when the toggle is green it means it will be shared.
Troubleshooting: Sometime the tagging a group feature does not work. If this happens to you, skip this step and continue to post your photo. Once it is posted, you can edit your post and share it with the Friends of Casco Bay group.
Describe more about your photo in the comment field, including our suggested hashtag (you may use multiple hashtags): #sealevelrise.
Click “Save” (iPhone) or the send button (Android) to post your photo. Note: All times recorded on the map are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
It would be really helpful to obtain photos of high tide impacts or effects of storm surges throughout the year! We invite you to revisit this location during other high tides, including King Tides and during heavy rain events, which can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast/Portland%20Harbor/2019-01. King Tides, though naturally occurring, offer a glimpse of what flooding and future sea level rise will look like in our communities.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive a photo that records the location and time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.”
For example, Morrigan shot this image of a gull sitting on a dead harbor sea near Bangs Island. We then promptly shared this information with Marine Mammals of Maine.
In Water Reporter, hashtags are used to categorize images and Morrigan used #wildlife for this image.
In another example, Ivy took photos of an algal bloom in South Portland near Forest City Cemetery, using #algae. These photos add to our understanding of potential sources of excess nutrient loading in the area.
Morrigan provided a close-up of the thick algal mat there.
And we like to get good news, too:
Rick reported new growth of eelgrass beds sprouting along the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.
Mark reported on #wildlife of a great blue heron and egrets taking flight in Maquoit Bay.
The Water Reporter app collects all of our observations in one place in an organized and searchable way. We are so excited about the ability of this tool to record what’s happening around our beautiful but changing Bay—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Identifying the area of the Bay where you took the photo and categorizing the image with a hashtag, such as #algae, #pollution report, #trash, #wildlife, and #erosion, makes it easier for us to search for similar occurrences around the Bay.
Want to get outside, take photos that may help protect the health of Casco Bay, and connect with other community members?
We invite you to join our new volunteer Observing Network, Water Reporter, an exciting way to share what yousee around the Bay.
In 2016 and 2017, we saw a concerning increase in the number and extent of nuisance and harmful algal blooms in Casco Bay. Large mats of algae covered tidal flats, smothering animals underneath the mats, preventing juvenile clams from settling, and increasing the acidity of the sediment.
This summer and fall, we continue to be on the lookout for nuisance, green algal outbreaks—and we need your help!
For this project we are asking you to take photos of the Bay to document algal bloom events, water pollution and trash, shoreline erosion, and marine wildlife sightings. Through the Water Reporter app, your photos will be shared with Friends of Casco Bay, as well as with other observers. You will be able to see and comment on others’ posts and get an idea of what is going on around the Bay.
Each submission is displayed on a map and posted to individual, organization, and watershed feeds. To keep you in the loop, you will receive email notifications every time someone comments or takes action on your report.
In order to be a Water Reporter volunteer:
You will need a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet (iPad or Android tablet).
Create an account on the Water Reporter app and join the Friends of Casco Bay group.
Be willing to take photos of the Bay and share them on the app along with their location.
What you need to know:
Each photo you submit will provide a better understanding of conditions in the Bay.
Friends of Casco Bay is especially interested in tracking algal blooms as they occur, so if you come across one, be sure to share a photo along with the hashtag #algae.
For other reports please use hashtags like #trash #erosion #pollutionreport or #wildlife in the photo caption to improve search and categorization of your report for the community and Friends of Casco Bay.
What’s the big deal with green algae?
In the marine environment, nitrogen jumpstarts the growth of algae and phytoplankton, tiny plants that form the base of the ocean food chain, which in turn nurture zooplankton, clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters, fish, and whales. But too much nitrogen may trigger large blooms of nuisance algae or “green slime,” which can reduce water clarity and lower oxygen levels, making life harder for marine organisms. These nuisance algal blooms may be triggered by excess nitrogen from fertilizers, sewage, pet wastes, and emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks. For more information on excess nitrogen and green algae visit https://www.cascobay.org/our-work/science/nuisance-algal-bloom-tracking/.