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Category: Continuous Monitoring Station

New data, NEW insight

Presenting data is like telling a story. When we look at a graph of our water quality data, it tells us a story about the health of Casco Bay. Seeing the same data in a different kind of graph can help us see another perspective, another side of the story. 

This graph compares 2022 daily mean temperatures (the blue line) to historic temperature data (the gray line and shaded area) from our Yarmouth Continuous Monitoring Station. Additional graphs in this style for other water quality data — including dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, and more —   recorded at our Yarmouth station can be found here

Staff Scientist Mike Doan is using a new kind of graph to present data from our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. “This style of graph is one that climate scientists like to use to present long term data sets,” says Mike. “Using it helps us compare data from a single year to the historic range of conditions we’ve seen at our Yarmouth station.” 

The Yarmouth station is one of our three Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay. These stations use high-tech oceanographic equipment to collect data on multiple water quality parameters and help us assess how the Bay may be changing. Our stations located off Harpswell and in Portland Harbor were launched last spring. Our Yarmouth station was launched in 2016. With over six years of data from that station, we can compare data from a specific year to the historic range of conditions we have recorded there.  

To illustrate this point and get us all thinking about what these data can reveal about the health of Casco Bay, consider the graph below and the information it presents.

This graph compares 2021 daily mean temperatures to historic temperature data recorded at our Yarmouth Continuous Monitoring Station. 

Daily Means 2021: the green line represents the mean water temperature at the Yarmouth station for every day in 2021. A “mean” is just another word for an average.

Daily Means 2016 – 2021: the dark gray line represents the mean water temperature at the Yarmouth station for every day between 2016 – 2021. In other words, this dark gray line represents the daily average water temperature over the past six years. 

Range of Daily Means 2016 – 2021: The gray shaded area represents the range of daily mean water temperatures at the Yarmouth station between 2016 – 2021. It helps us to visualize the difference between the highest and lowest daily average temperature recorded at the station. The top of the gray shaded area represents the highest daily average temperature and the bottom represents the lowest daily average temperature recorded on any given day over the past six years. 

Mike says that 2021 was one of the hottest years we have seen at the Yarmouth station. “This graph shows us just how hot the year was. We can see that for much of 2021, the green line is close to the top of our historical range of temperature values,” explains Mike. “In the context of the past six years, 2021 was a particularly warm year for the Bay.”

What do you see in these new graphs?

Let us know by emailing keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org and visit this page of our website to see our latest data on salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and other parameters from the Yarmouth station presented in this new style of graph.

What was your favorite Casco Bay moment of 2021?

As this year comes to an end, let’s reflect and celebrate the many ways that we worked together to protect the health of Casco Bay in 2021. Here are our top ten stories of the year:

1) We crossed the finish line on our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. More than 700 Friends of the Bay contributed $1.5 million to the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. These funds enabled us to launch two new Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay and will support the maintenance of all three of our stations for the next decade.

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station
Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

2) We launched two new Continuous Monitoring Stations. With the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund completed, we launched two new Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay! This past spring, our new stations splashed down in Harpswell and Portland Harbor, and Staff Scientist Mike Doan walked us through their preliminary data.

3) We successfully advocated for forward-looking climate change legislation Augusta. We were thrilled to see Maine pass legislation to adapt our stormwater, land use, and planning laws to incorporate climate change projections, a top priority of Maine’s Climate Action Plan. Scores of Friends submitted testimony in support of “LD 1572 Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise.” If you were one of them, thank you!

4) We celebrated the career and contributions of Cathy Ramsdell. Our former Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, retired in September after 18 amazing years at the helm of Friends of Casco Bay. We hosted an outdoor celebration in honor of Cathy at Portland Yacht Services on August 26. At the event, staff and board members shared reflections on Cathy’s leadership and Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless read his poem, “For Casco Bay, for Us.

5) Water Reporter Rick Frantz revealed the impacts of erosion. We have all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but have you ever seen a photo that is worth 17 years? Volunteer Water Reporter Rick Frantz compared photos of Diamond Cove Beach from 2004 and 2021 to reveal the slow work of erosion over nearly two decades.

6) We supported many legislative victories for Maine’s environment and Casco Bay. Casco Bay will be cleaner and healthier, and our communities will be safer due to the many environmental victories passed in Augusta this year. Issues facing the Bay that are being addressed by new policies and laws include: sea level rise, expired marine flare disposal, changing eelgrass and salt marsh habitat, and public coastal access.

Volunteer Water Reporters and Friends of Casco Bay staff visited two Brunswick salt marshes in early September, where they shared observational insights and discussed local ecology.

7) Water Reporters documented an eelgrass mystery in Casco Bay. Volunteer Water Reporters observed an increase in torn and uprooted eelgrass in Casco Bay between August and September. Eelgrass is critically important to the health of the marine environment as it supports fisheries, maintains water quality, and acts as a carbon sink.

8) Staff Scientist Mike Doan showed us how phytoplankton affect the Bay. Many factors cause seasonal changes in Casco Bay. The activity of phytoplankton is one of them. Looking at data from our Continuous Monitoring Stations we see how these microscopic plants at the base of the marine food web can dramatically change the levels of acidity, oxygen, nutrient availability, and other factors in the Bay.

9) We monitored and supported cleanup efforts after an oil spill closed Willard Beach. It has been a rough few months for Willard Beach in South Portland. In addition to a sewer main break in October, Willard Beach was closed for three days at the end of August to accommodate cleanup efforts and protect public health from an oil spill. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca toured the site of the spill and commended the cleanup efforts led by state, local, and private agencies.

10) Water Reporters learned about oil spills and algal blooms from regional experts. Volunteer Water Reporters connected with regional experts from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Maine Department of Marine Resources in an illuminating discussion about identifying and reporting oil spills and algal blooms seen on Casco Bay.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

What did we see on the Bay this summer?

Last week over 165 Friends of the Bay joined Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Staff Scientist Mike Doan online at our latest Casco Bay Matters Event: What Casco Bay Is Telling Us.

Here is a recording of the event for those of you who were unable to attend or would like to revisit the conversation.

Every year, Ivy and Mike traverse the Bay by land and boat from May through October, collecting water quality samples and speaking with those who live, work, and play on the water. At last week’s Casco Bay Matters event, Ivy and Mike shared their observations from this past field season, what our data are telling us about the health of the Bay, and what we all need to do moving forward to keep Casco Bay blue.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole recording, here are a few clips of key moments you may find interesting:

CLIP #1: In this 90-second clip, Staff Scientist Mike Doan breaks down what he sees in the salinity data (the saltiness of seawater) from our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. This year the Bay was particularly salty and Mike has thoughts as to why.

CLIP #2: What does the construction project surrounding Portland’s Back Cove have to do with the health of Casco BayIn this 2 minute clip, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca explains how the big construction project that you can see from I295 reduces pollution while accounting for the impacts of climate change.

CLIP #3: In this 90-second clip, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca explains how Volunteer Water Reporters are informing our advocacy and helping us track changing conditions seen on Casco Bay.

Want to watch the full 60-minute eventHere it is!

Data from our seasonal sampling program and our three Continuous Monitoring Stations can be viewed at cascobay.org/our-work/science/.

A View from the Hill: The Bay Rests

Friends of Casco Bay Board President Sandy Marsters recently wrote an ode to the Bay in fall, for his regular column with the Portland Phoenix. “There is calm as the Bay breathes with the tides,” writes Sandy, “great inhales and exhales that roll the stones round onshore, polish the sea glass, break in long whispers along the sand.” You can read Sandy’s full column about the beauty of the Bay in autumn, here.

You’re invited: What Casco Bay is Telling Us

Casco Baykeeper boat on the water at dawn

Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. Join Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Staff Scientist Mike Doan for a conversation about what Casco Bay is telling us and what we, as a community, need to do moving forward. On Wednesday, October 27, grab your lunch, log on to Zoom, and join the conversation. Ivy and Mike will be sharing with us their observations and experiences from this field season, what our data are telling us, and how you can help as we work to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay.

You must register to join this event. We would love for you to join us.

Register

What: What Casco Bay Is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, October 27, Noon to 1 p.m. 

This event will take place via Zoom. We will send you instructions for joining the event after you register.

Looking back and looking ahead: leadership at Friends

Dear Friends,

It has already been three weeks since we gathered with 200 Friends of the Bay to celebrate the career, contributions, and retirement of our longtime Executive Director, Cathy Ramdsell. Cathy’s send-off party, held outdoors at Portland Yacht Services’ boatyard (hire yacht charter san diego here), marked our first in-person event since the onset of the pandemic. It was heartwarming and rejuvenating to see so many supporters, partners, and colleagues after so much time apart. Cathy shared it meant the world to her that we could all be together for this watershed moment. You can view photos and revisit that special evening here.

So what’s next?

Friends of Casco Bay’s Board of Directors will officially launch the search for our next Executive Director soon. As Board President Sandy Marsters has said, “We are grateful that Cathy waited for our organization to reach its current state of maturity and stability before moving on to the next phase of her life. Organizationally, we are stronger than ever: our finances are sound, we have a team of interdisciplinary staff producing incredible work, and our visibility is at an all-time high.”

In the meantime, the board has appointed me to serve as Interim Director. Having worked with our exceptional staff, board members, and community since 2006, and knowing our collective passion for Casco Bay, I am honored to serve our organization during this transition.

Here are some examples of the incredible efforts our staff and volunteers have pursued over the past few weeks.

While we were organizing Cathy’s retirement party, we were also responding to an oil spill at Willard Beach in South Portland. The beach was closed for three days as state, local, and private cleanup teams removed 2,000 pounds of contaminated material. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca toured the beach soon after the spill was reported. You can read about Ivy’s experience at the cleanup here.

The spill was a stark reminder that protecting the health of the Bay requires vigilance.

This is why we are delighted to have more than 375 volunteer Water Reporters helping us keep watch over Casco Bay. Some Water Reporters recently took a field trip with Ivy and Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman to the Mere Point Boat Launch to share how they all could be better stewards. If you volunteer your time as a Water Reporter, thank you. If you want to join this observing network, we would love to have you aboard. You can learn more here.

As autumn begins, we are concluding our first summer with three Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, gathering data every hour on a changing Casco Bay. These data have already begun to offer new insights about our waters. The data is used in our efforts to reduce pollution and help our communities be more resilient to the effects of climate change. To learn about these insights and what else Ivy and Staff Scientist Mike Doan observed this field season, keep an eye out for our next Casco Bay Matters event.

September is coastal cleanup month. Our community members are taking to our coast to pick up trash and litter. In the process they are helping to protect wildlife, collect data for marine debris research and advocacy efforts, and keeping our shores cleaner and safer. Click here for ways you can join them.

Your support means more to us than ever. We look forward to keeping you updated about our search for new leadership and about our work ahead. Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

With appreciation,

Will Everitt
Interim Director
Friends of Casco Bay

Photos by: Kevin Morris, Ivy Frignoca, and Glenn Michaels

How does something so tiny drive change in the Bay?

What factors drive seasonal changes in the waters of Casco Bay?

Staff Scientist Mike Doan addresses this question by looking at recent data from our Continuous Monitoring Stations in our latest Mike’s Field Notes video.

Our Continuous Monitoring Stations collect data hourly on a variety of key water quality and climate change indicators across Casco Bay. Understanding the ways that climate change is impacting the Bay requires many years of data. As we work to collect these long-term data sets, we need to become familiar with the factors that drive short-term changes in water quality. These short-term changes may occur between seasons, months, or even day-to-day.

The activity of phytoplankton – the microscopic plants at the base of the marine food web – is one factor that influences many of the parameters we track in our Continuous Monitoring data. In this video, Mike breaks down how phytoplankton can influence acidity, as well as the amounts of carbon dioxide and oxygen in Casco Bay.

As always, you can view our Continuous Monitoring Station data on our website.

Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

Celebrating Data and New Stations

 

Last month we celebrated the launch of our new Continuous Monitoring Stations by taking a first look at the data they are collecting in Casco Bay.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan walked us through preliminary data on temperature, salinity, pH, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations. These detailed data sets reveal similarities and differences in water quality across the Bay and can show the influence of local conditions and weather events. After sharing these new data with us, Mike was joined by Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to discuss how we are using science to fuel our advocacy and protect the health of Casco Bay.

Here is a recording of the event for those of you who were unable to attend or would like to revisit the conversation. If you don’t have time to watch the whole recording, here are a few clips of key moments you may find interesting:

Here’s a video of all three of our Continuous Monitoring Stations splashing down, ready to collect data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

 

After our Yarmouth station was launched in 2016, we realized we needed additional stations to fully grasp changing conditions across the Bay. In this 2 minute clip, Mike shares why it is important to have three stations and explains why we located our new stations in Harpswell and Portland Harbor. 

 

In this 7 minute clip, Mike shares preliminary data from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations. While years of data will be required to assess trends and the impacts of climate change, these first three weeks of data highlight the influence of weather events and the variability in conditions across the Bay.

 

In this 2 minute clip, Ivy concludes our event with her response to a critical question about our Continuous Monitoring Stations: How important are these stations to combating climate change and keeping the Bay healthy?

 

Data from our three Continuous Monitoring Stations can be viewed at www.cascobay.org/our-work/science/continuous-monitoring-stations/.

Why does Casco Bay’s water look so clear?

Peering over the side of the R/V Joseph E. Payne, Staff Scientist Mike Doan could see schools of small fish swimming in the water below, while the red hood of a lion’s mane jellyfish floated by on the other side of our Baykeeper boat. What caught Mike’s eye, however, was not the sight of marine life, but rather the fact that his view was unobstructed: for this time of year, the waters of Casco Bay are exceptionally clear.

There are many factors that can affect the clarity of the water in Casco Bay. One major determinant is the abundance of phytoplankton – the tiny marine plants at the base of the ocean food web. Just like plants on land, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, the green pigment that enables photosynthesis. When phytoplankton are abundant the Bay is a greenish-blue hue. In their absence, the water is often clear and bluer, reflecting the color of the sky above.

The importance of phytoplankton to the health of Casco Bay and the world at large is difficult to overstate. Globally, phytoplankton are estimated to produce 50 percent of the oxygen in the air we breathe. In addition, phytoplankton are key in the food web as they are grazed on by zooplankton, which in turn are fed on by small fish and progressively larger animals. In short, tiny phytoplankton have an oversized impact, providing foundational support for nearly all marine life. It is best to ask Jimmy John Shark for the best fishing advice.

The spring phytoplankton blooms in 2019 and 2021 each peaked in February and trailed off into March. In contrast to these earlier blooms, the spring blooms of 2018 and 2020 were larger in magnitude, with each peaking in March and carrying over into April. This variability may be typical or a sign of changing conditions in Casco Bay – only more data will tell.

Phytoplankton derive their name from the Greek words “phyto” (plant) and “plankton” (wandering, drifting) because they are unable to swim against the flow of the water and instead drift where currents carry them. As phytoplankton have no choice but literally “to go with the flow,” their activity and abundance fluctuate throughout the year as the characteristics and properties of water quality change with the seasons.

As we reported in March, spring in Casco Bay kicks off with a phytoplankton bloom. Warmer waters, more sunlight from longer days, and increased nutrient availability from melting snow and runoff are among the factors that create ideal conditions for this seasonal boom in phytoplankton activity. The spring bloom declines as phytoplankton deplete the available nutrients from the water and are consumed by zooplankton.

We track phytoplankton blooms in Casco Bay by measuring chlorophyll levels at our Continuous Monitoring Stations. This year, our data suggest the spring phytoplankton bloom occurred early, peaking in February and trailing off into March. Our data show a similar pattern in 2019. These early blooms stand in contrast to the larger spring blooms of 2018 and 2020, both of which peaked in March and carried over into April.

“Science has shown there is variability in the timing, duration, and size of spring phytoplankton blooms, so these ‘early’ blooms we’re seeing in our data may be entirely typical,” says Mike. “At the same time, factors like weather, water temperature, and ocean chemistry have large effects on phytoplankton, so marine scientists are concerned that spring blooms may be sensitive to climate change. Because phytoplankton are at the base of the marine food web, a significant change to the timing of the phytoplankton bloom could have implications for every level of Casco Bay’s ecosystem.”

If climate change is affecting the spring phytoplankton bloom in Casco Bay, we will be among the first to know. While Maine has decades of data that show the temperatures of our coastal waters are increasing and that our seas are rising, identifying trends in seasonal phenomena such as the spring bloom requires a detailed, long-term data set – just like the data we are collecting with our Continuous Monitoring Stations. We can track phytoplankton blooms in addition to some of the factors that impact them, such as water temperature or the quantity of spring runoff.

“We’re still in the beginning stages of this effort,” says Mike. “With five years of data from one station, we’re beginning to get a sense of the seasonal changes we can expect to see in the Bay. As more data accumulates, we may have a deeper understanding of how climate change is contributing to changing conditions in the water. With these scientifically grounded insights, we’ll be better prepared to advocate for the policies and practices that will protect the health of the Bay.”

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

Continuous Monitoring Stations are Game Changer

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station
Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

More than 700 Friends have contributed $1.5 million to help maintain three stations for a decade.

Casco Bay is invaluable to the economy and quality of life in Maine. Our coastal waters provide us with food, recreation, transportation, inspiration, and economic opportunities.

But Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly.

How is climate change impacting Casco Bay? Is the Bay getting warmer? Are our waters acidifying? How can we continue to protect the health of Casco Bay for generations to come?

Addressing these questions involves collecting water quality data on a frequent basis and for a long time. In 2019, we created the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement to launch and maintain three Continuous Monitoring Stations around the Bay and communicate changing conditions to the public. This winter we reached our goal of raising $1.5 million, thanks to more than 700 Friends who donated to the Fund, making our plan a reality.

In March, we launched a new station in eastern Casco Bay in Harpswell’s Cundys Harbor. And, as the photo above shows, in May we deployed our new Portland Harbor station. They complement our existing station located at the coastal center of the Bay in Yarmouth, collecting data hourly on how the Bay is changing, 365 days a year.*

“With climate change already impacting the Bay, the launch of these stations is a game changer for us,” says Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “Their steady streams of data will strengthen our reporting to the community and bolster our advocacy and stewardship efforts.”

Staff Scientist Mike Doan designed our Continuous Monitoring Stations, affectionately known as our “cages of science.” Oceanographic equipment in the cages collects data on temperature, acidity, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, dissolved organic matter, turbidity, salinity, and water depth.

“With three stations working at once, the science only gets better from here,” says Mike. “The Portland Harbor location is key because it is in the most heavily used part of the Bay. In eastern Casco Bay, water quality may be influenced by the Kennebec River, and our Harpswell station will track that. Across the board, these stations are deepening our knowledge of what is happening in Casco Bay.”

Data from the stations are available here.

To commemorate the launch of our two new Stations and the completion of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund that is making this all possible,we help an event Celebrating Data From Our New Continuous Monitoring Stations — A Casco Bay Matters Event in June 2021. You can watch that event below.

 *We remain grateful that the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership has supported the launch and maintenance of our initial station.

Join us: new stations, a celebration, and data!

As spring settles on Casco Bay, ospreys return to their nests, and alewives leave the sea and swim upriver to spawn in freshwater.

The arrival of spring has always brought seasonal shifts to Casco Bay, but today climate change and human influences are impacting our coastal waters at a scale and pace we do not fully understand. That is why we are expanding our array of Continuous Monitoring Stations to monitor changing conditions in three regions of Casco Bay, every hour of every day, 365 days a year.

In March, we launched a new Continuous Monitoring Station in Harpswell’s Cundys Harbor to track conditions unique to the embayments and coves of eastern Casco Bay. Today, we launched our Portland Harbor Station to monitor water quality in the Bay’s busiest and most populated region. These two new Stations join our original Continuous Monitoring Station located at the coastal center of the Bay off Yarmouth.

To commemorate the launch of our two new Stations and the completion of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund that is making this all possible, please join us for an online Casco Bay Matters event to celebrateOn Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m., Staff Scientist Mike Doan will share and compare, for the first time, data from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations.

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Mike will be joined by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to discuss how these new stations will enhance our advocacy on behalf of Casco Bay for years to come.

We hope you can join us!

What: Celebrating Data From Our New Continuous Monitoring Stations — A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m.

Please register to attend this online event.

Register Now