If you have ever tried to pick the right shade of green to paint your bedroom, you know there are soothing greens and greens you would never want to wake up to. The same holds true in the ocean.
Algae is one of those “greens” that can be a sign of a healthy ecosystem; but large areas of mudflats may become covered in a nightmarish bright green when algal growth is fueled by too much nitrogen in the water.
In 2019, as the water warmed from spring through fall, volunteers in our Water Reporter observing network tracked algal blooms that appeared in 18 different locations around Casco Bay. The photos they took on their smartphones documented changes throughout the summer, as the algal blooms expanded to worrisome levels in many coves from Cape Elizabeth to Harpswell and West Bath.
In 2017, we tracked algal growth at five sites. We do not have enough historical data to know whether nuisance algal blooms are expanding or simply that we are getting better at tracking more sites, thanks to our growing network of Water Reporters.
In any case, nuisance and harmful algal blooms are an increasing concern. Water Reporters are already discovering and tracking sightings in 2020!
Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman oversees our Water Reporter program. This year, Sarah hopes to recruit additional volunteers to our band of intrepid Water Reporters who track algal blooms. “Each volunteer will adopt a specific Bay location to observe weekly. Images of algae from the ‘good’ amounts to ‘concerning’ amounts are helpful because we can’t predict where and when a small patch of algae may become a nuisance algal bloom.”
Currently, there are 205 volunteers in our Water Reporter network. Together, they have recorded 991 observations about Casco Bay. If you are interested, learn more at cascobay.org/water-reporter.