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A New Tool Trending in Casco Bay

Continuous Monitoring Station being pulled from the waterMany people get excited about bringing home a new electronic gizmo, like a smartphone, a hoverboard, or a drone. Acquiring one of these gadgets couldn’t match the excitement here when UPS recently delivered a new, high-tech, scientific instrument to Friends of Casco Bay.

Research Associate Mike Doan gleefully unwrapped our new water quality monitoring tool— a “partial pressure CO2 sensor”—an electronic device that can measure carbon dioxide in seawater.

This new sensor has been deployed next to our data sonde which measures pH (acidity), salinity, temperature, chlorophyll, and oxygen. Both instruments will collect data hourly, year-round, for decades to come. The carbon dioxide data, in conjunction with pH readings, will help us better understand the dynamics of coastal acidification here in Casco Bay.

Our water quality monitoring program was created over 25 years ago to collect data on the health of Casco Bay waters, with transects across the Bay by staff scientists monthly, and data collected by citizen scientists at dozens of shoreside sites on ten selected Saturdays. Those valuable data provide snapshots of the health of the Bay and alert us to trouble spots.

With climate change influencing weather and waters around the world, we felt the need for a stream of data that would allow us to ask deeper questions. With our new tools, we are now able to collect more frequent, real-time data that will help to identify trends in the chemistry of Casco Bay. Having more data on nitrogen and carbon dioxide, both of which impact the acidity of our coastal waters, will aid not only our advocacy and education, but also the work of other scientists, government officials, and activists working to protect Casco Bay.

We chose to anchor our first comprehensive, continuous monitoring station in Yarmouth. We are thinking of naming this new fixture in the bay Kolpos, which is Greek for bay. Purchase of this high-tech addition to our water quality monitoring program was made possible by Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, the Horizon Foundation, and the generous support of our members. As funding allows, we will place additional stations in Portland Harbor at the western end of the Bay and Harpswell in the eastern end.

And, as always, we will continue to rely on the data that our staff and volunteers collect, as we have since our water quality monitoring program began more than 25 years ago.