Salinity in parts per thousand (ppt)
Salinity is the saltiness of seawater — the amount of salts dissolved in water, measured in parts per thousand. The open ocean averages 35 ppt (that is 3.5% saltiness) and the Casco Bay estuary typically ranges from 5 to 33 ppt. Salinity levels are influenced by tides and the volume of fresh water and runoff flowing into the Bay. Marine life in estuaries such as Casco Bay normally can tolerate a larger range of salinity than those living in the open ocean.
Dissolved Oxygen in milligrams per liter (mg/L)
Dissolved oxygen (DO) measures how much oxygen is available to marine life. When the concentration of Dissolved Oxygen falls below 5.5 mg/L (5.5 milligrams of oxygen dissolved in one liter of seawater), fish and other marine life can become stressed. Dissolved Oxygen levels less than 2.0 mg/L may be life-threatening to marine animals.
Dissolved Oxygen Percent Saturation (%)
Dissolved Oxygen Percent Saturation is a measure of oxygen. When water holds all the oxygen it can at a given temperature and salinity, it is said to be 100% saturated. Dissolved Oxygen Percent Saturation compares the actual dissolved oxygen concentration compared to the theoretical 100% saturation of dissolved oxygen concentration under the measured temperature and salinity conditions.
Chlorophyll Fluorescence in micrograms per liter (µg/L)
Measurements of chlorophyll—the green pigment that enables plants to photosynthesize—provide an estimate of phytoplankton abundance. Phytoplankton are the tiny marine plants that are at the bottom of the ocean food chain.
pH is a measure of the acidity of seawater. As more carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean from the burning of fossil fuels and the decomposition of marine plants, the pH of the water drops, becoming more acidic. Ocean acidification threatens the ability of marine life such as clams, mussels, and oysters, to grow healthy shells. Pure fresh water has a pH of 7; typically, seawater pH is between 7.5 and 8.4. Casco Bay receives a lot of fresh water and runoff, resulting in lower pH measurements.
Partial Pressure of Carbon Dioxide in parts per million (pCO2)
Partial Pressure of Carbon Dioxide is a measure of the amount of Carbon Dioxide dissolved in the water, which varies with alkalinity, latitude, depth, and temperature. In addition, marine plants can add carbon dioxide to the water through respiration and remove it via photosynthesis. Dissolved Carbon Dioxide can also be exchanged with the atmosphere. Data on carbon dioxide, which has an impact on the acidity of our coastal waters, support our work to protect the health of Casco Bay.
Total Alkalinity* in millimoles per kilogram (mmol/kg)
Total Alkalinity is a measure of the buffering capacity of the water, indicating how resistant the ocean is to acidification.
Dissolved Inorganic Carbon* in millimoles per kilogram (mmol/kg)
Dissolved Inorganic Carbon is the sum of the concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, Carbonate, and Bicarbonate in the water. This is one of the parameters that provides a more complete picture of acidification in the Bay.
Omega Aragonite assesses the state of calcium carbonate in suspension in the water. Calcium carbonate is the material that marine life such as clams and oysters use to build their shells. When the level of Omega Aragonite in seawater falls below 1.5, it can be difficult for shell-bearing marine organisms to build and maintain their shells.
On July 20, 2016, our Continuous Monitoring Station began recording data hourly, 365 days a year. We are excited to share the first two and half years of data, collected at our water quality monitoring site in Yarmouth, near the coastal midpoint of Casco Bay. We will update these graphs monthly, so come back… Read more
Friends of Casco Bay’s newest workhorse—our Continuous Monitoring Station (CMS)—has been amassing hourly data on the health of the Bay for over two years now. Research Associate Mike Doan is excited to be able to look at the daily, weekly, and seasonal changes in the Bay in far more detail… Read more
Watch this short video about the Cage of Science! You may know that Friends of Casco Bay’s Continuous Monitoring Station—AKA our “Cage of Science”—gives us vital data about the health of the Bay. But did you also know that observations of what sea life is growing on and hanging out… Read more
The Care and Maintenance of Our Submerged Monitor
The only way to collect reliable data is to employ impeccable data collection methods. To that end, Mike swaps out the data sonde with freshly calibrated sensors, on a rigorously adhered to schedule. Our goal is to be able to capture 8,760 hourly data sets each year, or as close to that as equipment conditions allow.
Mike hauls up the anchored cage of devices and uploads to his laptop the data from the carbon dioxide sensor. He scrapes off marine hitchhikers, such as sea stars, tunicates, and algae, and makes note of any invasive species attached to the equipment or the cage. He often exclaims “It is amazing how fast sea creatures occupy any available surface under water, including our instruments!”
He swaps the data sonde for the one with freshly calibrated sensors, and checking to make sure the devices are secured, he then lowers the cage back onto the ocean floor. The retrieved data sonde is brought back to our lab, the data is downloaded and housed, and the sonde and its sensors are cleaned, soon to be re-calibrated for re-deployment. Such attention to detail provide quality assurance about the accuracy of the data.