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Historic Citizen Steward Water Quality Monitoring

Friends of Casco Bay has been collecting data on the environmental health of Casco Bay for over 25 years. Volunteers have been a vital part of our work through our Citizen Stewards Program. Below we discuss the details of the Citizen Stewards Program that started in 1992 and continued through the 2017 sampling season. You can read more about the history of our entire Water Quality Monitoring Program or our current science work.

Our Water Quality Monitoring initially was designed to address: How healthy is the Bay? Where are the problem areas?  

Spatial, episodic monitoring by volunteers provided a “snapshot” of the environmental health of the Bay. Volunteers measured dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, water clarity, and pH (the level of acidity of the water).

Volunteer Citizen Stewards sampled surface waters from shore from April through October

Athena assisting her grandfather Don Gower with his water quality monitoring.

The data were collected by volunteer citizen scientists, whom we trained to rigorous specifications (using a Quality Assurance Project Plan). These stewards used Secchi disks and water quality test kits specifically designed by us as “Casco Bay kits” with the help of LaMotte Company.

After pulling up buckets of seawater at their shoreside sites, volunteers carefully mixed chemicals, titrated, and flocculated, to get measurements for dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, temperature, and water clarity. They would devote more than an hour at a time to monitor their assigned stations, at appointed times in both the morning and afternoon, on ten Saturdays from April through October.

Their data enabled us to identify when and where we were most likely to find water quality variations throughout the sampling season. These data, along with other staff collected data, helped us address our early questions, “How healthy is the Bay?” and “Where are the most challenged regions of the Bay?”

These data have:

  • Provided critically important baseline data; we continue to build on this data set at key sites around the Bay
  • Buttressed our advocacy and community outreach to tighten environmental protections for Casco Bay 
  • Enabled us to create an annual Health Index of the Bay using Citizen Stewards data
  • Identified areas where further study is needed
  • Showed that the water quality of certain areas of the Bay have consistently remained healthy or challenged:
    • Portland Harbor, the New Meadows embayment, and Harraseeket River mouth showed the poorest water quality

How the data have been used

Because the program follows an EPA-approved quality assurance plan and the data is scientifically sound, it is sought-after by other researchers, state officials, and policy makers. For example, our oxygen data has been used to determine the Clean Water Act “grade” that the State assigns to a water body and the amount of pollution that is allowed to be dumped into the state’s coastal waters. Our data convinced the State Legislature to upgrade the water body classifications for parts of Portland Harbor from the lowest grade, SC, to a healthier SB. Our data also helped to increase protection for The Basin, a popular anchorage in Phippsburg, raising its classification from SB to SA, the highest level of water quality protection.

Once an area has been upgraded, state law prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants that would degrade the water quality of that water body. What does that mean for those who swim, fish, and play in the Bay? A pledge to limit pollution from sewage treatment plants, industrial facilities, and other dischargers.

The data collected by our citizen scientists helps provide an appraisal of the overall health of the Bay, summarized in the Casco Bay Health Index. We created the Casco Bay Health Index as a reliable, easy to visualize overview of the health of the Bay that enables us to identify where problems exist. The Health Index allows us to rank the water quality of each site we sample as Good, Fair, or Poor. In problem areas, low oxygen levels, murky water that prevents sunlight from penetrating deep into the water, and rising acidity levels are recipes for troubled waters. We may not be able to identify the causes of these changes, but our monitoring efforts do show where problems lurk.

Interactive Casco Bay Health Index

Why sample twice a day?

Citizen Stewards sampled at 7 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. Sampling twice a day throughout spring, summer, and fall provides a unique opportunity to assess daily fluctuations. Water quality typically changes from a “worst case” to a “best case” scenario as the day progresses. Knowing that helps us better understand the rhythm of the Bay. The water quality tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the afternoon as oxygen levels in the water increase, pH rises.

Throughout the day, microscopic plants called phytoplankton absorb sunlight and photosynthesize, releasing oxygen into the water. At night, the process is reversed; phytoplankton absorb oxygen from the water.  Our data shows that water chemistry is clearly impacted by this cycle of photosynthesis and respiration, and the decomposition of phytoplankton.

Some areas of the Bay experience dramatic daily swings in oxygen, and pH. Often these regions, such as narrow embayments in eastern Casco Bay, are where we find substantial crops of phytoplankton thriving in the water column. When these phytoplankton die and decay, the bacteria that break them down consume oxygen from the water, which other marine life needs. At times, the oxygen levels may get so low that it stresses marine organisms and has even led to fish kills.

Decomposition of these marine plants can also release more carbon dioxide, raising the acidity of the sea water. This makes it harder for baby clams and other shellfish to build their protective shells.

Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris

Thank you to all of our Citizen Steward Water Quality Monitoring Program Volunteers!

We’ve had so many wonderful and dedicated Citizen Stewards over the years. If you were ever a Citizen Steward Water Quality Monitoring Program Volunteer with us and you are not listed below, we apologize and ask that you please let us know by calling the office at (207) 799-8574 or emailing keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Seth Adams
Sarah Adley
Cyndi Albert
Jancie Albright
Caroline Allam
Roger Allen
Colby Allred
Mark Anderson
Carole Ansheles
Sam Applegate
Garth Armstrong
Beth Ash
Johanna Babb
Debby Bailey
Patricia Bailey
Patrick Balzano
Shane Barden
Bill Barker
Denny Barrantes
Samantha Barrett
Megan Bauer
Rob Becker
Brian Beckman
Ed Benedikt
Jane Benesch
Andrew Bertocci
Maggie Bertocci
Henry Bird
Lucy Birkett
Sara Biron
Anne Bishop
Scott Bodwell
Sarah Boehm
Erno Bonebakker
Codi Booher
Ann Bowdoin
Nan Bragg
Susan Bragg
David Brenneman
Roberta Brezinski
Stephen Brezinski
Steve Brock
Tim Brosnihan
Annie Brown
Jennifer Brown
Liz Brown
Michelle Brown
Terry Brownewell
Jan Brudzinski
Tom Brudzinski
Corey Bryant
James Burke
Craig Burnell
Keith Butterfield
Lynn Callahan
Justin Campbell
Lisa Card
Max Card
Linda Cardente
Sarah Carlson
Erik Carson
Greg Carter
Robert Cary
Ann Casady
Catherine Cech
Andy Chakoumakes
Chip Chandler
Craig Chapin
Ansel Chritchfield
Jared Chute
Hanna Ciechomski
Paul Ciejka
Rebecca Clark
Jeff Clements
Joshua Clukey
Sarah Coburn
Julie Cockley
Jane Colby
Lincoln Colby
Steve Cole
Stephanie Cole
Strand Conover
Joan Cook
Mike Cooney
Crystal Cooper
Kim Cotton
Elizabeth Coughlin
Sam Cousins
Nancy Craig
Bob Crane
Tim Cronin
Ted Curtis
Michelle Daley
Peg Daly
Leslie Dame
Roger David
Chris Davis
Carol Lynn Davis
Jim Davis
Deb Dawson
Larry L. Dearborn
Deb Debiegun
Michael Decoteau
Michael DeCourcey
Kathryn Deneroff
Karen DeNitto
Jay Desmond
Derek Devereaux
Bill Dillon
Karin Distant

Mike Doan
Arthur Dodge
Garvan Donegan
Eliza Donoghue
Henry Donovan
William Dooley
Paul Dostie
Eva Douglas
Artie Duncanson
Tish Dutson
Leslie Eastman
Dan Emery
Amos Eno
Marjorie Eno
Lynne Espy
Will Everitt
Paul Fagan
Zac Fait
Peter Farnsworth
Phyllis Farr
Bill Ferdinand
Claire Filliettaz
Abby Finamore
Stephen L. Flannery
Iliana Flefel
Scott Fletcher
Jan Flinterman
Kathy Floyd
Andrew Fowler
Martha Friberg
Ed Friedman
Cheryl Gagnon
Kevin Gallagher
Pam Galvin
Peter Galvin
Ray Gamache
Jennifer Gardner
Brian Gehan
Pam Gerbi
Ray Gerbi
Aimee Giles
Susan Gilpin
Anna Ginn
Susan Gladstein
Devi Glick
Gary Glick
Hillary Glick
Kathy Glick
Laura Goepfert
Roy Gorman
Melissa Gormley
Laura Gottfried
Laura Gottfried
Don Gower
Lucy Gower
Nathan Gray
Peter Green
Joan Greene
Keith Greenwood
Field Griffith
Joy Grillon
Bill Grubb
Elissa Guerette
Hans Hackett
Fred Hagan
Cyrus Hagge
Emily Haggett
Spike Haible
John Hall
Edward Ham
Kalley Hansel
Nate Hansen
Meredith Harding
Kelly Harmon
Ned Hatfield
Emily Hauser
Ed Hawes
Cara Hayes
Linda Heaney
Sam Heck
Laura Hench
David Hennessey
Jim Hennessey
Ashley Herrick
Bryn Herrigel
John Herrigel
Michael Heskanen
Joe Hesse
Anne Hewes
Adam Higgins
Bill Higgins
Thirza Hill
Russ Hoffman
Mary Holman
John Holmes
Ed Holt
Gretchen Holt
Jessica Holton
Eric L. Horne
Peter J. Horne
Debora Houdek
Elizabeth Howe
Julie Howison
Bob Huber
Carol Huleatt
Hugh Huleatt
Shannon Hulst
Helen Hurgin
Marjorie Hurley
Justin Huston

Victoria Hutchinson
Jeffrey Inman
Jeanne Irwin
Bernadette Iuliucci
Eva Jacobs
Richard Jacobs
Darlene Jarrell
Nina Jarrell
Lincoln Jeffers
John Jenne
Peter Jensen
Alex Johnston
Pam Joy
Cheri Juniewicz
Jon Kachmar
Ronnie Kamphausen
Ellen Kanner
Kristal Karatsanos
Stephen Karpiak
JB Kavaliauskas
Joe Keierleber
Tom Kelley
Dot Kelly
Jasson Kenosky
Keenan Kent
Kristen Kindsvogel
Sarah Kirn
Pete Kotkas
Laura Kuhl
Kate Lagios
Kate Lane
James Lash
Gary Laverdiere
Carol Lavigne
Diane Lawton
Griffin Leach
Frank Leavitt
Mary Ann Leavitt
Reginald Lebel
Theresa Lebel
Kalyn LeBlanc
Lauren Leclerc
Tamara Lee
Joseph Leighton
Patrick Leslie
Beth Lewis
Matthew Lewis
Vallie Lewis
Mark Lickus
Sarah Lindeman
Rod Lindsay
Debbi Lipton-Morin
Lucy Lloyd
Krista Longnecker
Katherine Loren
Susan Love
Dani Lovett
Morgan Lozier
Bill Luneburg
Ian MacDonald
Sarah Maciejewski
Wayne MacKeil
Nicholas Maddaffer
Josh Madeira
Patricia Maloney
Kerford Marchant
Linda Marchant
Joe Mariano
John Mathieu
Stacey Mathieu
Helen Mattsson
Jo McCartan
Scott McCaullif
Deborah McCoy
Sheila McDonald
Christopher McEntee
Karen McEntee
Althea McGirr
Bob McGirr
Mick McGivaren
Joshua McKim
Darren McLellan
Heather McLennan
Nini McManamy
Robert McManus
Lise McMillan
Bevin McNulty
Will Meacham
James Meagher
Jessie Meeks
Rick Meisenbach
Wendy Menard
Peter Merrill
Meghan Mette
Tom Metzler
Wally Meuse
Rusty Milholland
Charlie Miller
Geri Miller
Tom Miller
Diane Milliken
Scott Milliken
Jon Mitchell
Linda Mitchell
Martha Mixon
Robert Monks
Joe Moore
Mike Mora
Dodge Morgan
Michael Morrison

David Morton
Tom Moulton
Eric Moynihan
Kevin Moynihan
Eric Moynihan
Caitlin Mullan
Kailee Mullen
MaryLee Mullen
Judith Mulligan
Melissa Mullineaux
Meaghan Murphy
Henry Myers
Carol Nale
Jack Nealand
Sallie Nealand
Diane Neff
Cathy Nichols
Richard Nickerson
Jill Night
Helen Norton
Nena Norton
Walter Norton
Richard Noyes
Tom O’Connor
Kim Odell
Jon Olmstead
Nancy Olmstead
Jakob O’Neal
Lynn O’Neal
Maddie Ostwald
Devin Page
Karen Palin
Edie Pallozzi
Paula Palmer
Peter Pappas
Laura Paradise
JoAgnes Pasquarella
Mac Passano
Evan Patierno
George Patterson
Sandra Paul
Robbie Pawle
Timothy V. Payeur
Jasselle K. Payeur
Mary Payne
Paul Payne
Alida Payson
Anne Michalec Payson
David Pedersen
Lucy Pedersen
Anne Perry
John Perry
Erik Peterson
Jane Peterson
Walter Phillips
Russ Pinizzotto
Eli Pitegoff
Melinda Plastas
Louis Plough
Cheri Popoff
Laura Presby
Debora Price
Susan Pulsifer
Margaret Punsalan
William Putnam
Maureen Quigley
Stephen Quigley
Tom Quinby
Norm Rasulis
Katie Rawls
Laurel Regan
Richard Regan
Lauren Rice
Lynne Richard
Ward Ricker
Jerry Rideout
Katrina Rideout
Sheila Rideout
Nathanial Rindlaub
Bob Rio
Rachel Robinov
Dave Robinson
John Roderick
Greta Rodrick
Rachel Rodrigues
Meghan Rosenberg
Charlotte Rosenthal
Amanda Ross
Emily Ross
Tracy Ross
Kim Roth
Suzanne Roy
Josh Royte
Jesse Russell
Gerhard Saas
Jordi Saint John
Katrina Saint John
Mathiew Scease
Kari Schank Moore
Dianne Schepis
Peter Schwindt
Emily Scott
Meghan Scribner
Tim Seavey
Ken Segal
Robert Sellin
Ann Semonite
Laura Sewall
Stephen Shane
Sue Shane

Kristel Sheesley
Jim Sidel
Susan Sidel
Oliver Silverson
Ed Simmons
Jeff Simmons
Alison Skoczenski
Davida Sky
Dashiell Slabbert
Maggie Small
Judy Smith
Russell Smith
Scott Smith
Mark Snowden
Nick Soloway
Nicholas Soloway
Don Song
Judy Southworth
Marisa Sowles
Lauren Sproul
Robin Stanley
Dick Stevens
Alex Sturtevant
Rachel Sukeforth
Kevin Sullivan
Wendy Sullivan
Meghan Suslovic
Perry Sutherland
Casey Swan
Shap Sweeney
Amy Sweetser
Tom Talarico
Joan Tancrede
Roland Tancrede
John Taxter
Carol Taylor
Richard Taylor
Mary Beth Teas
Elizabeth Thompson
Jack Thompson
Sandy Thompson
Kristina Thorpe
Anna Marie Thron
Dan Thurber
David Thurston
Debra Tierney
Kate Tierney
Dan Tipton
John Todd
Veronica (Nica) Todd
Gina Toman
Theresa Torrent
Kevin Town
Robert Travis
Amy Grant Trefethen
Barry Tripp
Ellen Tripp
Sally Tubbesing
Carol Tukey
Jessie Turner
Sue Vachon
Ellen Van Fleet
John Van Orden
Vanessa VanDeusen
Dawn Varlotta
Eric Varney
Ricky Verill
Amanda Verrill
Stephanie Vesey
Jill Victor
Bob Waddle
Michol Waddle
Casey Wade
Robin Walden
Kate Wall
Meg Warren
Corie Washaw
Seth Washburn
Melissa Waterman
Deanne Watson
Jim Wazlaw
Kristen Wazlaw
Sean Wazlaw
Kathleen Welter
SarahRose Werner
Nancy West
Natalie West
Jeanie Wester
Steve Westra
Barbara Whidden
Meredith White
Robert Whiteford
Deirdre Whitehead
Chris Whiting
Steven Whitney
Steven Whittaker
Steve Wilbur
Lisa Willey Critchfield
Mary Williams
Tom Williams
Lisa Wilson
Mary-Agnes Wine
Frank Wnek
Ted Wolfe
Anne Wood
Mark Worthing
Rita Worthing
Harry Wright
Ethan Yusim
Sandy Zimmerman

Learn more about our current science efforts:

Friends Appreciation Celebration and Members Annual Meeting

March 21, 2019

It takes a community to protect the health of the Bay! Please come celebrate with us. Read more

See what is going on beneath the surface. Check out our data!

January 23, 2019

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

Water Temperatures Are Changing in Casco Bay

November 13, 2018

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

Spring Blooms in Casco Bay

June 26, 2018

What signs tell you that spring has arrived? Grass turning green? A robin in your yard? Ospreys returning to their nests? What about huge blooms of phytoplankton in Casco Bay? The chlorophyll fluorescence measurements in the graph above were recorded by our Continuous Monitoring Station, which has been in place… Read more

Spring starts early in Casco Bay!

February 15, 2018

  It may be hard to believe if you have spent any time outside this chilly winter, but spring likely has sprung in the waters of Casco Bay. By January, the lengthening daylight has jumpstarted the growth of phytoplankton, the single-celled plants that are the foundation of the ocean food… Read more

Volunteers do a great service to Casco Bay

January 25, 2018

More than 125 volunteers and supporters of Friends of Casco Bay came to the Volunteer Appreciation Celebration on January 23, to recognize those who give their time to monitor the water quality of the Bay, clean up shorelines, stencil storm drains, participate in community outreach events, and serve on its Board.… Read more