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Coastal Cleanup at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day

Join us at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day!

When: Saturday, September 15, 2018

Where: Bug Light Park

Questions? Email Sarah at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org

Do you want to help keep Casco Bay clean? Volunteer to help out at our public coastal cleanup!

Trash is an unsightly blight that makes it hard for everyone to enjoy a special place like Casco Bay. Litter and marine debris on our shores come from many sources. Careless beach goers, boaters, fishing vessels, and other ships can leave trash behind. Stormwater washes trash from yards and parking lots into storm drains that empty into Casco Bay.

When you volunteer to help us with a cleanup, you are:

  • Collecting data on the types and size of materials removed
  • The data is then used locally and internationally for marine debris advocacy efforts
  • Making our shores cleaner and safer
  • Ensuring our coast is a place people can go to recreate and relax
  • Helping protect wildlife
  • Supporting the local economy as our coast is part of Maine’s brand; it as an ideal tourist attraction that creates a stream of revenue that supports our community
  • Protecting our quality of life

Spring Blooms in Casco Bay

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 for almost two years.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is a measure that provides an estimate of phytoplankton abundance. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that traps the energy of the sun for photosynthesis.

The graph tells us that this year’s spring bloom of phytoplankton started around the same time as last year, but was bigger in magnitude this year than in 2017.

Why do we care about chlorophyll levels? Phytoplankton are the single-celled plants that make up the foundation of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton also provide half of all the oxygen we breath—so thank phytoplankton for every other breathe you take. You can read more about phytoplankton and chlorophyll in our recent post.

Photography by Kevin Morris

Every hour and every day, the Continuous Monitoring Station—a.k.a our “Cage of Science”—is building a more complete picture of the seasons beneath the Bay. Thanks to support from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and generous donors, the Station collects measurements of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll fluorescence year-round. Every other week, Research Associate Mike Doan cleans and calibrates the equipment, and downloads and graphs the data to track conditions in the Bay.

A New Way to Volunteer: Measure the Color of Casco Bay

From Homer’s “wine dark seas” to David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet,” the color of the ocean has held our fascination throughout the ages.

People often consider blue water as a sign of a healthy ocean and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. Turns out, color is a valuable indicator of the environmental health of our waters.

For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale to document the color of oceans and lakes. When seawater is clear and contains only a small amount of particulate matter and marine life, it can appear dark blue. When phytoplankton, the single-cell plants that provide about half the oxygen we breathe, are abundant in seawater, it can appear bluish-green. When the ocean is brown or yellow, it is likely that dissolved organic and inorganic materials are washing off the land.

Colleagues at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences tell us that the waters of the Gulf of Maine have become increasingly yellow over the last century.

While it is likely the color of Casco Bay is changing, too, not much data has been collected in our nearshore areas. So our plan is to mobilize scores of volunteers to collect hundreds of color measurements. The more measurements we collect, the more accurate our understanding of the Bay. If you want more scientific background on the Forel-Ule scale and the importance of measuring color, you can read this scientific journal article.

You can help!

We are putting a modern spin on this old way of assessing water quality. With a click of the camera on your cell phone, you can help address the question, “How is the Bay changing?”

As a volunteer, you will use a smartphone app containing the Forel-Ule color scale. Working around mid-day high tides, volunteers will use their smartphones to photograph and measure the color of the water. The data, along with location and time, become part of a worldwide catalog of water color.

Please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to join our email list and be notified when we roll out this new initiative.

Sign up to measure the color of Casco Bay

Please fill out the form below to join our email list and get the manual for Color By Numbers.
  • Volunteer Release and Waiver of Liability Form This Release and Waiver of Liability (the “release”) executed on the date this form is completed by the volunteer ("Volunteer") who completes this form releases Friends of Casco Bay, a nonprofit corporation existing under the laws of the State of Maine and each of its directors, officers, employees, and agents. The Volunteer desires to provide volunteer services for Friends of Casco Bay and engage in activities relating to serving as a volunteer to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Volunteer understands that the scope of Volunteer’s relationship with Friends of Casco Bay is limited to a volunteer position and that no compensation is expected in return for services provided by Volunteer; that Friends of Casco Bay will not provide any benefits traditionally associated with employment to Volunteer; and that Volunteer is responsible for his/her own insurance coverage in the event of personal injury or illness as a result of Volunteer’s service to Friends of Casco Bay.
    1. Waiver and Release: I, the Volunteer, release and forever discharge and hold harmless Friends of Casco Bay and its successors and assigns from any and all liability, claims, and demands of whatever kind of nature, either in law or in equity, which arise or may hereafter arise from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay. I understand and acknowledge that this Release discharges Friends of Casco Bay from any liability or claim that I may have against Friends of Casco Bay with respect to bodily injury, personal injury, illness, death, or property damage that may result from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    2. Insurance: Further I understand that Friends of Casco Bay does not assume any responsibility for or obligation to provide me with financial or other assistance, including but not limited to medical, health or disability benefits or insurance of any nature in the event of my injury, illness, death or damage to my property. I expressly waive any such claim for compensation or liability on the part of Friends of Casco Bay beyond what may be offered freely by Friends of Casco Bay in the event of such injury or medical expenses incurred by me.
    3. Medical Treatment: I hereby Release and forever discharge Friends of Casco Bay from any claim whatsoever which arises or may hereafter arise on account of any first-aid treatment or other medical services rendered in connection with an emergency during my tenure as a volunteer with Friends of Casco Bay.
    4. Assumption of Risk: I understand that the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay may include inherently dangerous activities that may be hazardous to me including, but not limited to water sampling and/or attending events that are near or on the ocean, slippery docks, rocks, piers, wharves, and boats. As a volunteer, I hereby expressly assume the risk of injury or harm from these activities and release Friends of Casco Bay from all liability for injury, illness, death, or property damage resulting from the services I provide as a volunteer and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    5. Photographic Release: I grant and convey to Friends of Casco Bay all rights, title, and interests in any and all photographs, images, video, or audio recordings of me or my likeness or voice made by Friends of Casco Bay in connection with my providing volunteer services to Friends of Casco Bay.
    6. Other: As a volunteer, I expressly agree that this Release is intended to be as broad and inclusive as permitted by the laws of the State of Maine and that this Release shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine. I agree that in the event that any clause or provision of this Release is deemed invalid, the enforceability of the remaining provisions of this Release shall not be affected.
    By completing this form and checking the box below, I express my understanding and intent to enter into this Release and Waiver of Liability willingly and voluntarily.
  • When you click the submit button below, you will be taken to a new page.
     

If you have already signed up by filling out the form above, you can see the manual here.

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

March 21, 2018

Senator Paul Davis
Representative Danny Martin
State and Local Government Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

Dear Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and Distinguished Members of the State and Local Government Committee:

Please accept this letter as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay in opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides. Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization formed over a quarter century ago to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our work involves education, advocacy, water quality monitoring, and collaborative partnerships.

A year ago we submitted testimony similar to today’s testimony, opposing LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides[1], a bill that would have eliminated municipal Home Rule to pass or implement pesticide-related ordinances. Although LD 1853 differs from LD 1505 by not explicitly referring to Home Rule, it implicitly guts it. LD 1853 provides that municipal pesticide ordinances cannot apply: (1) to commercial applicators and spray contracting firms or (2) to private applicators when the private applicators are producing agricultural or horticultural commodities. Horticulture means “the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants.”[2] Horticulture is: “[t]hat branch of agriculture concerned with growing plants that are used by people for food, for medicinal purposes, and for aesthetic gratification.”[3]

LD 1853 in essence removes the right of municipalities to pass pesticide ordinances for virtually any purpose. No ordinance can apply to commercial applicators. Nor can an ordinance apply to home applicators for basically any conceivable purpose, including weed-free lawns maintained for “aesthetic gratification.” For this reason, we respectfully request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass, the same recommendation that it made for LD 1505.

PESTICIDES IN CASCO BAY

Our previous testimony, attached as Exhibit A, details the sampling Friends of Casco Bay conducted to detect the presence or absence of pesticides in stormwater that flows into Casco Bay. In summary, over 8 years, our research identified 10 different pesticides at 14 locations around the Bay. None of the pesticides are listed as safe for use in marine environments. For example, these six toxic pesticides were detected:

2, 4-D: banned in five countries, this herbicide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and may be linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans.

Clopyralid: this herbicide has been linked to birth defects in animals.

Diazinon: banned from being sold to U.S. consumers but still legal for use, this insecticide has a high aquatic toxicity and is linked to reproductive problems.

Dicamba: found in groundwater throughout the U.S., this herbicide is toxic to fish and zooplankton.

MCPP: along with 2, 4-D, this herbicide is in the same family of chemicals as Agent Orange and is highly toxic to bay shrimp.

Propiconazole: this fungicide is a possible carcinogen.

Consistent with our mission to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay, we strongly believe these substances should not be discharged into our marine waters.

MAINE MUNCIPAL PESTICIDES ORDINANCES

The Maine Constitution grants Home Rule to municipalities.[4] Home Rule allows municipalities to exercise any power or function that the Legislature confers upon them, and that is not denied expressly or by clear implication.[5] With respect to pesticide ordinances, the Legislature requires a municipality to notify the Maine Board of Pesticide Control (BPC) when it intends to adopt an ordinance. In turn, the BPC must maintain a list of all municipal ordinances that specifically apply to pesticide storage, distribution or use.[6] Municipalities adopt ordinances through considerable public process.[7] For example, Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, served for nearly a year on a task force that helped Portland shape its recently enacted pesticide ordinance.[8]

As a result of this very thoughtful process, 29 of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities have enacted ordinances that narrowly restrict pesticide use to meet local needs.[9] It should be noted that none of these municipal ordinances out-right ban the use of pesticides. Here are some examples relevant to Casco Bay:

Brunswick prohibits use or storage of most pesticides other than for households and agriculture within the aquifer protection zone. The town also prohibits aerial applications other than public health applications performed under the auspices of the Town or State.  Exceptions may be approved by Codes Enforcement Officer.

Harpswell prohibits the use of the insect growth regulators (IGRs) diflubenzuron and tebufenozide and the aerial application of all IGRs and any insecticide whose product label indicates that it is harmful to aquatic invertebrates. The town also restricts the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

New Gloucester requires application to be consistent with DCAF standards.

Portland’s recently enacted ordinance will restrict the use of synthetic pesticides for all public and private turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. The ordinance takes effect for City property on July 1, 2018 and for private property on January 1, 2019. There are provisions for emergency exemptions.

South Portland curtails the use of pesticides for turf, landscape and outdoor pest management.[10]

Research revealed no legal challenges to these ordinances. They stand as a proper application of Home Rule and as excellent examples of municipalities crafting more protective regulation than federal and state law to protect the health of local residents, natural resources, and environmental concerns. LD 1853 should not be allowed to eviscerate this proper and necessary exercise of Home Rule.

For the reasons set forth above and in our prior testimony, we reiterate our request that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1853 ought not to pass.

Respectfully,

Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

CC: Jennifer Hall, Clerk

 

[1] See Friends of Casco Bay Testimony Oppose LD 1505, https://www.cascobay.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/05012017-FOCB-Testimony-Oppose-LD-1505-Final.pdf

[2] Merriam Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horticulture.

[3] https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resources/definition_of_specialty_crops.pdf.

[4] Maine Constitution, Art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1.

[5] CMP v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d 1189, 1192 (ME 1990); 30-A MRSA § 3001.

[6] 22 MRSA § 1471-U.

[7] See e.g. 30-A MRSA §§ 3001 et seq.

[8] https://www.cascobay.org/2018/02/06/protecting-bay-pesticides/.

[9] http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/public/municipal_ordinances.shtml.

[10] Id.

Spring starts early in Casco Bay!

Our Continuous Monitoring Station chronicles the rise and fall of microscopic blooms in Casco Bay. This graph of chlorophyll fluorescence tells us that the spring bloom of phytoplankton beneath the ocean happens well before plants on land emerge from beneath the snow.

 

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 web. Like plants on land, they respond to increasing sunlight by bursting into bloom. By mid-February, daylight has increased by over an hour since December 21st, and the phytoplankton are flourishing.

Last January, 2017, there was an early bloom of phytoplankton in Casco Bay. How do we know? Friends of Casco Bay maintains an underwater sentinel that collects information about the water of the Bay every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is our Continuous Monitoring Station.

We will soon be crunching the January-February 2018 data, looking for confirmation of this year’s phytoplankton bloom.

A modified lobster trap houses a carbon dioxide sensor and a data sonde, electronic devices that continually take the pulse of the Bay. Together, they provide evidence of how our coastal waters may be changing over time. This long-term monitoring station, fondly known as “the Cage of Science,” is anchored just above the sea floor off Cousins Island in Yarmouth.

We now have over a year of hourly data on oxygen levels, carbon dioxide, pH (the level of acidity of the water), salinity, temperature, water clarity, water depth, and chlorophyll fluorescence, a measure that provides an estimate of phytoplankton abundance. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that traps the energy of the sun for photosynthesis.

Phytoplankton provide food for the smallest zooplankton. These tiny floating animals are eaten by larger zooplankton, such as copepods, shrimplike creatures. Both phytoplankton and zooplankton are at the mercy of the currents, winds, and tides.

The data from the Continuous Monitoring Station documents the changes in the water’s chemistry as a result of these blooms. The net positive effect in Casco Bay over the course of the spring season is more oxygen and less acidic water, thanks to those early-blooming phytoplankton.

Beyond Casco Bay, in the Gulf of Maine, a circular current called a gyre distributes marine life around the Gulf. The gyre transports phytoplankton to where zooplankton are hatching, just in time to feed emerging copepods, which in turn feed baby fish, clams, and other sea creatures.

Success in the ocean food web, like in much of life, depends on being in the right place at the right time.

Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been in place for about a year and a half, too soon perhaps to provide data that might indicate whether or not Casco Bay’s food web is changing. Still, every hour and every day, our cage of science is building a more complete picture of the seasons beneath the Bay, giving us insight into how climate change may alter the food web of our coastal water in years to come.

Thank you to funders of this project, including Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Davis Conservation Foundation, Horizon Foundation, Schwartz Family Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and WEX. We also thank our Members and the many donors, local businesses, and foundations that give us operational support to do our work each year.

Your eyes on the Bay–new directions in citizen science

Casco Bay, like ocean waters around the world, is changing and changing quickly. We are evolving our water quality monitoring to stay on top of the science of how the Bay may be changing.

At our Volunteer Appreciation Celebration this week [click here for photos!], we announced that we are launching two pilot projects that will enable our volunteer citizen scientists to use new technologies to increase our knowledge of the changing conditions around Casco Bay.

We rely on people all around the Bay to relay to us changes they are observing. Our new initiatives are designed to engage more volunteer citizen scientists in collecting data and sharing their observations of a changing Casco Bay.

Initiative #1: Measuring the Color and Clarity of Casco Bay

We are launching a pilot program to enlist citizen scientists to help us measure the color and clarity of our waters.

For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale to document the color of oceans and lakes. People often consider blue water to indicate healthy oceans and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. In fact, scientists attest to color being an excellent indicator of what is happening in our oceans.

We are putting a modern spin on an old way of assessing water quality. We will train volunteers to use a specific smartphone app, as well as a Secchi disk. On tide-specific days and times, we will ask volunteers all around the Bay to use the app to take a photo of the water against the Secchi disk. Each volunteer will then compare the color of the water to an electronic version of the Forel-Ule scale built into the app. The protocols for this data collection are easy to follow, and the data helps address a question we often hear: “How is the Bay changing?”

We are launching this initiative because our colleagues at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences tell us that the waters of the Gulf of Maine have become increasingly yellow over the last century. We have seen heavy rains stain the surface waters of Casco Bay the color of tea. There is a lot of data on color and clarity for the Gulf of Maine, but not much has been collected in our nearshore areas.

Initiative #2: ON Casco Bay: Observing Network for Casco Bay

In 2017, we saw an alarming increase in the nuisance algal blooms in Casco Bay. Excessive amounts of algae covered the tidal flats, smothering animals underneath the mats, preventing juvenile clams from settling, increasing the acidity and lowering the oxygen levels of those flats.

This year, we want to be on the lookout for green slime outbreaks, and Casco Bay needs more eyes looking out for its health! Friends of Casco Bay staff cannot be everywhere.

Photograph by Kevin Morris

We will enlist volunteers to help us observe and keep track of nuisance outbreaks. To do that, volunteers simply need a smartphone and a commitment to keep their eyes focused on our changing Bay.

We will train volunteers to use an innovative smartphone app that will enable them to document, catalogue, organize, and share their observations of the Bay. This information will be useful in our collaborations with other scientists, in expanding our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and in our advocacy, to illustrate to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers changes happening around the Bay .

As this initiative evolves, we may ask volunteers to report any exciting, interesting or odd observations — from whales, osprey nests, or seals, to declines in eelgrass or mussel beds, clam die offs, jellyfish sightings, fish kills, invasive species outbreaks — you get the idea.

Stay Tuned

Be on the lookout for announcements regarding our training sessions on these pilot projects. We know that our longtime water quality monitors are eager to embark on a new adventure with us. We expect many new volunteers, who did not have the time to commit to our earlier water quality monitoring program, will jump aboard on one or both of these new efforts.

More eyes on the water and more advocates for its health are exactly what Casco Bay needs! In our experience, our volunteers are some of the most outspoken and well-spoken members of our community. We look forward to engaging more of you than ever. The commitment of volunteers will send ripple effects throughout towns around the Bay.

Keeping you up to date as we keep an eye on the Bay

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Casco Bay, like ocean water around the world, is changing and changing quickly.

We want you to know that we have changed our volunteer Citizen Stewards Program and our staff-led Water Quality Monitoring efforts in order to stay on top of the science of how the Bay may be changing.

When our organization started in 1989, no one knew the health of the Bay. That was the question we were asked—“How healthy is Casco Bay”—and that is what our first quarter-century of monitoring has enabled us to address.

Thanks to the data that hundreds of our volunteer Citizen Stewards have helped us collect over the past 25 years, in addition to data collected by our staff, we can identify where regions of the Bay are challenged, and where, generally speaking, the Bay is healthy. The snapshots of data volunteers collected are a key aspect of our Casco Bay Health Index and have been vital to our advocacy efforts. This 25-year data set has provided us with a solid foundation from which to launch this next phase of data collection.

Looking forward, our monitoring goals are to:

  • Understand how Casco Bay is changing with respect to climate change, ocean and coastal acidification, sea level rise, and other stressors
  • Conduct more intense data collection efforts in challenged regions of the Bay to try to understand why water quality is so poor, in places such as Portland Harbor and the mouth of the Harraseeket River
  • Involve more volunteers in our efforts to keep Casco Bay blue. While we are utilizing more technology to help us achieve our first two goals, technology will never replace the connections, energy, visibility, and goodwill that volunteers like you provide as ambassadors for the Bay.

In order to meet these goals, we are now monitoring Casco Bay through these four ways:

  1. Our Continuous Monitoring Station collects hourly data to help us address the question “How is Casco Bay changing?” We launched this station more than a year ago, and we are excited about how much we have learned about the Bay in a short time. We intend to keep this Station operating in perpetuity.
  2. Using data sonde technology, our staff will continue to collect data at 12 legacy volunteer Citizen Steward sites—these sites were chosen as representative of regions around the Bay and include healthy sites, challenged sites, and those in between. We think of this monitoring as “the Bay getting a checkup.” How are regions of the Bay doing? Are healthy areas remaining healthy? Are challenged areas continuing to show problems, or might they be improving?
  3. Using our Baykeeper boat, our staff will conduct more intensive efforts in challenged regions of the Bay. If you have seen our Health Index, you have seen that there are “red dot” areas. We are looking closer at those red dot areas and asking, “what may be causing the trouble?” We began this work in 2017, as we conducted transects, from surface to bottom, and across regions, in Portland Harbor and in the Harraseeket River. We will continue to look intensively at these regions.
  4. Using volunteer citizen scientists, we will engage the community to help us collect data and observations on a changing Casco Bay. Our volunteer program is going through a large transition. We are significantly changing the time commitments required to become a citizen scientist, and we are changing the parameters that volunteers collect. We will be asking Citizen Steward Volunteers to collect new kinds of data and record observations on changes in Casco Bay.

In 2016, you may remember that we organized a citizen science “flash mob to Nab Nitrogen.” The event was an incredible success, signaling that there is a huge reservoir of goodwill from people who want to help protect the health of the Bay and are willing to do that in short bursts of data collection efforts. We learned that we can count on our community to help us grab vast amounts of data if we make sampling easier and reduce the time commitment.

For example, we are piloting having volunteers measure the color of our waters as a biological indicator. The general public often considers blue water to indicate healthy oceans and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. In fact, scientists attest to color being an excellent indicator of what is happening in our oceans. For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule scale to document the color of oceans and lakes.

The color of our water, measured by this scale, can be an excellent environmental indicator. By using a specially designed smartphone app and a secchi disk, volunteers can help us collect scientific data on the color and clarity of our waters. The protocols for this data collection are easy to follow, and the data helps address a question we often hear: “How is the Bay changing?”

We will also ask volunteers to help us observe and keep track of nuisance and harmful algal outbreaks, which have plagued our waters these past two summers.

By revamping our volunteer monitoring efforts, we have the opportunity to broaden our network of knowledgeable ambassadors for our coastal waters—and make strides in our understanding of the Bay.

In our experience, our volunteers are some of the most active, outspoken, and well-spoken members of our community. We look forward to engaging more volunteers than ever this year. The commitment of these volunteers will send ripple effects through towns around the Bay.

What we have learned from 25 years of water quality data

Since 1992, more than 650 volunteers have gotten their hands wet in our Citizen Stewards Water Quality Monitoring Program, complementing the work of our staff scientists in assessing the environmental health of Casco Bay. This science is the foundation of much of our community engagement and advocacy efforts.

Volunteer Citizen Stewards measured dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, water clarity, and pH at nearly 40 shoreside sites on the same date and time on ten Saturdays from April through October, to create a simultaneous snapshot of surface conditions around the Bay.

Our staff scientists have monitored offshore at 10 stations, from surface to sea floor, aboard our research vessel, every month of the year.

The data allowed us to address these questions:

  • How healthy is the Bay?
  • Where are problem areas?
  • What influences the health of the Bay?

 

What we have learned

  • Casco Bay is generally healthy, compared with other estuaries.
  • Year after year, our data has identified Portland Harbor, the New Meadows embayment, and the mouth of the Harraseeket River as the most environmentally challenged areas in Casco Bay.
  • The healthiest regions of the Bay are Broad Sound, Maquoit and Middle bays, and the offshore waters near Halfway Rock.
  • By sampling both along the shore and offshore, we determined that land-based origins contribute significant sources of excess nitrogen.
  • The bottom water of the Bay has become more acidic, a worrying trend that mirrors what is happening worldwide.
  • Summer is lasting longer beneath Casco Bay. Water temperatures are staying warmer into the fall.
  • In order to better understand how the Bay is changing, we are increasing the frequency of data collection.

Volunteer Appreciation & Annual Member’s Meeting

Friends of Casco Bay’s 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & 2018 Annual Members Meeting

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration
& 2018 Annual Members Meeting

Thank you all for a great event! You can see more about our Citizen Steward awardees and the photos here: https://www.cascobay.org/2018/01/25/volunteers-great-service-casco-bay/

Join us as we recognize those who help us protect the health of Casco Bay. We will provide the updated Casco Bay Health Index based on data collected by volunteer Citizen Stewards over the past 25 years, and we will share new program directions.

When: Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 5:30-8 p.m.
5:30 Hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, Program begins at 6:30

Our event is on for Tuesday, January 23! We have been watching the weather closely—the messy wintery mix will turn into rain and 40 degree weather by midday on Tuesday, January 23, and temps will stay in the 40s until well past our event.

Parking is easy and FREE at DiMillo’s—if you are driving with guests, you can drop your passengers off right at the ramp under the drive-thru overhang leading to the floating restaurant.

WhereDiMillo’s On the Water, 25 Long Wharf, Portland, ME 04101
Free parking while at event.

Donation to attend is appreciated, not required. Suggested donation: $10 per person
If making a donation to attend this event, RSVP here

If you want to RSVP without making a donation, email Sarah Lyman at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org or call our office at (207) 799-8574.

 

Continuous Monitoring Station

Monitoring a Changing Casco Bay 365 Days a Year

Continuous Monitoring Station
When we haul up the Continuous Monitoring Station to download data and recalibrate the equipment, we also track marine creatures that may have found a home on our “cage of science.”

Covered with sea squirts, sea stars, and other marine hitchhikers, the newest member of our monitoring team looks like an abandoned lobster trap. It may be homely, but we are pretty impressed with what it does, collecting water quality data hourly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is our Continuous Monitoring Station, which will help us answer the question “How are our coastal waters changing over time?” Research Associate Mike Doan calls it “the cage of science.”

It has been just over a year since we placed a carbon dioxide sensor and a data sonde—an electronic device that records temperature, pH, and other characteristics of water quality—inside this modified lobster trap and moored it in healthy waters near the center of Casco Bay off Cousins Island in Yarmouth.

After one full year, we have over 8,760 hours of data on oxygen levels, carbon dioxide, pH (the level of acidity of the water), salinity, temperature, chlorophyll fluorescence (estimated phytoplankton abundance), water clarity, and water depth.

Thanks to our 26-year data set on water quality in Casco Bay, we understand when and which areas of the Bay are likely to exhibit challenged water quality conditions that require further study. Armed with this baseline data, we can now consider how to address the question, How is the Bay changing?

The steady flow of data from the Station already is helping us detect and document how climate change and emerging coastal stressors may be affecting the Bay. Hourly data helps us identify daily, seasonal,
and annual trends to better understand the extent to which ocean acidification may be impacting the water chemistry of Casco Bay. In future years, we hope to deploy two more “cages of science,” one in challenged waters in Portland Harbor and one near Harpswell to help detect the influence the Kennebec River has on Eastern Casco Bay.

What is a data sonde?
A data sonde, such as the one being used by Research Associate Mike Doan, is an oceanographic
monitoring instrument that takes multiple measurements of water quality simultaneously. In
addition to being used as part of our Continuous Monitoring Station, data sondes are used by
staff scientists in other water quality monitoring efforts from shore and by boat. The data is
downloaded to a computer and analyzed to provide a long-term picture of water quality over
time. We thank Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and our generous members for helping fund
our Continuous Monitoring Station’s first year.