Home » Data on Casco Bay

Tag: Data on Casco Bay

You’re invited: What Casco Bay is Telling Us

Casco Baykeeper boat on the water at dawn

Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. Join Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Staff Scientist Mike Doan for a conversation about what Casco Bay is telling us and what we, as a community, need to do moving forward. On Wednesday, October 27, grab your lunch, log on to Zoom, and join the conversation. Ivy and Mike will be sharing with us their observations and experiences from this field season, what our data are telling us, and how you can help as we work to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay.

You must register to join this event. We would love for you to join us.

Register

What: What Casco Bay Is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, October 27, Noon to 1 p.m. 

This event will take place via Zoom. We will send you instructions for joining the event after you register.

Looking back and looking ahead: leadership at Friends

Dear Friends,

It has already been three weeks since we gathered with 200 Friends of the Bay to celebrate the career, contributions, and retirement of our longtime Executive Director, Cathy Ramdsell. Cathy’s send-off party, held outdoors at Portland Yacht Services’ boatyard, marked our first in-person event since the onset of the pandemic. It was heartwarming and rejuvenating to see so many supporters, partners, and colleagues after so much time apart. Cathy shared it meant the world to her that we could all be together for this watershed moment. You can view photos and revisit that special evening here.

So what’s next?

Friends of Casco Bay’s Board of Directors will officially launch the search for our next Executive Director soon. As Board President Sandy Marsters has said, “We are grateful that Cathy waited for our organization to reach its current state of maturity and stability before moving on to the next phase of her life. Organizationally, we are stronger than ever: our finances are sound, we have a team of interdisciplinary staff producing incredible work, and our visibility is at an all-time high.”

In the meantime, the board has appointed me to serve as Interim Director. Having worked with our exceptional staff, board members, and community since 2006, and knowing our collective passion for Casco Bay, I am honored to serve our organization during this transition.

Here are some examples of the incredible efforts our staff and volunteers have pursued over the past few weeks.

While we were organizing Cathy’s retirement party, we were also responding to an oil spill at Willard Beach in South Portland. The beach was closed for three days as state, local, and private cleanup teams removed 2,000 pounds of contaminated material. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca toured the beach soon after the spill was reported. You can read about Ivy’s experience at the cleanup here.

The spill was a stark reminder that protecting the health of the Bay requires vigilance.

This is why we are delighted to have more than 375 volunteer Water Reporters helping us keep watch over Casco Bay. Some Water Reporters recently took a field trip with Ivy and Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman to the Mere Point Boat Launch to share how they all could be better stewards. If you volunteer your time as a Water Reporter, thank you. If you want to join this observing network, we would love to have you aboard. You can learn more here.

As autumn begins, we are concluding our first summer with three Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, gathering data every hour on a changing Casco Bay. These data have already begun to offer new insights about our waters. The data is used in our efforts to reduce pollution and help our communities be more resilient to the effects of climate change. To learn about these insights and what else Ivy and Staff Scientist Mike Doan observed this field season, keep an eye out for our next Casco Bay Matters event.

September is coastal cleanup month. Our community members are taking to our coast to pick up trash and litter. In the process they are helping to protect wildlife, collect data for marine debris research and advocacy efforts, and keeping our shores cleaner and safer. Click here for ways you can join them.

Your support means more to us than ever. We look forward to keeping you updated about our search for new leadership and about our work ahead. Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

With appreciation,

Will Everitt
Interim Director
Friends of Casco Bay

Photos by: Kevin Morris, Ivy Frignoca, and Glenn Michaels

Water Reporter Post of the Month: Linda Stimpson

Horseshoe crabs: ancient animals in Casco Bay

Linda Stimpson has lived in Maine for much of her adult life, but it wasn’t until recently that she first spotted this prehistoric creature – with nine eyes and ten legs – scuttling along the shore of Casco Bay.

In her Water Reporter post from July 12, Linda photographed a horseshoe crab on the stretch of beach between Wolfe’s Neck State Park and Googins Island.

“They’re ancient creatures,” said Linda, referring to the fact that these invertebrates have been on earth for over 300 million years (that is even older than dinosaurs). Despite the threatening impression that may come from their spike covered shell and long pointy tail, “they’re really quite docile,” shared Linda.

Adult horseshoe crabs live deep in the ocean, but they search out sandy shores in the spring and summer to spawn. Once on shore, females dig nests in the sand where they deposit their eggs to be fertilized by males. In Casco Bay, horseshoe crabs are known to spawn in Middle Bay and Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick, though Linda’s photo clearly shows that they also make their way further west. Linda also shared that she recently saw a horseshoe crab on the shores of Mackworth Island.

Horseshoe crabs play an important role in coastal food webs, as their eggs are a nutritious food source for fish, turtles, and migratory shore birds. In addition to their ecological importance, horseshoe crabs play a critical role in modern medicine. Their blood is used to test for the presence of bacterial endotoxins in sterile pharmaceuticals, like artificial joints, intravenous drugs, and even COVID-19 vaccines!

Linda, thank you for keeping an eye out for these ancient animals in Casco Bay, and for being a Water Reporter.

How does something so tiny drive change in the Bay?

What factors drive seasonal changes in the waters of Casco Bay?

Staff Scientist Mike Doan addresses this question by looking at recent data from our Continuous Monitoring Stations in our latest Mike’s Field Notes video.

Our Continuous Monitoring Stations collect data hourly on a variety of key water quality and climate change indicators across Casco Bay. Understanding the ways that climate change is impacting the Bay requires many years of data. As we work to collect these long-term data sets, we need to become familiar with the factors that drive short-term changes in water quality. These short-term changes may occur between seasons, months, or even day-to-day.

The activity of phytoplankton – the microscopic plants at the base of the marine food web – is one factor that influences many of the parameters we track in our Continuous Monitoring data. In this video, Mike breaks down how phytoplankton can influence acidity, as well as the amounts of carbon dioxide and oxygen in Casco Bay.

As always, you can view our Continuous Monitoring Station data on our website.

Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

Celebrating Data and New Stations

 

Last month we celebrated the launch of our new Continuous Monitoring Stations by taking a first look at the data they are collecting in Casco Bay.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan walked us through preliminary data on temperature, salinity, pH, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations. These detailed data sets reveal similarities and differences in water quality across the Bay and can show the influence of local conditions and weather events. After sharing these new data with us, Mike was joined by Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to discuss how we are using science to fuel our advocacy and protect the health of Casco Bay.

Here is a recording of the event for those of you who were unable to attend or would like to revisit the conversation. If you don’t have time to watch the whole recording, here are a few clips of key moments you may find interesting:

Here’s a video of all three of our Continuous Monitoring Stations splashing down, ready to collect data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

 

After our Yarmouth station was launched in 2016, we realized we needed additional stations to fully grasp changing conditions across the Bay. In this 2 minute clip, Mike shares why it is important to have three stations and explains why we located our new stations in Harpswell and Portland Harbor. 

 

In this 7 minute clip, Mike shares preliminary data from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations. While years of data will be required to assess trends and the impacts of climate change, these first three weeks of data highlight the influence of weather events and the variability in conditions across the Bay.

 

In this 2 minute clip, Ivy concludes our event with her response to a critical question about our Continuous Monitoring Stations: How important are these stations to combating climate change and keeping the Bay healthy?

 

Data from our three Continuous Monitoring Stations can be viewed at www.cascobay.org/our-work/science/continuous-monitoring-stations/.

Water Reporter reveals eroding coast

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but have you ever seen a photo that is worth 17 years?

Rick Frantz achieves such a feat by relying on his graphic design skills to compose his Water Reporter post from May 5. Images of Diamond Cove Beach from 2004 and 2021 are compared to reveal the slow process of erosion with a stark visual contrast.

“Unless it is due to a catastrophic event erosion is hard to detect on a daily basis,” wrote Rick. “Over time it becomes very obvious.”

As a longtime resident of Great Diamond Island, Rick is always close to Casco Bay. He began using Water Reporter on his daily ferry commute to Portland, back when he and his wife ran Andy’s Old Port Pub on Commercial Street. On his way to and from the mainland, Rick could see a range of conditions on the Bay spanning from the islands to the heart of the city’s working waterfront.

“I got into Water Reporter because I was always on the water, and obviously living on the water you’re concerned about the Bay,” said Rick.

Rick, thank you for your excellent Water Reporting, and for helping us protect the environmental health of Casco Bay!

Water Reporter By Sandy Marsters Portland Pier Sea Level Rise

Rising seas: confronting change and cultivating resilience

Water Reporter By Sandy Marsters Chandlers Wharf Sea Level Rise
Flooding on Portland Pier in Portland shows the local impact of sea level rise, captured by Water Reporter Sandy Marsters. The support of our Water Reporters documenting changing conditions across the Bay is proving indispensable.

Many of us are all too familiar with the feeling that the crises of climate change are larger than life, beyond the scope of our individual actions. It can be difficult to know that we can make a difference.

As climate change poses a challenge of global proportion, the strongest solutions will require the participation of many. This truth is exemplified by our community of intrepid Water Reporters, who simply by being in the right place at the right time, are capturing critical moments of climate change’s impacts around the Bay, from recording coastal erosion and nuisance algal blooms to documenting the impacts of sea level rise.

“Science shows unequivocally that our climate is changing and our seas are rising, and nothing drives home that fact quite like a photograph of city streets underwater,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca. “Having our Water Reporters document the real-time impacts of sea level rise around the Bay is instrumental to highlighting the fact that change is here and we must act now.”

At our Casco Bay Matters event in March, Ivy was joined by Marine Geologist Peter Slovinsky to discuss the latest science on sea level rise and increasing storm intensity. Seas are rising, driven by melting glaciers and the expansion of warming ocean waters. In Casco Bay sea levels have risen for over 100 years, demonstrated by data collected in Portland Harbor. But, Peter pointed out that nearly 50 percent of documented sea level rise here in Casco Bay has occurred in the past 30 years, representing a rapid increase in the rate of change.

Looking ahead, the frequency of “nuisance” flooding events may increase ten to fifteen-fold with just a 1.0 foot rise in sea level – a modest projection of a 1.5 foot rise is expected by 2050. Another sobering projection suggests that a 1.6 foot rise would submerge roughly half of Maine’s coastal sand dunes and beaches. Coupled with the predictions of greater storm intensity, our communities must adapt our infrastructure and coastal environments.

Water Reporter By Karla Talanian Mere Point Boat Launch Sea Level Rise
Water Reporter Karla Talanian documents high tide at Mere Point Boat Launch.

As a member of the Maine Climate Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group, Ivy has been working to help address these issues. Of the group’s many recommendations to mitigate the impacts of rising seas and increased storm surges along Maine’s coast, one proposal is to adopt “nature-based solutions.” Salt marshes and wetlands, for example, are extremely good at absorbing impacts from storm surge and rising seas while filtering pollutants and excess nutrients. However, if these services are to be provided, we must work to maintain the resiliency and health of our coastal ecosystems.

Across Casco Bay, pilot projects are testing the efficacy of a nature-based solution called a “living shoreline.” This technique stabilizes eroding shorelines with native materials, rather than with rock or cement walls, while maintaining the natural land-water interface. This allows for habitat migration and preservation. At Wharton Point in Brunswick, a living shoreline was constructed last summer using bags of oyster shells and logs along the edge of an eroding salt marsh.

“When I visited the site in March, I could see material building up on the bags. It’s such a hopeful sign that the project is helping the marsh rebuild,” says Ivy. “Efforts like this can add up. Adapting to climate change is a marathon, not a sprint. Years down the road we’ll look back and see that even these small efforts collectively made the difference.”

A living shoreline test site in Maquoit Bay shows promise for stabilizing eroding salt marshes while maintaining the ecosystem’s natural land-water interface.

Why does Casco Bay’s water look so clear?

Peering over the side of the R/V Joseph E. Payne, Staff Scientist Mike Doan could see schools of small fish swimming in the water below, while the red hood of a lion’s mane jellyfish floated by on the other side of our Baykeeper boat. What caught Mike’s eye, however, was not the sight of marine life, but rather the fact that his view was unobstructed: for this time of year, the waters of Casco Bay are exceptionally clear.

There are many factors that can affect the clarity of the water in Casco Bay. One major determinant is the abundance of phytoplankton – the tiny marine plants at the base of the ocean food web. Just like plants on land, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, the green pigment that enables photosynthesis. When phytoplankton are abundant the Bay is a greenish-blue hue. In their absence, the water is often clear and bluer, reflecting the color of the sky above.

The importance of phytoplankton to the health of Casco Bay and the world at large is difficult to overstate. Globally, phytoplankton are estimated to produce 50 percent of the oxygen in the air we breathe. In addition, phytoplankton are key in the food web as they are grazed on by zooplankton, which in turn are fed on by small fish and progressively larger animals. In short, tiny phytoplankton have an oversized impact, providing foundational support for nearly all marine life.

The spring phytoplankton blooms in 2019 and 2021 each peaked in February and trailed off into March. In contrast to these earlier blooms, the spring blooms of 2018 and 2020 were larger in magnitude, with each peaking in March and carrying over into April. This variability may be typical or a sign of changing conditions in Casco Bay – only more data will tell.

Phytoplankton derive their name from the Greek words “phyto” (plant) and “plankton” (wandering, drifting) because they are unable to swim against the flow of the water and instead drift where currents carry them. As phytoplankton have no choice but literally “to go with the flow,” their activity and abundance fluctuate throughout the year as the characteristics and properties of water quality change with the seasons.

As we reported in March, spring in Casco Bay kicks off with a phytoplankton bloom. Warmer waters, more sunlight from longer days, and increased nutrient availability from melting snow and runoff are among the factors that create ideal conditions for this seasonal boom in phytoplankton activity. The spring bloom declines as phytoplankton deplete the available nutrients from the water and are consumed by zooplankton.

We track phytoplankton blooms in Casco Bay by measuring chlorophyll levels at our Continuous Monitoring Stations. This year, our data suggest the spring phytoplankton bloom occurred early, peaking in February and trailing off into March. Our data show a similar pattern in 2019. These early blooms stand in contrast to the larger spring blooms of 2018 and 2020, both of which peaked in March and carried over into April.

“Science has shown there is variability in the timing, duration, and size of spring phytoplankton blooms, so these ‘early’ blooms we’re seeing in our data may be entirely typical,” says Mike. “At the same time, factors like weather, water temperature, and ocean chemistry have large effects on phytoplankton, so marine scientists are concerned that spring blooms may be sensitive to climate change. Because phytoplankton are at the base of the marine food web, a significant change to the timing of the phytoplankton bloom could have implications for every level of Casco Bay’s ecosystem.”

If climate change is affecting the spring phytoplankton bloom in Casco Bay, we will be among the first to know. While Maine has decades of data that show the temperatures of our coastal waters are increasing and that our seas are rising, identifying trends in seasonal phenomena such as the spring bloom requires a detailed, long-term data set – just like the data we are collecting with our Continuous Monitoring Stations. We can track phytoplankton blooms in addition to some of the factors that impact them, such as water temperature or the quantity of spring runoff.

“We’re still in the beginning stages of this effort,” says Mike. “With five years of data from one station, we’re beginning to get a sense of the seasonal changes we can expect to see in the Bay. As more data accumulates, we may have a deeper understanding of how climate change is contributing to changing conditions in the water. With these scientifically grounded insights, we’ll be better prepared to advocate for the policies and practices that will protect the health of the Bay.”

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

Continuous Monitoring Stations are Game Changer

Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station
Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

More than 700 Friends have contributed $1.5 million to help maintain three stations for a decade.

Casco Bay is invaluable to the economy and quality of life in Maine. Our coastal waters provide us with food, recreation, transportation, inspiration, and economic opportunities.

But Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly.

How is climate change impacting Casco Bay? Is the Bay getting warmer? Are our waters acidifying? How can we continue to protect the health of Casco Bay for generations to come?

Addressing these questions involves collecting water quality data on a frequent basis and for a long time. In 2019, we created the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement to launch and maintain three Continuous Monitoring Stations around the Bay and communicate changing conditions to the public. This winter we reached our goal of raising $1.5 million, thanks to more than 700 Friends who donated to the Fund, making our plan a reality.

In March, we launched a new station in eastern Casco Bay in Harpswell’s Cundys Harbor. And, as the photo above shows, in May we deployed our new Portland Harbor station. They complement our existing station located at the coastal center of the Bay in Yarmouth, collecting data hourly on how the Bay is changing, 365 days a year.*

“With climate change already impacting the Bay, the launch of these stations is a game changer for us,” says Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “Their steady streams of data will strengthen our reporting to the community and bolster our advocacy and stewardship efforts.”

Staff Scientist Mike Doan designed our Continuous Monitoring Stations, affectionately known as our “cages of science.” Oceanographic equipment in the cages collects data on temperature, acidity, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, dissolved organic matter, turbidity, salinity, and water depth.

“With three stations working at once, the science only gets better from here,” says Mike. “The Portland Harbor location is key because it is in the most heavily used part of the Bay. In eastern Casco Bay, water quality may be influenced by the Kennebec River, and our Harpswell station will track that. Across the board, these stations are deepening our knowledge of what is happening in Casco Bay.”

Data from the stations are available here.

To commemorate the launch of our two new Stations and the completion of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund that is making this all possible, please join us for an online Casco Bay Matters event to celebrate! On Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m., Staff Scientist Mike Doan will share and compare, for the first time, data from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations.

Mike will be joined by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to discuss how these new stations will enhance our advocacy on behalf of Casco Bay for years to come.

We hope you can join us!

What: Celebrating Data From Our New Continuous Monitoring Stations — A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m.

Please register to attend this online event.

Register Now

 

 *We remain grateful that the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership has supported the launch and maintenance of our initial station.

Join us: new stations, a celebration, and data!

As spring settles on Casco Bay, ospreys return to their nests, and alewives leave the sea and swim upriver to spawn in freshwater.

The arrival of spring has always brought seasonal shifts to Casco Bay, but today climate change and human influences are impacting our coastal waters at a scale and pace we do not fully understand. That is why we are expanding our array of Continuous Monitoring Stations to monitor changing conditions in three regions of Casco Bay, every hour of every day, 365 days a year.

In March, we launched a new Continuous Monitoring Station in Harpswell’s Cundys Harbor to track conditions unique to the embayments and coves of eastern Casco Bay. Today, we launched our Portland Harbor Station to monitor water quality in the Bay’s busiest and most populated region. These two new Stations join our original Continuous Monitoring Station located at the coastal center of the Bay off Yarmouth.

To commemorate the launch of our two new Stations and the completion of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund that is making this all possible, please join us for an online Casco Bay Matters event to celebrateOn Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m., Staff Scientist Mike Doan will share and compare, for the first time, data from all three Continuous Monitoring Stations.

Register Now

Mike will be joined by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to discuss how these new stations will enhance our advocacy on behalf of Casco Bay for years to come.

We hope you can join us!

What: Celebrating Data From Our New Continuous Monitoring Stations — A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m.

Please register to attend this online event.

Register Now