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A woman in a bright blue top sits at the stern of a boat with water splashing all around.

Meghan’s Notebook: A Day on the Bay

Meghan’s Notebook: A Day on the Bay

People on the Casco Baykeeper boat holding science monitoring equipment and smiling.
Friends of Casco Bay collects data at the mouth of the Harraseeket River during the first seasonal monitoring day of 2024. Mike Doan (left), Meghan Vigeant (center), and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca (right) aboard the R/V Joseph E. Payne, named after our first Casco Baykeeper. Photo credit: Peter Milholland

Communications Coordinator Meghan Vigeant records her observations from the first Seasonal Monitoring Event of 2024 (Wednesday, May 29). 

My First Day Aboard the Casco Baykeeper Boat

It is my first day out with the science team on the boat, and – oh, what a glorious day. The light is golden bright, and we are a little too warm waiting at the marina in South Portland. I am already pumping my t-shirt, trying to air-dry my sweat. Soon, we’ll be underway, the breeze will cool us down, and I’ll need to layer up.

A man and woman at the helm of a boat on a blue sky day.
Captain Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca keep an eye on the Bay. The water is, as Ivy says, our staff’s “happy place.”

The Crew

There are five of us on board: Staff Scientist and boat captain Mike Doan; Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca; Science and Advocacy Associate Heather Kenyon; Rachel Fischer, our intern; and me, Meghan Vigeant, the newest staff member and designated shutterbug and journalist for the day – still learning, still taking it all in.

A Feast for the Senses

Ivy and Heather untether us from the slip and Captain Mike puts our vessel into gear. We set out for a long day dedicated to gathering scientific data. But there is so much else to gather. Casco Bay is a feast for the senses. Ospreys and cormorants watch us from their rocks. Terns flit overhead. Eiders and mergansers, in their blacks and whites, bob on the water. There is a hushed breeze that makes gently rolling ripple reflections on otherwise calm water, multiplying each cloud in the cerulean sky by a thousand water mirrors.

Water rippling a reflection of a partly-cloudy sky.

We see how humans have added their structures and varied styles to the Bay: a historic wedding-cake house built on sheer ledge; the famous cribstone bridge connecting Orr’s and Bailey’s Islands; a pair of smokestacks presiding over the green landscape like industrial giants; South Portland’s massive white cylindrical oil tanks, which we’d heard had been hit hard by last winter’s storms. As we come in closer, we see hunks of sod and grass missing from the banks below the tanks, making me wonder how such vulnerable land, and the Bay beside it, will fare when more storms slam our coast.

There is so much to see, I might go dizzy in circles just looking everywhere. Two small porpoises are porpoising across a channel, their small dark fins arcing above the water over and over again. We are busy admiring some sunbathing seals, when a daring and curious gray seal pokes its head up and gazes at us with puppy-dog eyes.

Our Work

We alternate between stretches of fast boat travel and stopping at each of our ten seasonal monitoring sites for data-gathering. When stopped, the engine may be idle but each member on board is deep in concentration on their assigned task.

A man lifts a Data Sonde out of the water from the stern of a boat. Mike and the Data Sonde

Captain Mike steps away from the wheel to become Staff Scientist Mike, lowering our organization’s most precious and expensive tool into the depths below: the data sonde, which gathers a valuable set of measurements so vast and technical I dare not list them all, but you can learn more here. What we collect helps us answer questions like: Is the Bay warming? Is there excess nitrogen? Is it getting too acidic for shells to form?

A young woman holds a Secchi disk on a rope above the water, from the side of a boat. Rachel and the Secchi Disk

Rachel unspools the Secchi disk and lowers it until it disappears from view. Slowly, she raises it, her eyes searching for the distinct black and white quarters amidst the darkness below. The deeper she can spot it, the clearer the water is. How much light reaches the aquatic plants below? Can eelgrass survive here? Can fish and clams and mussels thrive?

Heather and the Bucket

A woman dumps water from a small bottle overboard a boat. A bucket sits on the gunwales beside her. Kerplunk and splash. Kerplunk and splash. Heather is filling a five-gallon bucket with salty ocean water and then dumping it overboard, over and over again to ensure the bucket is well rinsed and does not contain any water from the previous monitoring site. From a tiny hole in the side of the bucket, she pours a stream of water into a small bottle. This water too gets tossed and rinsed three times until the vial is ready for its official water sample. Heather labels it and stores it in a cooler. Later, these water samples will be analyzed to determine their levels of total nitrogen—a term I am still grappling with, but I understand these numbers provide clues about the health of the water. Just the right amount of nitrogen feeds algae and phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain. But too much nitrogen could be an indicator that pollution, usually from human sources (wastewater, lawn fertilizers, stormwater, air pollution), is overfeeding the algae, causing it to grow too much and hurting the marine environments for clams, eelgrass, and more.

A woman in a pink jacket records notes on clipboard at the helm of a boat. Ivy’s Observations

Ivy holds her trusty clipboard. From the navigational chart plotter, she notes our coordinates. Looking up, she sees the cloud coverage has increased to 75%. She tunes into the wind and categorizes it based on the Beaufort scale. We began the day with calm water reflections, only a light air, but it has picked up slightly since. Little wavelets are cresting. Her hair flutters in front of her face. She angles her clipboard into the wind, checks our compass, and the verdict is clear: this is a gentle breeze from the south east. She records many other details as well. All this weather intel tells our science team about the conditions that might influence the data we collect.

Meghan, the Storyteller

A woman in a bright blue top sits at the stern of a boat with water splashing all around. Then, there is my work. I hold up my cell phone to capture our scientists in their element. I try to stay out of the way, but also get close enough to frame their hands at work, the unique tools, the expressions of concentration, the beauty of each scene. It is a delicate balance. I even climb up, standing on the gunwales, holding onto a pole while I attempt to get an interesting angle. It may appear that I am merely taking pictures with my iPhone, but I am gathering this day in with every one of my senses. Smelling the freshness, the brine, the diesel. Hearing the splashing wake, the roar of the engine, the music of distant gulls. Feeling the vibrations, the flecks of salt water on my skin, the flurried whip of my hair in the wind as we charge across the water. Seeing the light shift on the water, the wildlife, the rolling aqua-green waves. Tasting the salt and satisfaction of my work and this life.

I still have much to learn. My background is in the arts; I’m a writer, a documentarian. The science we do is complex, filling my mind with new words, terms, and ideas. I am absorbing it in big gulps, measuring it out in descriptions, in morsels of stories, hoping that something here will translate to the little screens where folks sometimes read my words.

A Bridge to Casco Bay

Out here, aboard the R/V Joseph E. Payne, I look out at the spots of blue now puncturing a dark gray sky. As we navigate under the Casco Bay Bridge, I hear the vibrating hum of cars passing over, sounding strangely like whales singing. I like to think our work is like a strong and sturdy bridge, connecting people to water, water to people.

Meghan Vigeant joined Friends of Casco Bay as Communications Coordinator in February of 2024.

Bubbles for Casco Bay graphic with and overhead view of fancy green glasses.

Bubbles for Casco Bay

Bubbles for Casco Bay graphic with and overhead view of fancy green glasses.

Après is creating a custom seltzer inspired by Casco Bay! For every 16 oz pour and 4 pack of this special hard seltzer sold, a donation to Friends of Casco Bay is made in honor of our 35th anniversary.

When: Thursday, June 27, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m

Where: Après 148 Anderson St, Portland, ME 04101

What: Join us for Casco Bay Trivia, food truck snacks, Friends, and more. Celebrate our 35th anniversary with us and try the new Casco Bay seltzer.

Who: All are welcome. Free.

Thank you to Après for hosting us and supporting our work to improve and protect the Bay!

Water Reporter Trainings

We are thrilled to announce that our brand new, Friends of Casco Bay-designed-and-branded, Water Reporter app is here and ready to use!  We are offering two training events to help Water Reporters navigate the new app.

Water Reporter App Training (online)

When: Thursday, June 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

What: Follow along with Sara as she walks through the steps of downloading and setting up the new Water Reporter app. It is best if you have two screens for this training, one to join the zoom meeting and one to download the app. All participants will have the option to be on screen and ask questions. This will be recorded and posted to our website.

You must register in advance to attend. Register here!

Register for the online training

All-Things Water Reporter Training (in-person)

Friends of Casco Bay
Water Reporters Volunteers in the field

When: Thursday, June 27, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Après, 140 Anderson St, Portland, ME 04101-2546

What: Learn all about the Water Reporter program including how to sign up, our observation priorities (eelgrass, algal blooms, and more), and how to navigate the app. This event is open to everyone, whether you are interested in learning more about Water Reporter or need a refresher. Note that this event will summarize the information from the online training.

Après is ADA Compliant. 

Register here!

Register for the in-person training

Friends of Casco Bay raise a glass at Après.

After the in-person training,

join Friends of Casco Bay at Après

for Bubbles for Casco Bay

to raise a glass to celebrate the

launch of the new Water Reporter app

and all-things Friends of Casco Bay.

We Built a New Water Reporter App just for Friends of Casco Bay

Over the past five years, Water Reporter volunteers have used an app on their smartphones to help us keep an eye on the health of the Bay. Since 2018, dedicated volunteers have posted more than 2,500 observations of Casco Bay from Phippsburg to Cape Elizabeth. Friends of Casco Bay uses this observation data to keep track of changing issues over time.

Last fall, we found out that the app we were using, which was developed for Waterkeeper Alliance organizations world-wide, was going to be discontinued. Once we found out the old app was going away, we set a goal of making a Friends of Casco Bay-branded app that was specifically designed for our volunteers. A priority of ours was to make it easy to use.

Interested in becoming a Water Reporters? Sign up!

As we launch our new app, we are looking for new Water Reporter volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a part of the Water Reporter community, now is an excellent time to join our flagship volunteer program. To sign up to become a Water Reporter, start by filling out an updated volunteer waiver form.

Sign up 

By photographing evidence of algal blooms, sea level rise, pollution, eelgrass, wildlife sightings, and other notable observations on your smartphone, you can help us understand and advocate for the health of the Bay. To learn about how one Water Reporter is making a difference, read A Friend to Eelgrass: A Water Reporter Helps Look After a Vital Ecosystem in Peril.

Here’s how to get started with as a new Water Reporter:

  1. Please sign up and complete a volunteer waiver here. This ensures you will receive Water Reporter notices and invitations to events.

  2. Watch our new Water Reporter Tutorial playlist on YouTube and follow along with your own device. The first four-minute video shows you how to download the app.* This is best for those who can set up their primary Water Reporter device (phone or tablet) while watching on a second device. This will get you started on your new Water Reporter journey.

  3. If you need more help or don’t have a second device, review this PDF. It covers set up and user instructions. Note that at the time of this email, our videos have more thorough information than the PDF.

  4. Reach out to Sara with questions (email: sfreshley@casco​bay.org or 207-807-0785)!

  5. Sign up for our online training on June 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. or our in-person training at Après on June 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. Both training sessions will cover the basics of downloading and using the app to help us track the health of Casco Bay.

*You cannot download the app from your phone’s app store — you have to access it from your phone’s native web browser.

Thank you so much to our supporters who made it possible for us to launch this new app: all of our Friends of Casco Bay members and donors, The Commons, Allagash Brewing Company, L.L. Bean, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, WEX, and Sprague Energy.

Making Waves for a Healthier Casco Bay: A Legislative Recap

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca makes a passionate case for the health of Casco Bay.

Every year, Friends of Casco Bay spends time at the State House working to help pass laws that make Casco Bay healthier and safer. We team up with the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), which includes 34 groups. As a Coalition, we pick out important issues and support laws that fight climate change; make sure everyone is treated fairly, keep our land, water, and animals safe; and promote healthy communities in Maine. Ultimately, being part of the EPC helps Casco Bay because we can share our knowledge and work together to achieve more than we could on our own. 

This year we worked on issues ranging from giving people a voice on aquaculture leasing and encouraging climate resiliency to stopping the rollback of our PFAS protections and supporting the self-determination of Wabanaki Nations in our greater Maine community.

Here is a roundup of bills we worked on this legislative session: 

 

Empowering Communities to Have a Voice

LD 2065: An Act to Amend Maine’s Aquaculture Leasing Laws

photo credit: Timothy Brokaw

As it was first drafted, this bill would have required 25 people to request a hearing for certain aquaculture leases, rather than five, the current requirement. We agreed that the state needed to raise the number, but we thought 25 was too high and restrictive. We suggested they lower it to 10 instead. Lawmakers agreed with us. The Outcome: A win! This bill empowers concerned people to responsibly ask for hearings. 

 

Balancing Housing Needs with Environmental Preservation 

LD 1134: An Act to Improve Housing Affordability by Amending the Definition of “Subdivision” Under the Site Location of Development Laws

This bill aimed to change how housing developments are reviewed under Maine’s Site Location of Development Act. The proposed changes would have exempted a significant number of subdivisions from environmental review by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This review is crucial for balancing development with environmental conservation. If the changes had passed, it could have had serious negative effects for our watershed. Thankfully, we collaborated with other organizations to defeat this bill. The Outcome: Success! We opposed this bill and it was defeated.

 

Supporting Tribal Sovereignty

LD 2007: An Act Regarding the Criminal Jurisdiction of Tribal Courts

Wabanaki Nations in Maine have served as the original stewards of this land and of Casco Bay, beginning more than 12,000 years ago, and today, although there are no official tribal lands on the shores of Casco Bay, Wabanaki people still live within the watershed. An important part of Wabanaki culture is protecting our air, land, and waters. It is in partnership to those values that we support tribal sovereignty. LD 2007 was first called “An Act to Advance Self-determination for Wabanaki Nations.” The original idea was to give tribes more rights, like managing fishing and hunting on their own land. The final law that passed wasn’t as robust as the original version, but it still moved things in the right direction. The Outcome: An incremental win. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but it’s a step closer to giving tribes more self-determination and autonomy.

 

Creating Climate Resilient Communities

LD 2225 An Act to Provide Funding to Rebuild Infrastructure Affected by Extreme Inland and Coastal Weather Events

Flooding at the Falmouth Town Landing, December 2022.

We threw our support behind LD 2225, an emergency bill sparked by the havoc wreaked by recent winter storms. This legislation aimed to earmark $30 million for the restoration of critical infrastructure like docks and piers utilized by the fishing and aquaculture industries. Beyond the coast, it planned to fund adaptation, repair and improvement projects to fortify our communities against future storms, ensuring public safety and bolstering our economy. As the bill made its way through the legislative process, the Senate added provisions for mental health and social support programs. Despite our hopes, the bill failed to secure funding and ultimately died on the table. The Outcome: A disappointing loss.

 

Holding PFAS Manufacturers Accountable

LD 1960: An Act to Give Manufacturers More Time to Report PFAS in Products

PFAS can be found in many common products

This bill was about giving manufacturers of products with harmful PFAS chemicals more time to report their use to the DEP. We opposed this bill. PFAS chemicals persist in the environment and do not break down. PFAS-laden sludge has been spread on farms in our watershed. PFAS is also present in other land-based sources that leak into our waterways. The levels of PFAS in the lower Presumpscot River are high enough that Maine CDC advises eating no more than four fish a year from that section. We believe it is important to know which products have these chemicals so we can stop using them or prevent them from getting into our waters. The Outcome: Our opposition to the bill paid off—LD 1960 didn’t pass. Victory!

 

Protecting Critical Seaweed Habitats

LD 2003: An Act to Protect Access to Maine’s Intertidal Zone

You might think we would support a bill with a title like this, but we opposed its intent. A recent case brought to Maine’s Supreme Court clarified that rockweed, a critical habitat, couldn’t be harvested from the intertidal zone without landowner permission. This ruling allowed land trusts and landowners to protect this habitat. However, LD 2003 aimed to overturn this decision, claiming that harvesting rockweed is fishing. If passed, it would have allowed rockweed harvesting anywhere, regardless of landowner wishes or habitat importance. Given that rockweed is vital for a healthy Casco Bay, we stood against this bill. The Outcome: Success! We fought against this law, and it didn’t pass.

 

Advocating for Maine’s Coastal Dunes

LD 2266: An Act Regarding Restoration and Protection of Coastal Sand Dune Systems and Permitting of an Offshore Wind Terminal on Sears Island 

In February, Governor Mills announced that Sears Island was her preferred site for building an offshore wind development terminal. Following that announcement, the State learned that the proposed site has sand dunes and at least one of those dunes would be destroyed during construction. State law does not allow development in sand dunes. To address this problem, this bill was introduced. It originally would have granted an exception to the law and authorized the State to grant a permit for an offshore wind terminal located in any coastal sand dune system. We testified against the bill. The bill was then narrowed to allow a one-time exception to the law for construction of an offshore wind terminal on Sears Island, if the terminal met all other environmental requirements. To compensate for the harm to the sand dunes, the amended bill created a million-dollar fund to be used for sand dune restoration. This is not ideal, but is much better than the original bill. The Outcome: We have mixed feelings about this tradeoff. On the one hand, we urgently need to develop clean energy sources like offshore wind. On the other, how do we minimize or avoid harm to our coastal and marine environments? Avoiding harm is at the heart of our advocacy.

 

35th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Meeting

 

You’re Invited to Friends of Casco Bay’s

35th Anniversary Celebration

&

Members Annual Meeting

Thursday, July 25   |   5:30-7:30 p.m.   |   Program begin 6:15 p.m.  |   Portland Yacht Services

Photo by Heidi Holloway, 2023 Frame the Bay Photo Contest participant

Friends of Casco Bay invites you to celebrate our 35th anniversary with us and the Bay we all love. We are looking back at 35 years of protecting the health of the Bay and highlighting a special unsung hero of Casco Bay: eelgrass. Join us for delicious hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and the company of Friends who like you, care about clean water.



At the event we will: 

Keynote speaker, EPA Marine Biologist Phil Colarusso is the region’s expert on eelgrass.
  • Honor Casco Bay’s eelgrass and our collective efforts to restore these vital habitats
  • Hear Marine Biologist Phil Colarusso of the Environmental Protection Agency and regional expert on eelgrass speak about the hopeful future of eelgrass in Casco Bay
  • Announce the winners of the Frame the Bay – 2024 Casco Bay Photo Contest
  • Recognize the contributions of those who have helped improve and protect coastal waters
  • Elect the newest members to our Board of Directors and re-elect those who are entering their new board terms

Bring a friend! Let’s connect!

$35 suggested donation in honor of our 35th Anniversary is appreciated, not required. Event includes hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar.

We invite you to wear green in honor of eelgrass.

Friends of Casco Bay mingling at Portland Yacht Services

What: Friends of Casco Bay’s 35th Anniversary & Members Annual Meeting

When: Thursday, July 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m. First hour food, drinks, & mingling. Program begins at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Portland Yacht Services, 100 West Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101

 

Thank you to Portland Yacht Services for hosting us. 

 


Do you take photos of the Bay? We want to see them!

Announcing

Frame the Bay

2024 Casco Bay Photo Contest

Two hands frame the image of a lighthouse and breakwater in the distance.

Show us what the Bay means to you in our Casco Bay photo contest. Winners in four photo categories – scenic, wildlife, diversity of the Bay, and student photography – will be announced at our Members Annual Meeting on July 25. Learn more and submit your favorite photos of Casco Bay and the watershed!

 

Submission Details

 

Last Year’s Best in Show

Wooden posts Portland Maine, April 2023 by Ava McKinley. Winner Best of Show

Frame the Bay: Casco Bay Photo Contest

Announcing the Casco Bay Photo Contest

We want to see your favorite photos taken of, near, or on Casco Bay. Show us what the Bay means to you! Winners of the contest will be announced at Friends of Casco Bay’s 35th Anniversary & Members Annual Meeting on Thursday, July 25

Photo Categories

Consider this list a source of inspiration. 

  1. Scenic: Send us your Casco Bay landscapes, splashing waves, winding rivers, lighthouses, and any image that shows the beauty of the Casco Bay watershed (underwater too!).
  2. Wildlife and Animals. Dogs, birds, sea creatures…you name it! We want to see the critters of the Bay.
  3. Diversity of the Bay: Show us how Casco Bay is used by all walks of life – working waterfront, recreation, and inspiration. How do you engage with the Bay?
  4. Student Photography. Are you 18 or younger? If so, tell us when you submit your photos.

All photos will be considered general submissions and our judges will choose winning photos for each category. We will have a great set of prizes for the winners.

Submission Guidelines

  • Each person can submit a maximum of five photos
  • Photos must be taken in Casco Bay or the Casco Bay watershed
  • Photos must be taken between 2022 and the present day. 

How to Submit Photos

  • Send photos via email to friends [at] cascobay [dot] org. Submissions close on Wednesday, July 10 at 11:59 p.m.
  • High resolution photos are preferred (if prompted, select “original size” when sending your photos).
  • Your subject line should read “Frame the Bay”
  • Please include:
    • the location and year your photo was taken
    • the name of the photographer
    • if the photographer is under 18 (to be considered for the Student Photography category)

Unless you tell us otherwise, Friends of Casco Bay may use any photo submitted to the contest in future communications such as our website, newsletter, and emails. If and when we do, we will gladly credit you as the person who took an amazing photo!

 

Some of Last Year’s Winners

Wooden posts, Portland Maine, April 2023, by Ava McKinley. Winner Best of Show

 

Osprey at Wolf’s Neck State Park, by Stephen Hobson

 

Tern eggs, by Stacey Keefer

 

Water jumpers, by Heidi Holloway

 

Fishing for herring in Maquoit Bay by Glenn Michaels

 

 

We are hiring: part-time Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant: a flexible, part-time position

Friends of Casco Bay is hiring a part-time Administrative Assistant to join our team. The Administrative Assistant is a key support position for our organization. The Administrative Assistant ensures that our office is well-organized and supplied and assists our staff in administrative tasks, mailings, and events. This position is 20 hours per week and reports to the Executive Director. 

About Friends of Casco Bay

Friends of Casco Bay works to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay, an Estuary of National Significance located in the Gulf of Maine. We collect scientific and observational data about the health of our waters. Based on analysis of the data and community input, we advocate for policies and actions that will reduce pollution and make Casco Bay and its watershed more resilient to the impacts of climate change. We are home to the Casco BAYKEEPER®, our lead advocate who acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of Casco Bay. We are one of the seven founding members of WATERKEEPER® Alliance, a network that includes more than 300 independent organizations working to protect waters around the world. You can read more about us and our work on our website.

We are known as an exceptional place to work. We have nine full-time employees and one seasonal staffer. We balance our ability to leverage collaborative efforts, funds, and volunteers, with the capacity and capabilities of staff — a talented team, each dedicated to our mission. We are committed to creating a culture and practices that integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our work.

The Administrative Assistant’s core work is to:

  • Track office supplies: keep lists of supplies and stationary needed, submit orders for review, place and receive orders, unpack and store appropriately
  • Provide support for our core organizational events, including our Members Annual Meeting, Film Fest for Casco Bay, and house parties. This includes preparing materials and supplies prior to events and helping out during them.
  • Support other staff in the office by receiving visitors and guests, answering phone calls, and preparing meeting areas for upcoming sessions
  • Helping with mailings, collating information packets, data entry, and other administrative duties
  • Assisting staff with the logistics of their workspace and troubleshooting tech issues.
  • Ensuring printers and copiers are stocked and are well-maintained. This includes troubleshooting and working with IT vendors and contacting other outside contractors when maintenance and repair issues arise
  • Maintaining files and logs concerning licenses, expiration dates, computer and other asset identifications and inventory. This includes rotating backups for the server.
  • Filing and storage of publication materials
  • Periodic program support, as necessary

Qualified candidates must 

  • Be well organized
  • Be comfortable working with diverse populations
  • Be comfortable answering the phone and welcoming guests 
  • Have competent knowledge of how to use a computer and cell phone and is willing to troubleshoot simple tech issues
  • Be competent in record-keeping
  • Be able to work independently and within a team environment
  • Be able to juggle several projects at once while meeting deadlines
  • Have the ability to and willingness to sometimes work outside of normal business hours as some of our public events happen in the evenings and on weekends (scheduling of these events occurs several months in advance of event)
  • Know when to ask for assistance and be willing to learn on the job

Qualified candidates might also demonstrate:

  • Proficiency in online organizational and communications tools, including professional use of email, word processing, and social media. Friends of Casco Bay uses Google Workspace, Slack, Microsoft products, Zoom, Adobe Design products, and Blackbaud products and will train the right candidate in use of these tools. 
  • Willingness to learn new skills
  • Ability to lift at least 30 pounds
  • Dedication to our mission

The hiring process will include the following steps:

  1. A rolling application period. Candidates will be assessed as we receive their applications. Please note the application requirements below.
  2. Application review: Friends of Casco Bay staff will review applications based on the criteria above and invite qualified applicants for an initial interview.
  3. First interviews: Select applicants will be invited to a phone or zoom interview with two members of our team. Candidates are welcome to ask questions during the interview.
  4. Second interviews: A subset of applicants will be invited to a second interview, which may be in person or may be on zoom. This interview will happen in two stages. The first stage will be with two members of the team. The second stage will be with our entire team. Candidates are encouraged to continue asking questions. We will ask candidates to bring contact information for three references to the second interview.
  5. Reference check: We will check experience, character, and qualifications.
  6. Final selection: We may reach out for a final discussion with our top candidates or make a selection at this time.

Salary:
The Administrative Assistant will earn $20-$25 an hour, commensurate with experience. We will work with the right candidate to make the 20 hours a week work for them and for us. As a part-time employee, the Administrative Assistant will accrue one hour of earned paid leave for every 40 hours worked; these may be used for any reason such as emergency, illness, planned vacation, etc.

 

Friends of Casco Bay is an equal employment opportunity employer committed to a racially just, equitable, and inclusive workplace. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, national origin, gender identity, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, or marital status. Candidates from historically marginalized communities who are on the front lines of harm caused by environmental injustice are encouraged to apply. We encourage all staff to take advantage of professional development opportunities. There is room for advancement and leadership opportunities. 

Location and public health expectations
Friends of Casco Bay is located in Portland, Maine. By its nature, this position requires showing up in person and working with staff and volunteers in our office. The Portland area offers a vibrant cultural scene and easy access to the state’s many recreational opportunities. 100% of our staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 and we expect our newest employee to be too. 

Start date
As soon as possible upon job offer.

To apply:

Applications must send a cover letter, resume, and three references via email to searchcommittee [at] cascobay [dot] org. The cover letter should clearly state why you are interested in the position and what qualities, experiences, and skills you would bring to the position. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with priority given to applications received by June 15, 2024. No phone calls, please.

We are home to the Casco Baykeeper

Baykeeping is our mission put into practice: acting to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our Baykeeping Program exists to advocate for solutions to environmental challenges facing the Bay.

About Casco Bay

Casco Bay encompasses 14 coastal communities, including two of Maine’s largest cities, Portland and South Portland, and two of Maine’s newest towns, Long Island and Chebeague Island. Casco Bay is both a working waterfront—a port of call for cruise ships, oil tankers, and container ships—and a scenic postcard of historic forts, stalwart lighthouses, secluded anchorages, and many islands.

30 Years of Friends of Casco Bay

This timeline highlights our biggest victories as well as some of the most significant moments of Friends of Casco Bay’s history over the past three decades.

Chris Gilday providing pumpout service on a yacht

Boating in the Bay? Register for our Pumpout Service

Chris Gilday providing pumpout service on a yacht

Friends of Casco Bay is excited to announce that we plan on launching our Pumpout Program on May 28.

We have kept more than 265,000 gallons of sewage out of our coastal waters since the Pumpout Program began in 1995 by partnering with boaters like you who care about the health of Casco Bay.

Casco Bay is a federally-designated No Discharge Area, which means it is illegal to release blackwater (raw or treated sewage) from any vessel into the Bay — this includes peeing over the side. All boats in Casco Bay must hold their blackwater until it can be removed at a pumpout facility. Friends of Casco Bay’s vessel pumpout service provides a convenient, practical way to get rid of your boat waste.

If you are interested in having Friends of Casco Bay pump out your boat this season, you must register as a pumpout customer by filling out this form:

Register for Pumpout Service

Thank you for helping us protect the health of Casco Bay.

Volunteer Water Reporter Susan Woodman bends her body over to get a closer look at the eelgrass at Willard Beach, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend.

A Friend to Eelgrass: A Water Reporter Helps Look After a Vital Ecosystem in Peril

Volunteer Water Reporter Susan Woodman bends her body over to get a closer look at the eelgrass at Willard Beach, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend.

Susan Woodman is eager to get to the beach during the lowest of low tides to glimpse her favorite eelgrass beds. It’s 6:47 a.m. and the tide is still way out. She can spot it in the distance. Susan began photographing the eelgrass meadows at Willard Beach about a year ago as a volunteer Water Reporter for Friends of Casco Bay. “It’s become like my garden,” she says. “It’s really quite pretty, like a field of very green grass.”

view of a relatively healthy eelgrass bed underwater
A healthy bed of eelgrass growing in clean, clear water. Photo credit: Steve Karpiak.

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a flowering marine plant that grows in shallow, coastal waters of Casco Bay and up and down the Atlantic seaboard. To the folks who named it, its long leaves looked like eels swimming in the water. For Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, it conjures up images of ballerinas swaying together with the waves.

Eelgrass habitats are vital ecosystems.

Beyond its lovely green locks, eelgrass habitats are dynamic ecosystems that play an essential role in the health of our fisheries, oceans, and planet. The eggs and larvae of bivalves, especially blue mussels and clams, get their start in these natural nurseries. Young fish, such as herring, striped bass, shrimp, and lobster, find safe refuge amongst the tall green eelgrasses. Its rooted blades also hold sediment in place, buffering the shoreline from storm damage and trapping carbon and excess nitrogen. Because eelgrass needs clean, clear water to thrive, it is an important indicator of water quality – meaning, if you’ve got healthy eelgrass, you’ve got healthy water for fish and shellfish.

These superheroes seagrasses have been quietly keeping our oceans healthy, our fisheries abundant, and our coastlines intact.

chunks of the eelgrass meadows are missing at Willard Beach.At Willard Beach, Susan notices chunks of the eelgrass meadows are missing. She points to a series of scattered sections that had once been an unbroken expanse, now divided into patches like an archipelago of islands. Susan is certain the January storms that ravaged so much of Maine’s coast also caused significant damage to the eelgrasses at Willard Beach.

Something is happening to Casco Bay’s eelgrass. This vital ecosystem is in peril.

In 2018, Casco Bay’s eelgrass was mapped by Maine Department of Environmental Protection, revealing an extensive network of eelgrass beds. But four years later, when mapped again in 202254% of all eelgrass beds in Casco Bay had disappeared – a huge loss in a short amount of time. Ivy notes, “We know eelgrass comes and goes in cycles. But a loss this catastrophic signals that something more is going on.”

These two maps show the decline of eelgrass in Casco Bay over just four years. In 2018, Casco Bay’s eelgrass was mapped by Maine Department of Environmental Protection, revealing an extensive network of eelgrass beds. But four years later, when mapped again in 2022, 54% of all eelgrass beds in Casco Bay had disappeared – a huge loss in a short amount of time.
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection eelgrass mapping has been invaluable and revealed a need for more frequent and regular mapping. Maine DEP had temporary funding for the 2018 and 2022 eelgrass mapping. Soon afterward, Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass a bill that now funds the mapping of eelgrass across the entire Maine coast in five year cycles.

 

Underwater view of an unhealthy eelgrass bed.
Without clear sunlight reaching the leaves, eelgrass struggles to thrive in cloudy waters and places where excess nitrogen feeds blooms of algae and phytoplankton. Lawn fertilizers, wastewater, stormwater, and air pollution all contribute to nitrogen pollution. Photo credit Sonny McAplin.

What’s destroying the eelgrasses of Casco Bay? The problems offer us clues…and hope for the future.

Before attempting to restore eelgrass beds, we want to understand why they are failing. Without addressing the causes of failure, planting new eelgrass will not be successful.

Friends of Casco Bay has joined a two-year collaborative pilot project. Over the summers of 2024 and 2025, Casco Bay Estuary PartnershipManometMaine Department of Environmental ProtectionTeam Zostera, and the scientists at Friends of Casco Bay will work together on a project to study factors putting eelgrass at risk and begin testing restoration solutions.

A team of many talents.

Friends of Casco Bay scientists, Mike Doan and Heather Kenyon, will do what they do best – collect data on water temperature, water quality, nutrient concentrations, and light availability – to examine issues such as nitrogen loading and warming waters. While our partner organization Manomet will monitor the green crabs. Team Zostera divers will get us ready for phase two by studying the seed germination cycle of eelgrass. We are asking our volunteer Water Reporters to work with us to document eelgrass washed up on shore for signs of nutrient impairment, green crab damage, and other harm. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership is managing the project.

Next year, the project team will test methods for seeding eelgrass using seeds collected by Team Zostera. In coming years, Maine may need to consider seeding more heat-resistant varieties of eelgrass from regions to the south.

The hope behind the pilot project’s efforts is to start moving on solutions and restoration before it’s too late.

Map of the two eelgrass monitoring sites in Casco Bay: Broad Cove in Cumberland and off Mackworth Island
The pilot project will monitor two eelgrass beds in 2024 and 2025: one off Mackworth Island and a second site in Cumberland’s Broad Cove.

 

a closeup image f a scallop in one of Virginia's thriving eelgrass habitats
Eelgrass restoration in Casco Bay might be possible. An effort to restore eelgrass beds along Virginia’s Eastern Shore began in 2000 with a few seeds from the York River. Today, these seagrass meadows have grown to 6,195 acres—providing a home for an estimated 200,000 bay scallops reared in a hatchery. Image credit: Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Everyone can be part of the solution for Casco Bay’s eelgrass habitats.

To be a friend to the amazing eelgrasses of Casco Bay, we recommend these actions:

  • Become a BayScaper by limiting your use of fertilizers, or better yet, opting out of fertilizing your lawn and garden to reduce excess nitrogen entering the watershed (this applies to all locations in the watershed, from Bethel to the beach). If your property is next to water, plant a buffer of native plants to reduce nitrogen runoff.

  • Walk carefully at low tide to avoid stepping on fragile eelgrass beds.

  • Boat smart in shallow waters. Propellers, anchors, and mooring chains can all damage eelgrass.

  • Install high, narrow ramps and docks to avoid shading eelgrass beds.

  • Use sustainable harvesting practices to prevent damage from aquaculture moorings, lobster traps, and shellfish/worming rakes.

Susan Woodman holds her phone, ready to take photos of the eelgrass at Willard Beach.
Volunteer Susan Woodman was heartened to hear news of our pilot project because she recognizes eelgrass as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem, as well as a potential carbon sink. “Climate change is something I worry about. How can you not?” Eelgrass is increasingly being studied as a nature-based solution to addressing the climate crisis.

You might also consider becoming a Water Reporter, like Susan.

Before the tide inches up over the Willard Beach eelgrass meadows, Susan bends her body over to get a closer look, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend. She notes the length of the blades, the interesting bumps and holes in the sand, and wonders what else is living amongst the eelgrass. Susan enjoys volunteering as a Water Reporter with Friends of Casco Bay. “It feels as though you’re contributing something and looking after the beach.”

Water Reporters make a difference.

As a Water Reporter, Susan is providing an important service to Casco Bay. By photographing evidence of algal blooms, sea level rise, pollution, eelgrass, wildlife sightings, and other notable observations with an app on their smartphones, Water Reporters help us see how the Bay is changing over time. This helps us learn how our communities can make better choices. If you are interested in becoming a Water Reporter, sign up here.

While the future of eelgrass in Casco Bay is indeed in peril, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca reminds us, “We do this work, because we’re hopeful.”


Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Maine DEP’s eelgrass mapping in 2022 was funded due to the passing of legislation that Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass. Maine DEP used temporary funds to do the mapping work for both 2018 and 2022. The bill that Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass will fund the future mapping of eelgrass across the Maine coast in five year cycles.


 

Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper: Eelgrass

You Tube Thumbnail for Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper: Eelgrass video

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Community Organizer Sara Freshley are joined by Staff Scientist Mike Doan for a casual conversation about the plight of eelgrass in Casco Bay and our eelgrass pilot project at our last Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper event of the season. Watch the video here.

Like coral reefs, eelgrass meadows provide a variety of critical services for our oceans and planet:

Eelgrass meadows in Casco Bay declined in size by 54 percent between 2018-2022, a loss described as “staggering” by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in a January 2023 report. Many factors can contribute to loss of eelgrass. Nitrogen pollution is one of them, and unlike other contributing factors such as warming water temperatures, the amount of nitrogen in the Bay can be controlled at a local level. Photo credit: Steve Karpiak

• Nursery habitat for fish, lobster, horseshoe crabs, and other shellfish
• Vital food source for birds and fish
• Stabilizes sediments, reducing erosion
• Raises pH levels and buffers the effects of ocean acidification
• Carbon capture, helping reduce the effect of climate change

We became alarmed when we learned that 54% of this critical habitat had disappeared between 2018 and 2022. This year we are partnering with other groups to launch an eelgrass pilot project to better understand what’s happening and explore how to restore eelgrass habitats. This is a collaborative project between Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Friends of Casco Bay, Manomet, and Team Zostera.

You can learn more about eelgrass and our pilot project by watching the Coffee with the Casco Baykeeper Eelgrass video and by reading our story A Friend to Eelgrass: A Water Reporter Helps Look After a Vital Ecosystem in Peril.