We look forward to Water Reporter posts continuing to come in throughout the fall and winter, when we will be on the lookout for any unusual algal blooms, effects of large rainstorms or snowstorms on the Bay, and extreme high tides, called King Tides. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters may be.
We launched our Water Reporter Observing Network in July. Since then, our volunteer Water Reporters have been reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they have been seeing out on the Bay. Here are some recent examples:
We depend on our ever-expanding network of Water Reporters to help us keep an eye on the Bay:
- reporting problems, such as pollution or outbreaks of nuisance algal blooms,
- commenting on daily changes in the Bay from tides to the character of the water, and
- sharing the beauty of the Bay and its diverse plant and animal life.
Water Reporter is a worldwide social network that connects individuals with organizations like ours that are actively working to protect and improve water quality.
By using the Water Reporter app on their smartphones or tablets, Volunteers provide an instant record of their observation with a photo, the location, and the time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.
The Water Reporter app is an awesome way to record what is happening around our beautiful but changing Bay.
If you aren’t a Water Reporter already, we invite you to join Friends of Casco Bay’s Observing Network at cascobay.org/water-reporter. Each submission is displayed on a map, which can be seen on the sign-up page. Friends of Casco Bay Staff is notified of sightings. You can find your own posts, and you can see and comment on what others are observing around the Bay.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive a photo that records the location and time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.”
Volunteers began signing up as Water Reporters in early August. More than 30 volunteers have signed up around the Bay and have posted many observations with us.
For example, Morrigan shot this image of a gull sitting on a dead harbor sea near Bangs Island. We then promptly shared this information with Marine Mammals of Maine.
In Water Reporter, hashtags are used to categorize images and Morrigan used #wildlife for this image.
In another example, Ivy took photos of an algal bloom in South Portland near Forest City Cemetery, using #algae. These photos add to our understanding of potential sources of excess nutrient loading in the area.
The Water Reporter app collects all of our observations in one place in an organized and searchable way. We are so excited about the ability of this tool to record what’s happening around our beautiful but changing Bay—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Identifying the area of the Bay where you took the photo and categorizing the image with a hashtag, such as #algae, #pollution report, #trash, #wildlife, and #erosion, makes it easier for us to search for similar occurrences around the Bay.
Pop quiz: Can you figure out which of these photos is of Casco Bay?
The correct answer is B—but on any given day or part of the Bay, Casco Bay could look like any of these three pictures.
Why does it matter? Water color can be an important indicator of the environmental health of our waters.
For example, the bluish-green water from Casco Bay in the middle photo above was measured as 6 on the Forel-Ule scale. This tells us that the water color is dominated by phytoplankton, but also that some dissolved matter and some sediment may be present, which is typical for areas towards the open sea.
Image A is of water in the Caribbean and is a 2 on the scale—indigo blue with high light penetration. These waters have often low nutrient levels and low production of biomass.
Image C is from Lake Michigan and is a 18 on the scale. Brownish green to cola brown colors indicate waters with an extremely high concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds, which are typical for rivers and estuaries.
You and Friends of Casco Bay have joined a worldwide effort to better understand how our waters may be changing—by observing water color. The images above are photos taken by volunteers like you and have become part of a worldwide catalog of water color.
Since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project using the EyeOnWater app three months ago, 178 people have signed up to measure the color of Casco Bay. The map of Casco Bay below shows where volunteers have taken 387 color measurements on their smartphones and tablets.
You are helping us learn more about the environmental health of Casco Bay. The data you collect, using the EyeOnWater app on your smartphone, will become part of a worldwide catalog of water color. The more measurements collected, the more our understanding of the Bay improves.
We look forward to keeping you posted about what we are learning.
For even more about the effort, see:
News Center Maine’s story about Color by Numbers: https://www.newscentermaine. com/article/news/local/this- app-is-changing-the-way- mainers-can-detect-water- pollution/97-581638282/
Maine Public’s coverage: http://www. mainepublic.org/post/ smartphone-app-s-helping- beachgoers-help-casco-bay# stream/0
As you may know, Friends of Casco Bay has joined a worldwide effort to better understand how our waters may be changing—by observing water color.
Since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project three months ago, 178 of you have signed up to measure the color of Casco Bay. The map of Casco Bay above shows where you have taken 387 color measurements on your smartphones and tablets.
For more than a century, marine scientists have used the Forel-Ule color scale—an index of 21 colors—from blue to greenish blue to yellow to brown—to measure color as a revealing indicator of the health of our oceans, and to document the color of oceans and lakes.
Scientists at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor have observed that the water color of the Gulf of Maine has become yellower over the last century. They are concerned that this color shift may be caused by suspended particles, which can block sunlight that marine plants need to grow, and which may transport pollutants from the land.
Until we launched Color by Numbers, not much color data had been collected in Casco Bay.
Thank you for helping us all learn more about the environmental health of Casco Bay! The more measurements collected, the more our understanding of the Bay improves.
We look forward to keeping you posted about what we are learning.
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 2016 and 2017, we saw a concerning increase in the number and extent of nuisance and harmful algal blooms in Casco Bay. Large mats of algae covered tidal flats, smothering animals underneath the mats, preventing juvenile clams from settling, and increasing the acidity of the sediment.
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.
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.