A group of dedicated volunteers has played an integral role in monitoring and preserving New Hampshire’s coastal and estuarine waters since 1990.
Currently, more than 100 volunteers are part of the Great Bay Coast Watch (GBCW) and help to collect information regarding the chemical, physical and biological attributes within the Great Bay estuarine system. These volunteers regularly monitor 25 sites along the New Hampshire coastline and within its two estuaries.
Their findings have been used by local communities, researchers and state agencies to help make informed management decisions that ultimately benefit the estuarine system. This information is stored in the NHDES database http://www2.des.state.nh.us/OneStop/ under environmental monitoring data base (EMD). In addition, the Watch has a quality assurance project plan approved by the Environmental Protection Agency which allows granting agencies to fund the Watch’s projects.
Sponsored by UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant, the GBCW is currently New Hampshire’s most far-reaching program for direct citizen involvement in monitoring estuarine and coastal waters. In 1998, the efforts of the volunteers paid off when the GBCW was recognized at the Outstanding Adult Volunteer Organization of the Year for Strafford County by Governor Jeanne Shaheen.
“The volunteers bring extraordinary quality to the Great Bay Coast Watch program,” says Candace Dolan, the Watch’s phytoplankton project coordinator.
There are numerous monitoring activities these volunteers become involved with, depending on their interests and availability. Many of them are involved in the seasonal monitoring of water quality at the 25 sites. Others conduct shoreline surveys to detect potential pollution sources. In 1999, the GBCW began a volunteer phytoplankton monitoring project in which weekly water samples are collected at high tide to check for species that could cause a “red tide” or harmful algal blooms. More recently, volunteers have participated in Phase II of the stormwater study in Dover, NH. Their work entails measuring the flow of the Cochecho River, collecting water samples to test for bacteria, and even helping to design water collection devices for use in hard-to-sample drains and ditches.
The volunteers give a tremendous amount of time and effort to help complete these projects and are always willing to tackle new challenges. They appreciate having the opportunity to participate in an education program that positively impacts environmental issues.
“The Great Bay Coast Watch provides a vehicle to educate ourselves and the people around us,” says Wes Tator, a GBCW volunteer. “It is a way to give back to society and the estuary.”
“Our volunteers are very loyal,” adds Ann Reid, Watch coordinator. “They make it all worthwhile.”
To celebrate the conclusion of the 18 th sampling season for the GBCW, this year’s annual “Chili and Chowdah” Fest will be held on Nov. 29, 2007, at 11:30 a.m. at the Newington Town Hall. Volunteers and the general public are invited to attend and participate in the festivities.
For more information about Great Bay Coast Watch contact Ann Reid at UNH Cooperative Extension and Seagrant: (603) 749-1565.