Photo Courtesy: U.S.Environmental Protection Agency
To quote the EPA's web site, "Volunteer water monitors build community awareness of pollution problems, help identify and restore problem sites, become advocates for their watersheds and increase the amount of needed water quality information available on our waters." They receive training in pollution prevention, provide data for waters that may otherwise be unassessed, and increase the amount of water quality information available to decision makers at all levels of government. Additionally, "Among the uses of volunteer data are delineating and characterizing watersheds, screening for water quality problems, and measuring baseline conditions and trends." So it is the perfect opportunity for citizen scientists concerned about local water quality and the ecology of their neighborhoods. Training and equipment are provided by many of the chapters, as well as a full organizational infrastructure to coordinate everyone's work, ensure high quality data, and keep everyone motivated to see the project through.
If this sounds familiar it should; it is very similar to the Skywarn program run by the National Weather Service(which we'll be talking about much more next week). Like the Skywarn program, this is not just a single project but a collection of projects across the country. Large and small, each is devoted to monitoring wetlands and bodies of water in a certain geographic area. Technical and organizational assistance is sometimes provided by the government but the passion, and work, all come from a concerned citizen scientists. Many projects are also done in close coordination with State and local government agencies though this isn't always the case. These others evolve from the concerns of public citizens, interests of local firms, and mission of local non-profit organizations.
Getting Started is Easy:
- Visit the EPA's Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Program web page to get a basic overview of the program and what is expected of citizen scientist participants. You can also click on the Starting Out in Volunteer Water Monitoring web page for tips on joining a local project.
- Click on the EPA's Directory of Volunteer Monitoring Programs to find a project in your state. Each one includes contact information and meeting times to help you get involved and attend your first meeting.
- Once you have met up with a local group, or begun looking more deeply into water monitoring techniques, you may want to read up on the Guide to Quality Assurance Project Plans which provides information on the data you'll be collecting and the best techniques for ensuring it is of the highest quality.