Press

Chesapeake Bay Leaders Support Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

10/22/2018

Chesapeake Bay Program to include citizen science data into its restoration efforts

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership recognized the value of citizen science data collected through the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC) in assessing the health and restoration progress of the Chesapeake Bay watershed with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on October 12, 2018. The CMC is a group of leading organizations that provide technical, programmatic, and outreach support in order to integrate volunteer-based and non-traditional water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring data into the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. This MOU aims to forge a deeper understanding of and commitment to the use of citizen-based monitoring data in Bay decision-making and restoration processes. Over the last year, the CMC team worked to build support for this unprecedented MOU within the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership.

“The CMC is excited by the support shown by the Chesapeake Bay Program and other leaders around the Watershed,” said Liz Chudoba, CMC Program Manager at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “The MOU builds on the CMC’s diligent efforts to document the diverse programs monitoring throughout the Bay watershed and establish avenues for integrating those data and new data collected.”

The CMC spent the first three years of the project developing quality assurance project plans, standard monitoring operating procedures, and an interactive database that accommodates both data contributors and data users. Today the CMC team (Alliance for Chesapeake Bay, Dickinson College’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, Izaak Walton League of America, and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science) is actively collaborating with communities, local government, non-profits, and academic institutions to promote water quality monitoring and data sharing.

“The MOU marks an important milestone in recognizing the value of citizen science data in answering questions about the Bay health regardless of who the data collector is,” said Julie Vastine, Director of the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring. The CMC supports volunteer and non-traditional water quality monitoring throughout the Chesapeake watershed.

“Engaging communities in the collection of scientific data benefits everyone,” said Caroline Donovan, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Cultivating a connection to place that leads to a more engaged citizenry will not only improve our understanding of the health of the watershed, but also create a shared vision for restoration.”

Water quality monitoring data collected by volunteers are currently unevenly used by state and local governments around the country but can significantly enrich our understanding of the health of local streams and rivers. Until this MOU, only a handful of states have used community-collected data to augment their datasets in assessing water quality.

“Agencies often find it difficult to assimilate volunteer collected data into their decision making efforts, leaving untapped data on the table until now. We commend the Bay Program and Partners for signing this MOU and taking the first steps towards encouraging the use of citizen science data to help inform decisions on restoring Bay health,” said Danielle Donkersloot, Clean Water Program Director for Izaak Walton League.

“With hundreds of volunteer monitoring groups collecting data, the potential to use these data to better understand environmental health conditions at very local scales while also tapping into the results for regional perspectives is a significant boost to our integrated monitoring programming in the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. The MOU helps to solidify this integration now and into the future,” said Peter Tango, USGS at the Chesapeake Bay Program.