Volunteers in Profile

June 2019: Quality Volunteers Positively Effect the Cape’s Water Quality.


The 2019 Water Quality Monitoring volunteer corps gathered together for training, and this group photo. They’ll spend the season collecting near-shore water samples. Their assistance is integral to this long-term monitoring project.

Since 2006, the Center’s Water Quality Monitoring Program has been helping resource managers, municipalities, the Cape Cod Commission, and the state keep a watchful eye on Cape Cod Bay should any environmental alarm bells go off, and has provided an invaluable baseline of data as the region faces the growing changes wrought by climate change. In addition to the offshore stations throughout the bay that are monitored by Program Director Amy Costa and her staff, a stalwart corps of citizen scientists have collected thousands of samples from Cape Cod Bay’s inshore over its entire perimeter over the past 13 years, the collected data from which provides crucial indicators of the bay’s health, such as changes in oxygen, temperature, salinity and nitrogen levels.

Costa says, “The volunteer component of the Water Quality Monitoring Program has been an integral part of the Program since it began. The first grant we ever received was from the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment to fund start-up costs to develop and implement a volunteer monitoring program in Cape Cod Bay.  With these funds we were able to recruit, equip, and train eight volunteers to cover 12 sites. Many of these initial recruits are still with us today, 13 years later!”

Some samplers in particular deserve a special shout-out:
Joann Figueras (since 2006)
Phil and Betty Suraci (since 2007)
Scott and Heather Grenon (since 2007)
Diana Stinson (since 2007)

When we asked for memories of how volunteers became involved in the program, Phil and Betty Suraci said “We moved to the Cape and made our home in Orleans full time in 2002.  We wanted to be involved in projects that were going to explore, understand, and contribute to our new home. In 2006 we attended a talk at Snow Library by Amy Costa on water quality issues in and around Cape Cod Bay that the Center for Coastal Studies was starting to look at.  It seemed the very thing for us. We signed on and began water testing at the Boat Meadow site on the Orleans/Eastham town line.”

“The data we collected over the first 5 years was gathered and charted,” the Suracis recalled with pride. “We were so excited to see our results posted to be shared with others also looking at the bay. We were truly citizen scientists.”

The value of getting involved also goes beyond the contributions to science. “However exciting [being a citizen scientist is], it is the actual site work that is the reward,” reflected the Suracis. “It is time to slow down, be calmer, and in the moment. The joy of greeting terrapins each summer, birds wheeling and calling, observing fiddler crabs and schools of little fish. That’s what brought us to the Cape and what brings us back to Boat Meadow for the last 12 years.”

Costa notes that over the years, the program has more than doubled in size, both in number of active volunteers and in the number of sites covered. A special thanks to CCS staff Beth Larson (through 2015) and Jenny Burkhardt who have worked alongside the volunteers, training them and motivating them to come back each year, and to Jan Young who has recruited new volunteers as the need arises.

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