With the arrival of warmer weather is also the arrival of the field research season for our research partners and scientists and this year there is exciting opportunities for citizens to join in the work. A new program has been launched in the coastal watershed and is looking for active volunteers! The Coastal Research Volunteers (CRV) organized by NH Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension’s Alyson Eberhardt is kicking off its 2013 field season with a full docket of projects and opportunities to get out into the watershed. The CRV is a non-advocacy group whose mission is to support and enhance local research and to participate in meaningful science and stewardship relevant to the NH Coastal Watershed. The group has been organizing for the past two years but with the arrival of Alyson has taken on a wider scale and purpose. The core goals of the program are three-fold:
- Volunteers working side-by-side with researchers
- Creating meaningful, authentic experiences
- Increasing capacity of scientists to conduct research
The projects folks can participate in are quite varied and all projects include volunteer training and varying levels of engagement depending upon the volunteer’s time and interest level.
2013’s Project Opportunities:
Horseshoe crab monitoring
Horseshoe crabs populations and habitats are largely unknown in our watershed. Assist a UNH graduate student with monitoring 6 locations to better understand horseshoe crab populations within Great Bay.
Glass eel/elver monitoring
A requirement of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s fishery management plan for the American eel is active monitoring of populations. Volunteers are needed to work with NH Fish and Game to monitor the ingress of juvenile American eels (glass eels/elvers). With CRV volunteers, NHFG is expanding monitoring from one site to two. Read a great article from a citizen scientist who counts glass eels in New York from the New York Times.
With environments changing through human activities including global climate change, we can track the seasonal changes, or phenology, of plants and animals to learn more about our natural world and how we can adapt to these changing environments.Volunteers will collect data on seasonal changes in plants and animals (e.g., migration, egg laying, changing leaf color) for climate change research. The data will be used by local scientists as well as by a regional and national network of scientists. For more information on the national phenology network click here.
Great Bay oysters can filter up to 20 gallons of water a day, keeping the water clean and healthy. Recently, Great Bay’s oysters have been on the decline but, you can assist The Nature Conservancy and UNH in restoring 5 acres of oyster reef in Great Bay Estuary. Volunteers will work on cleaning recycled shell and counting and measuring spat (baby oysters). For more info on the oyster restoration efforts in Great Bay click here.
Future Projects on the Horizon:
The issue of global plastic pollution is growing, the expanding Pacific gyre and plastic bag bans across the country are bringing this topic to forefront. With this project, volunteers can work with NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension and the Blue Ocean Society on a first of its kind research project in NH to evaluate the abundance and composition of microplastics on our NH beaches.
Sand dune restoration
It’s been widely reported that the communities with intact sand dunes in New Jersey spared a lot of damage from Superstorm Sandy. Here in our coastal watershed our sand dunes can be found in the Hampton-Seabrook estuary. The CRV, if funded, will play a major role in restoring and enhancing the sand dunes and building a natural defense from future coastal storms. Volunteers will inventory and remove invasive species, erect sand fencing, and plant native dune species.
Stormwater has been researched as a substantial delivery method of the pollution entering our region’s waters, but what exactly is in that stormwater? And when is it the heaviest? Are there locations where it’s worse? Last year CRV trained volunteers in the Winnicut River Watershed and the Exeter-Squamscott Watershed to monitor their neighborhood storm drains. This pilot project is ready to be expanded to other communities; CRV can function as a partner in future programs to help seed local volunteer efforts and help with training of new volunteers. As our cities and towns face new federal permits for stormwater this service of trained volunteer stormwater monitors could prove quite beneficial.
This important work is dependent on volunteer help to be completed. What could be better than getting out into our gorgeous watershed with other community members getting your feet wet, muddy or sandy while conducting important and enlightening research?