N.H. Sea Grant Coastal Research Volunteer Program (2012-2013)

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Project Type: 
Extension
Project Number: 
E/HCE-2

Participants:

Stephen Jones N.H. Sea Grant Associate Director and Asst Director for Research
Alyson Eberhardt N.H. Sea Grant Extension Specialist for Coastal Habitats
Objectives: 

The goal of the Coastal Research Volunteer (CRV) Program is to engage volunteers in enhancing and expanding locally relevant research and participating in meaningful science and stewardship opportunities. The program provides an interface where interested volunteers are matched with researchers to work on a variety of funded projects in the New Hampshire Seacoast and surrounding watersheds. The CRV Program serves as an umbrella organization that all of the volunteers connect with and communicate through. This structure has tangible impacts on building trained research capacity and enhanced management outcomes, and it serves critical stewardship, engagement and education needs.

Accomplishments: 
2013

Scientists working in coastal N.H. reap benefits of volunteer program

Coastal Research Volunteer participation in local coastal research projects resulted in a savings of over $33,000 in research costs to local scientists.

RELEVANCE: Historically, many environmental issues and opportunities in the New Hampshire coastal zone have not received the attention they deserved because of limited funding and thus the limited capacity of local scientists.

RESPONSE: The Coastal Research Volunteers (CRV) are a citizen science group created by New Hampshire Sea Grant to pair local citizens with researchers to meet their research goals. By partnering scientists and citizens, the CRV program achieves the goals of increasing the ability of scientists to conduct research as well as providing meaningful stewardship opportunities for local citizens.

RESULTS: During 2013, the organization’s first full year of existence, CRV involvement in research projects provided the help needed to conduct coastal research as well as provided an economic savings to researchers by offsetting the need for paid staff. Through the use of CRV as unpaid field help, local researchers achieved an estimated economic savings of over $33,000 toward the following programs: submerged aquatic vegetation monitoring and restoration ($3430), oyster restoration ($5310), glass eel monitoring ($5250), stream health surveys ($4690), phenology monitoring ($7840) and horseshoe crab population research ($6500).

N.H. Sea Grant citizen scientists document the local effects of climate change
N.H. Sea Grant has partnered with Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension to expand the Signs of the Seasons phenology program developed in Maine to N.H. In 2013, some 45 volunteers in N.H. were recruited and they contributed 208 volunteer hours to phenology training and monitoring to observe and record the seasonal changes of common plants and animal. Furthermore, N.H. Sea Grant has engaged local researchers and resource managers as partners with the goal of understanding local ecosystem responses to climate change and providing the volunteers with local stories from the data they collect. By engaging local citizens in phenology data collection, N.H. Sea Grant is increasing participants’ connection to the nature around them, deepening their understanding of the implications of a changing climate, and providing opportunities for them to contribute to scientific discovery.

Coastal Research Volunteers double N.H. Fish and Game eel monitoring effort
The Coastal Research Volunteers (CRV) assisted the N.H. Fish and Game Department with its 2013 annual glass eel survey. Mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the regional surveys provide important information on the status of this species, which is considered to be in decline over the extent of its range and is currently proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Over the course of 11 weeks, 18 volunteers collected abundance and life stage data for glass eels in the Oyster River (Durham, N.H.) four times a week. By working with the CRV program, Fish and Game doubled the size of their glass eel monitoring program and for the first time met the minimum standard for number of sampling sites required. In addition, all of the CRV participants who responded to a post-project survey reported increased knowledge of coastal management and specifically how field collected data contribute to the management of eel populations.

Coastal Research Volunteers assist scientists with research
During 2013, over 130 volunteers contributed more than 1445 hours as part of the Coastal Research Volunteer program, collecting data for scientific projects on oyster restoration, algae research, glass eel monitoring, horseshoe crab research, stream health surveys, seagrass restoration, and blue mussel monitoring for toxic contaminants. In doing this, they allowed 10 researchers working in the New Hampshire coastal zone to increase the magnitude and frequency of data collection in their research and monitoring projects. Volunteers report increased knowledge as a result of training and research activities. Generally, volunteers valued working in concert with scientists to gain from their expertise in research settings. The opportunity to work on projects with organisms and within habitats to which they otherwise might not have access were also mentioned as valuable outcomes of the CRV program. The researchers reported that by providing their assistance, the volunteers have become an integral part of their planning process and are allowing them to conduct research they otherwise may not have been able to undertake.

Volunteers and sixth graders assess health of local stream, help golf club fulfill Audubon certification requirements
Ten Coastal Research Volunteers and 42 sixth graders from North Hampton (N.H.) School collected data on the water quality and benthic macroinvertebrate communities of Cornelius Brook at the Sagamore-Hampton Golf Club. The goal of the 2013 project was to understand the physical, chemical and biological conditions over time as a requirement for an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program for golf course certification and to evaluate the effectiveness of the environmentally friendly strategies used to maintain the course. Both the CRV participants and the students were trained in sample collection and analysis methods prior to field sampling. Under the supervision of the teachers and the CRV participants, the students collected benthic macroinvertebrate samples, identified them and derived a stream health score. Now engaged in local conservation issues, the students extended the information to the community by presenting the project to the North Hampton School Board. By working with the CRV program, the golf club is fulfilling both the water quality management and outreach and education requirements of the Audubon International certification process.

N.H. Sea Grant tweets about local coastal issues and opportunities
The Coastal_NH twitter account was created in 2013 to share information about N.H. Sea Grant’s Coastal Research Volunteers program, other N.H. Sea Grant programs and activities, local coastal issues, and empirically based information relevant to N.H.’s coast. The account description is: “Bringing citizens, scientists and communities together to conserve the coast.” The twitter account currently has 107 followers and has been continually growing.

N.H. Sea Grant’s new website facilitates interactions with the program’s stakeholders
Launched in 2013, N.H. Sea Grant’s new Drupal-based website has improved the flow of information to the program’s many audiences. Incorporating both the former program website and the UNH/NHSG Marine Docent Program website, the new site allows staffers to maintain their own portions of the site and thus makes it more responsive to multiple users. It also features social media, becoming a two-way avenue of communication.

Four videos promote interest and encourage involvement in N.H. Sea Grant extension activities
N.H. Sea Grant produced four videos in 2013 that made a positive impact on local communities. The videos documented NHSG staff efforts to promote local lobsters and clean up marine debris; work with a local school to assess the health of a stream on a golf course; monitor American eel populations with the help of volunteers; and promote local seafood to help support N.H. fishermen. These videos have been shared on social media and at events and meetings, amassing 760 views on the NHSG YouTube page. After the public viewed these videos, NSHG staff members have been contacted by various individuals, organizations and schools expressing an interest in getting involved with these extension activities to help make a difference in their community.

2012
 

 

NHSG’s Coastal Research Volunteers Help Coastal Towns Eliminate Pollution Sources

RELEVANCE: Fecal pollution restricts surface water uses due to public health concerns about potential exposure to microbial pathogens. Fecal pollution sources are also a source of nutrients that are currently an ecosystem health concern in N.H. coastal communities.

RESPONSE: Coastal N.H. is facing new EPA requirements to identify and eliminate pollution sources from storm drains, yet many small towns have limited capacity and expertise to conduct monitoring and pollution source evaluations. In 2012, NHSG’s Coastal Research Volunteer (CRV) program, with funding from the N.H. Coastal Program, designed and conducted a pilot storm drain monitoring program. Run by citizen volunteers with technical support from NHSG and UNH, the effort proved the feasibility of using volunteers to help communities address environmental problems.
RESULTS: The CRV initiated the pilot monitoring program in two towns, Exeter and Greenland, in close partnership with town employees and recruitment of citizen volunteers. In Exeter, one of 11 sites was found to be a source of high levels of bacteria and nitrogen through repeated sample analyses, providing the basis for Exeter to follow through with attempts to identify the actual source and eliminate it. In Greenland, one of nine sites was found to be a significant source of high levels of bacteria due to inappropriate pet waste dumping. The CRV and local volunteers worked with the town administrator and the local Winnicut River Watershed Coalition to educate residents in the surrounding neighborhood and eliminate the improper pet waste disposal. The volunteers also collaborated in the production of a manual on storm drain monitoring involving volunteers.
RECAP: The CRV program was successful in implementing a pilot storm drain monitoring program based on citizen volunteer sampling and assessment efforts that will help all of the state’s coastal communities with required storm drain monitoring.

N.H. Sea Grant’s Coastal Research Volunteers Offset Research Costs to Local Scientists
RELEVANCE: Limited funds available for scientific research and the accompanying lack of capacity by local scientists and agencies to conduct research have resulted in many environmental issues remaining unaddressed in the New Hampshire coastal watershed.
RESPONSE: The Coastal Research Volunteers (CRV) are a citizen science group created by New Hampshire Sea Grant to pair local citizens with researchers to meet their research goals. By partnering scientists and citizens, the CRV program increases the ability of scientists to conduct research while providing meaningful stewardship opportunities for local citizens.
RESULTS: CRV involvement in research projects provided the help needed to conduct coastal research as well as provided an economic savings to researchers by offsetting the need for paid staff. Through the use of CRV as unpaid field help, local researchers achieved an estimated economic savings of $34,454 toward salt marsh monitoring and restoration, oyster restoration, stormwater and blue mussel contaminant monitoring, and horseshoe crab population research.
RECAP: CRV participation in local coastal research projects resulted in a savings of $34,454 in research costs to scientists, enabling them to increase their research capacity.

NHSG Produces Program's First Video, Helps Promote New Volunteer Opportunity
In 2012, NHSG continued to develop the Coastal Research Volunteer (CRV) program, a new opportunity for volunteers to team with marine researchers on projects aimed at maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems. Working with a Doyle Fellow who was a video student at UNH Manchester, Communications staffers launched NHSG's video production component with a video showing some of the CRV’s projects and participants. The video will be used to recruit both researchers and volunteers to the effort as well as to explain the CRV’s goals.

Volunteers Power a Range of Coastal Research Projects
Established in 2011, NHSG’s Coastal Research Volunteer (CRV) program links interested residents with marine scientists in need of assistance with their research projects. During 2012, approximately 125 volunteers contributed 1883 hours assisting with a range of research efforts. These included playing a critical role in increasing the number of sites monitored and the frequency of data collection in a research project on horseshoe crab populations with observations made by the CRV comprising more than 50% of the total; monitoring blue mussels for toxic contaminants; enabling a researcher to complete saltmarsh vegetation surveys at four plots, identify unexpected rare plant species, and cut and harvest phragmites stalks within an eight acre plot for biofuel development; and assisting with raising over 11,000 oysters and restoring a quarter million new oysters to two-plus acres of reef in the Great Bay Estuary.

Publications

Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant

CD/Video

  • N.H. Sea Grant Coastal Research Volunteer Program (2013) (video). See N.H. Sea Grant's YouTube channel.
  • Assessing stream health on a N.H. golf course (2013) (video). See N.H. Sea Grant's YouTube channel.
  • Monitoring American eels in N.H. rivers (2013) (video). See N.H. Sea Grant's YouTube channel.