Extension Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network logo Link to National Water Quality Program website

Related Research and Educational Efforts

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Project Initiatives Link to 382K pdf file with a Project DescriptionLink to Outreach Materials and Activities webpageLink to Information about Nationwide InquiryLink to information about online databasesLink to webpage about training modules

Link to listing of Volunteer Monitoring Programs sponsored or co-sponsored by ExtensionLink to listing of Extension-connected Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring programsLink to a listing of Extension-connected volunteer water monitoring programs in the USLink to a listing of Master Naturalist programs in the US.Link to webpae about volunteer monitoring programs' acheivementsLink to current highlighted programLink to highlighted program archiveslink to job postings

Header for studies that research and validate volunteer monitoringLink to validation studies of volunteer monitoringLink to other research about volunteer monitoringHeader for Related Research and Education Efforts

Link to archived volunteer monitoring discussionsLink to publications relevant to the volunteer monitoring communityHeader for section about tribal initiatives in volunteer monitoringLink to information about the Great Lakes tribal water resources surveyLink to information about the 2010 Great Lakes Water Resource SummitHeader for section about other National Water Resource ProjectsLink to NEMO Network websiteLink to information about other National Water Resource Projects
Link to webpage about the Guide for Growing Programs Link to 803 K pdf file about Using the Guide Link to Why Monitoring Makes Sense 582K portable document format fileLink to Designing Your Monitoring Strategy, 1.6 M p.d.f. fileLink to Monitoring Matrix, 80K p.d.f. fileLink to 986K p.d.f. file about effective training techniquesLink to 437 KB p.d.f. file of Monitoring Equipment SuppliersLink to listing of direct links to online manuals from volunteer monitoring (Extension) programsLink to 1.5 MB pdf file about Building Credibility for Volunteer Monitoring Programs (Quality Assurance and Quality Control)Link to 1020 KB pdf file about SHaring Information Through Internet ExchangeLink to fact sheet learning module about Volunteer Management (7 M pdf file)Link to 6086 KB pdf file about planning your program's data management systemLink to Tips and Tools for Effective PresentationsOutreach ToolsLocating Support and FundingLink to Guide for Growing Programs Introduction to Bacteria Monitoring in Surface WatersLink to Guide for Growing Programs Bacteria Monitoring in Surface Waters Methods moduleLink to Guide for Growing Programs Bacteria Monitoring Data Presentation moduleLink to Guide for Growing Programs Evaluating Your Monitoring Program module

Special Topics' header
Link to results of our 2012 nationwide inquiry.Link to listing of Extension-connected Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring programsLink to Secchi Dip-In websiteLink to National Water Monitoring Day InformationLink to Volunteer E. coli Monitoirn gProject websiteLink to website page of things to watch out for when water monitoirng

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Image of WSU Beachwatchers  in action.  Photo by Charlie Seablom at Rosario.Universities across the nation are involved in educational programs and research that consider and involve volunteer water quality monitoring.

Information on this page will provide you with a general overview of such activities, and whenever possible will provide you with links or contact information for those most intimately involved with these projects so that you can learn more about them.

We'll be adding to the information provided on this page as we learn about programs and research, so please let us know if you know of or are involved with research or educational efforts related to volunteer water quality monitoring.

Thanks to those who have sent us references to use on this page!

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new The Volunteer Monitor newsletter recently referenced our website as a location to find lists of volunteer monitoring-related studies. Choose from the following three lists developed by Ellie Ely:

Volunteer-Collected Data in Published Research Papers

Volunteer Monitoring Validation Studies Published in Science Journals

Additional Examples of Publications Referencing Volunteer Data

Alternatively, for access to these and additional research projects related to volunteer monitoring, sorted by topic area, click on one of the links below:

Aquatic Organism Identification

Beach Monitoring

Chlorophyll Levels in Lakes

Coral Reefs

E. Coli Bacteria Monitoring

Ecological Monitoring Techniques

Fundraising Technique - Hosting A House Party

Macroinvertebrate Bioassessment

Master Water Educators

Monitoring Biodiversity

Multiple Topics (Volunteer Monitor newsletter)

Online Agriculture and Water Database

On-farm Monitoring with Volunteers

Plankton Studies


Secchi Disc and Transparency Tube Studies

Starting a Program

Vernal Pool Monitoring

Volunteer-Collected Data in Published Research Papers (as referenced in the Volunteer Monitor newsletter)

Volunteer Monitoring Validation Studies (as referenced in the Volunteer Monitor newsletter)

Volunteer vs. Professional Monitoring

Volunteer Monitoring as a Tool to Active Community Participation

Aquatic Organism Identification or Characterization

Delaney, D.G., C.D. Sperling, C. Adams, and B. Leung. 2008. Marine invasive species: Validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10:117-128. The crab distribution and abundance findings reported in this article are all based on volunteer data.

Ellis, S.L., and D.F. Cowan. 2001. Volunteer-based monitoring of juvenile American lobster, Homarus americanus. Marine and Freshwater Research 52(8):1103-1112. Article reports volunteer-collected density, size, and abundance data on juvenile lobsters in Maine.

Harvey, E., D. Fletcher, and M. Shortis. 2001. A comparison of the precision and accuracy of estimates of reef-fish lengths determined visually by divers with estimates produced by a stereo-video system. Fishery Bulletin 99:63-71.

Hodgson, G. 1999. A global assessment of human effects on coral reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin 38(5):345-355. All data for this research study were collected by teams of trained recreational divers with the Reef Check program. Participants identified indicator organisms (fish and invertebrates) and substrate types. www.reefcheck.org/about_RC_Reef/Publications.php

Beach Monitoring

Esperanza Stancioff is Maine's statewide coordinator for a new program funded through EPA, the Maine Coastal Swim Beach Program. The program will work with regional labs to process water quality samples for coastal beaches. Samples will be collected by volunteers for Enterococci for the 2003 season. The regional labs will be: a private lab (Microbac), a sewage treatment district lab, and three volunteer labs. The three volunteer labs will be using Enterolert method by IDEXX. The certified labs are both using the membrane filtration for 24 hrs. The program will work with the private lab to do a side by side study of the 2 methods. For more information about the study, contact Esperanza Stancioff, at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, esp@umext.maine.edu.

Chlorophyll Levels in Lakes

Bachmann, R. W., M.V. Hoyer and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2003 Predicting the frequencies of high chlorophyll levels in Florida lakes from average chlorophyll or nutrient data. Lake and Reservoir Management 19(3): 229-241.

Brown, C.D., M.V. Hoyer, R.W. Bachmann, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2000. Nutrient-chlorophyll relationships: An evaluation of empirical nutrient-chlorophyll models using Florida and north-temperate lake data. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57:1574-1583.

Coral Reefs

G. Hogdson designed a program for volunteers to use to assess the effects humans have on coral reefs. Participants in the program, called Reef Check, assessed 300 reefs in a 2.5 month time period. Results of their research are available as a pdf file (542 KB). The full citation is: Hodgson, G. 1999. A global assessment of human effects on coral reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 38 (5) 345-355. The Reef Check website is: http://www.reefcheck.org/

E. coli Bacteria Monitoring

Volunteer water quality monitoring programs in the states of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have teamed up to evaluate several types of e. coli monitoring test kits for use with volunteers and to develop a comprehensive training and education program regarding bacteria monitoring. The premise of the research is that the public is demanding increased water quality monitoring to ensure our waters are protected from various types of runoff that causes elevated pathogen and bacteria levels in the water. However, improperly trained volunteers may gather and distribute water quality sample data without an understanding of pollutant source or proper sampling techniques. For more information about this project contact Barb Liukkonen at the University of Minnesota at liukk001@umn.edu. Website link

Hoyer, M.V, J.L. Donze, E.J. Schulz, D.J. Willis, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2006. Total coliform and Escherichia coli counts in 99 Florida lakes with relations to some common limnological factors. Lake and Reservoir Management 22(2):141-150.

Ecological Monitoring Techniques

Researchers in Virginia developed and validated a citizen monitoring method for assessing the ecological condition of streams in the Coastal Plain and Lower Piedmont Regions of Virginia using aquatic macroinvertebrates.

Gowan, C., et al. 2007. “Stream Monitoring Methods Suitable for Citizen Volunteers Working in the Coastal Plain and Lower Piedmont Regions of Virginia.” American Entomologist 53(1): 48-57

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Fundraising Technique - Hosting A House Party

The Ohio Environmental Council is a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization based in Columbus. Recently, they realized than 90 percent of the organization’s budget came from grants, which they recognized as something that needed to be addressed. Read about their creative strategy for hosting a house party to raise funds for the organization. Reprinted with permission from the Grassroots Fundraising Journal (http://www.grassrootsfundraising.org). >> View this article (21 KB pdf file)

Initiating a Program

Researchers Ruth Anne Hanahan and Caitlin Cottrill at the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center compared Alabama Water Watch, Georgia Adopt-a-Stream, and Kentucky Water Watch in order to understand how the programs were implemented, to learn from their experiences, and to make a recommendation about formulating a similar program in Tennessee. The results of their research are linked as a 132 KB pdf file from this web page.

Lakes Studies

Caffrey, A.J., M.V. Hoyer, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2007. Factors affecting the maximum depth of colonization by submersed macrophytes in Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management 23:287-297.

Hoyer, M.V, J.L. Donze, E.J. Schulz, D.J. Willis, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2006. Total coliform and Escherichia coli counts in 99 Florida lakes with relations to some common limnological factors. Lake and Reservoir Management 22(2):141-150.

Bruhn, L.C., and P.A. Soranno. 2005. Long term (1974-2001) volunteer monitoring of water clarity trends in Michigan lakes and their relation to ecoregion and land-use/cover. Lake and Reservoir Management 21(1):10-23. This study uses Secchi data from Minnesota's Citizen Lake Monitoring Program to analyze trends on 71 lakes.

Hoyer, M.V., C.A. Horsburgh, Daniel E. Canfield, Jr., and Roger W. Bachmann. 2005. Lake level and trophic state variables among a population of shallow Florida lakes and within individual lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 62:2760-2769.

Havel, J.E. and K.R. Pattinson. 2004. Spatial distribution and seasonal dynamics of plankton in a terminal multiple-series reservoir. Lake and Reservoir Management 20(1): 14-26. (this one cites Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program data)

Hoyer, M.V., C.D. Brown and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2004. Relations between water chemistry and water quality as defined by lake users in Florida. Lake and Reservoir Management 20(3): 240-248.

Macdonald, R.H., G.A. Lawrence, and T.P. Murphy. 2004. Operation and evaluation of hypolimnetic withdrawal in a shallow eutrophic lake. Lake and Reservoir Management 20(1):39-53. A 9-year Secchi depth dataset collected by volunteer monitors was the main data used in evaluating the effects of a drawdown on a Canadian lake.

Tugend, K.I. And M.S. Allen. 2004. Changes in the plant and fish communities in enhanced littoral areas of Lake Kissimmee, Florida, following a habitat enhancement. Lake and Reserv. Manage. 20(1): 54-64.

Bachmann, R.W., M.V. Hoyer, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2003. Predicting the frequencies of high chlorophyll levels in Florida lakes from average chlorophyll or nutrient data. Lake and Reservoir Management 19(3):229-241.

Bachmann, R.W., C.A. Horsburgh, M.V. Hoyer, L.K. Mataraza, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2002. Relations between trophic state indicators and plant biomass in Florida lakes. Hydrobiologia 470:219-234.

In a study by the University of New Hampshire, Watershed Natural Resources Inventories (WNRIs) were produced by integrating Geographic Information System mapping and analyses with information from volunteer monitoring and natural resources inventories by stakeholder groups, as well as information from multi-agency collaborations. These WNRIs are used for watershed planning and pollution prevention. They found in creating these WNRIs that GIS is a valuable tool for disseminating information and communicating with the public. They also found that high tech analyses are necessary to understanding the picture of what is happening in a watershed, but education and outreach within the community which simplfy technical information have wider utility than do high tech analyses. For more information about this project, contact Jeff Schloss; jeff.schloss@unh.edu.

Hoyer, M.V., J. Winn, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2001. Citizen monitoring of aquatic bird populations using a Florida lake. Lake and Reservoir Management 17(2):82-89. Note: The second author is a volunteer monitor! According to lead author Mark Hoyer, the volunteer made many significant contributions to the manuscript.

Brown, C.D., M.V. Hoyer, R.W. Bachmann, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2000. Nutrient-chlorophyll relationships: An evaluation of empirical nutrient-chlorophyll models using Florida and north-temperate lake data. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57:1574-1583.

Terrell, J.B., D.L. Watson, M.V. Hoyer, M.S. Allen, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2000. Temporal water chemistry trends (1967-1997) for a sample (127) of Florida waterbodies. Lake and Reservoir Management 16(3):177-194.

Smeltzer, E., R.A. Kirn, and S. Fiske. 1999. Long-term water quality and biological effects of alum treatment of Lake Morey, Vermont. Lake and Reservoir Management 15:173-184. The study used Secchi data from the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program. www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/waterq/lakes/docs/lp_morey-alum-jlrm1999.pdf

Smeltzer. E., and S.A. Heiskary. 1990. Analysis and applications of lake user survey data. Lake and Reservoir Management 6(1):109-118. Secchi disk readings by the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program and Minnesota’s Citizen Lake Monitoring Program, as well as professional chlorophyll and total phosphorus measurements on volunteer-collected water samples, were paired with user perceptions of lake quality. www.pca.state.mn.us/publications/reports/lqr-lakeusersurvey.pdf

Heiskary, S.A., and C.B. Wilson. 1989. The regional nature of lake water quality across Minnesota: An analysis for improving resource management. Journal of the Minnesota Academy of Science 55(1)71-77. This analysis of hundreds of Minnesota lakes uses Secchi data collected between 1977 and 1987 by Minnesota's Citizen Lake Monitoring Program.

Macroinvertebrate Bioasessment

Engel, S., and J. Reese Voshell. 2002. Volunteer biological monitoring: Can it accurately assess the ecological condition of streams?" American Entomologist 48(3):164-177. www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/RelatedResearch/Engel&VoshellAmerEnto20021.pdf

Fore, L.S., K. Paulsen, and K. O'Laughlin. 2001. Assessing the performance of volunteers in monitoring streams. Freshwater Biology 46:109-123. http://www.seanet.com/~leska/pubs/Fore_etal_2001_volunteers.pdf

Frost Nerbonne, J., and B. Vondracek. 2003. Volunteer macroinvertebrate monitoring: Assessing training needs through examining error and bias in untrained volunteers. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22(1):152-163. VolMacroMonNerbonneVondracek.pdf

Gowan, C., M. Ruby, R. Knisley, and L. Grimmer. 2007. Stream monitoring methods suitable for citizen volunteers working in the Coastal Plain and Lower Piedmont regions of Virginia. American Entomologist 53(1):48-57.

Navis, N. and N. Gillies. 2001. A comparison of a professional method and a volunteer method for assessing stream health, including discussion of an improved volunteer method: USEPA’s Rapid Bioassessment Protocol II vs. West Virginia Save Our Streams. Cacapon Institute, Science and Society Series Paper No. 2. High View, WV. http://www.cacaponinstitute.org/PDF/sci%20society%20No.2.PDF

Penrose, D., and S. M. Call. 1995. Volunteer monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates: Regulatory biologists' perspectives. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 14(1):203-209.

Master Water Educator Program

The University of Kentucky operates a Master Water Educator Program. The program was initiated in 2001 and was designed to both protect and improve water quality in Kentucky as well as to assist County Extension agents with water quality programming. Linda Heaton can be contacted for more information about the program at lheaton@ca.uky.edu.

Monitoring Biodiversity

The Institute for Culture and Ecology is preparing a national handbook on participatory biodiversity inventory and monitoring. Their goal is to improve sustainable forest management on public and private lands in the United States. Learn more at their website: http://www.ifcae.org/projects/ncssf3/

Multiple Topics - Volunteer Monitor newsletter

The national newsletter of volunteer water quality monitoring, The Volunteer Monitor , sponsored in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been published for a number of years and allows for the exchange of ideas, sharing of monitoring methods among volunteer monitoring groups across the nation. A number of Cooperative Extension connected programs were highlighted in recent issues of the newsletter, including Florida LAKEWATCH, Alabama Water Watch, New Hampshire's Lakes Lay Monitoring Program, Washington State University's Beach Watchers, and this national faciliation project on volunteer water quality monitoring. Check out recent issues of the Volunteer Monitor at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/volunteer/issues.htm.

We have also provided links to articles about specific programs from the Winter 2003 issue Volume 15 Number 1 edition of the newsletter:

Cooperative Extension/Volunteer Monitoring Partnerships

New Hampshire Participatory Research

Reliability of Florida LAKEWATCH data

Monitoring in Alabama and the Philippines

Beachwatchers Survey Intertidal Zone (from Winter 2002 issue Volume 14, number 1)

Online Agriculture and Water Database

he Water Quality Information Center at the National Agricultural Library has made available an improved version of its database of online documents covering water and agriculture.

The new version allows you to locate freely available online documents in several ways:
* from an alphabetical list of titles
* by subject areas, such as nutrient management
* by searching the database for specific topics, titles, authors or publishers

More than 1,700 documents are currently available.

The database is online at http://www.nal.usda.gov/wqic/

Since links to documents often change, please notify us at wqic@nal.usda.gov if you are unable to access a document in the database.

Also, please send suggestions for additions to the database to wqic@nal.usda.gov.

On-farm Monitoring with Volunteers

The Wisconsin Discovery Farms and Water Action Volunteers programs have joined forces in Wisconsin to monitor and learn about the impacts of farm practices on water quality. The program, called the Trained Local Samplers, works with people located in proximity to the Discovery Farms, teaching them how to properly take water samples and several other measurements that help determine stream health. A central training was held in the summer of 2002 and three on-farm trainings followed up that initial training and monitoring is now occuring at three Discovery Farms on an ongoing basis. For more information about the program, see a recent article in the winter/spring 2003 issue of Farm*A*Syst's Farm and Home Environmental Management Program News or visit the Discovery Farms website.

Shellfish Monitoring

Morton, S.L., Leighfield, T.A., Haynes, B.L., Petitpain, D.L., Busman, M.A., Moeller, P.D.R., Bean, L., Mcgowan, J., Hurst, J.W., and Van Dolah, F.M. 1999. Evidence of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning along the coast of Maine. Journal of Shellfish Research 18(2): 681-686.

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Secchi Disc and Transparency Tube Studies

Herbert, J., and D. Bass. 2007. Enhancing Phosphorus Reduction Strategies in the Kalamazoo River Basin Project, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Results, 2006 Growing Season.,TMDL fact sheet series No. 2. MSU Extension Land & Water Program. (108 KB pdf file)

Ott, J.A., R.M. Duffy, S.E. Erickson, K.S. Fuhr, B.A. Rodgers, and M.A. Schneider. 2006. Comparison of light limiting water quality factors in six Florida aquatic preserves. Florida Scientist 69(00S2):73-91. The study uses six years of monthly Secchi and salinity data from eight estuaries collected by the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network. www.charlotteharbornep.org.

Bruhn, L.C., and P.A. Soranno. 2005. Long term (1974-2001) volunteer monitoring of water clarity trends in Michigan lakes and their relation to ecoregion and land-use/cover. Lake and Reservoir Management 21(1):10-23. This study uses Secchi data from Minnesota's Citizen Lake Monitoring Program to analyze trends on 71 lakes.

Anderson, P. and R.D. Davic. 2004 Use of transparency tubes for rapid assessment of total suspended solids and turbidity in streams. Lake and Reserv. Manage. 20(2): 110-120.

Macdonald, R.H., G.A. Lawrence and T.P. Murphy. 2004. Operation and evaluation of hypolimnetic withdrawal in a shallow eutrophic lake. Lake and Reserv. Manage. 20(1): 39-53. In this study, volunteers collected Secchi depths.

Stadelmann, T.H., P.L. Brezonik and S. Kloiber. 2001. Seasonal patterns of chlorophyll a and Secchi disk transparency in lakes of east-central Minnesota: Implications for design of ground- and satellite-based monitoring programs. Lake and Reserv. Manage. 17(4): 299-314. This study used data from a citizen-assisted monitoring program.

Vernal Pool Monitoring

In New England, 52 citizen scientists were trained to map and monitor 262 vernal pools. The researchers found that "data on amphibian egg mass counts were not significantly different from data gathered by biologists".

Oscarson, D.B. and Calhoun, A.J.K., 2007. Developing Vernal Pool Conservation Plans at the Local Level Using Citizen Scientists. Wetlands. 27(1):80-95.

Volunteer vs. Professional Monitoring

Four agricultural watersheds were targeted for determining more effective Extension communication strategies and for developing models to evaluate effectiveness of best management practices for improving water quality. Among other tasks (including a social survey and intensive monitoring), side by side testing with volunteer groups is being conducted in one of the watersheds to assess variability of citizen sampling and to evaluate the effectiveness of further training to reduce variability. For more information about this study contact Geoffrey Habron at Michigan State University; habrong@msu.edu.

A second study by Geoffrey Habron and others used open-ended responses to a pre- and post- test that involved a stream monitoring scenario design and answers to the following questions:
What is a watershed?
What makes a watershed of high quality?
What make water of high quality?
What is water pollution?

Results of this study have been published. You can access this information using the following reference:

Shepardson, D.P., J. Harbor, B. Coooper and J. McDonald. 2002. The impact of a
professional development program on teachers' understandings about watersheds, water quality, and stream monitoring. The Journal of Environmental Education

An "Evaluation of Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring In Minnesota" final report was published in April 2003 by Angie Becker Kudelka, of the Rivers Council of Minnesota and Geoff Dates of the River Network. The report describes an evaluation of volunteer monitoring in Minnesota, with mixed results - showing some good outcomes, and some areas that need improvement. The report is accessible online (204K pdf file) at: MNriversEval.pdf. It is also accessible through the Rivers Council of Minnesota website: http://www.minnesotawaters.org/.

Julia Frost Nerbonne and Bruce Vondracek from the Universtiy of Minnesota explored how well beginning volunteer monitors could sort and identify macroinvertebrates. as compared to professional entomologists. They trained volunteers how to sort and identify macroinvertebrates in a three hour session, then evaluated their sorting and identifying abilities in three follow-up sessions (in the three seasons that followed). They found that larger macroinvertebrates and those that moved more were more likely to be sorted than smaller organisms or those that were still in the sorting pans. Larger organisms and those whose family was shown as a photo on an identification card were more likely to be correctly identified. Their research results were published in the Journal of the North American Benthological Society, with this citation: Frost Nerbonne, J., and B. Vondracek. 2003. Volunteer macroinvertebrate monitoring: assessing training needs through examining error and bias in untrained volunteers. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 22(1) 152-163.

This paper is also available online at: VolMacroMonNerbonneVondracek.pdf. Julia can be contacted at: jnerbonne@hecua.org

The Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Monitoring Program compared volunteer-generated data to research labortory data and found that data generated with volunteer help are of the same quality as that generated by a research laboratory. This research was published in 1998 in the Journal of Lake and Reservoir Management 14(1):21-27. It's titled "Evaluation of Data Generated from Lake Samples Collected by Volunteers" and is by the following authors: Obrecht, D.V., M. Milanik, B.D. Perkins, D. Ready and J.R. Jones. Here is a link to the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Monitoring Program website where the paper is available for downloading: http://www.lmvp.org/documents/HTML/Obrecht1998.htm

Here's an abstract from the publication: "The goals of the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program are to involve citizens in the collection of water samples to monitor lake trophic state and to provide outreach education about lake water quality. Results indicate data generated with volunteer help are of the same quality as that generated by a research laboratory. This conclusion is based on three different methods of evaluation: (1) Comparison of volunteer and University collected samples showed trophic state classifications were the same for 74% of lakes based on total phosphorus, 84% for total nitrogen and 89% for chlorophyll; (2) Agreement between paired chlorophyll filters was assessed to gauge volunteer processing techniques; 88% of the filter pairs was considered good or excellent based on a rating scale developed for this program; (3) split sampling showed no significant differences for total suspended solids, chlorophyll or total nitrogen. Total phosphorus analysis showed a significant difference with volunteer samples being consistently less than University samples. Prior to analysis, volunteer samples for total phosphorus were stored frozen in high density polyethylene bottles while University samples were refrigerated in glass tubes. This difference in storage method may have caused the irregularity in our results."

In New Hampshire, the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP), coordinated by Michele Tremblay and Stephen Landry, has been coordinating efforts of volunteers to monitor the Merrimack River since 1995. Trained volunteers collect physical, chemical and biological data. Results for biological assessments made by volunteers were compared to results determined in a professional laboratory. For EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera - or highly sensitive orders of macroinertebrates) and family level biotic index, they found no difference between volunteer-generated results and contract laboratory results. However, the lab found significantly more families of macroinvertebrates than the volunteers did in the same samples. The full report is accessible online at: http://www.merrimackriver.org/_data/statistical2002.pdf

Researchers from Cornell University’s Center for the Environment collaborated with faculty at Wells College to design a project to determine the extent of supervision by trained scientists required, if any, to ensure collection of high quality water monitoring data. The project was sited in the primarily agricultural Cayuga Lake watershed of upstate New York. It demonstrated that it is possible, in a relatively short time, to educate citizen volunteers in the techniques needed to collect and process fecal coliform samples. The data collected by the four monitoring arrangements were statistically significantly different on three out of four occasions. It was also demonstrated that volunteers with only a modest amount of training, when provided with appropriate taxonomic keys, can collect macroinvertebrate samples, identify organisms to family, and calculate appropriate metrics. Overall, the four groups arrived at similar assessments of water quality at all sites. For more information, contact Linda Wagenet, Cornell University Center for the Environment; lpw2@cornell.edu.

In 2002 Virginia Save Our Streams (SOS) announced results of a study completed by a graduate student and professor at Virginia Tech to evaluate the biological monitoring methods SOS has been using in Virginia. Stacy Brown, Staff Scientist with SOS, reported that "the evaluation and subsequent refinement of the VA SOS method has helped our program tremendously".

Sarah Engel and J. Reese Voshell published the results of their study in the fall 2002 issue of American Entomologist (48 (3): 164-177). The report is titled, "Volunteer Biological Monitoring: can it Accurately Assess the Ecological Condition of Streams?". Stacy Brown commented that the report "is a great illustration of how others might go about validating a biological monitoring method in their area". SOS received permission to distribute an electronic version of the paper, and we have provided a link to that document from this webpage.

In Washington, volunteer monitors were trained to use professional macroinvertebrate monitoring methods and to identify the macroinvertebrates to family level. Researchers Leske Fore, Kit Paulsen, and Kate O'Laughlin found that there was no significant difference between macroinvertebrate collections made by volunteers vs. those made by professionals. Further, there was only a 13% difference between the ability of volunteers to show differences in water quality between sites as compared to professional identiifcation levels. The results of this study are published with the following citation: Fore, L. S., K. Paulsen, and K. O'Laughlin. 2001. Assessing the Performance
of Volunteers in Monitoring Streams. Freshwater Biology 46: 109-123. You can access the paper online at: http://www.seanet.com/~leska/pubs/Fore_etal_2001_volunteers.pdf

Canfield, D.E., Jr., C.D. Brown, R.W. Bachmann and M.V. Hoyer. 2002. Volunteer lake monitoring : Testing the reliability of data collected by the Florida LAKEWATCH program. Lake and Reserv. Manage. 18(1): 1-9.

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In Wisconsin, a study was done to compare methods from multiple agencies and the Water Action Volunteers stream monitoring program. According to the abstract for the paper, "comparisons were made of macroinvertebrate samples collected from wadeable streams in Wisconsin by personnel from the U.S. Geological Survey-National Water-Quality Assessment Program (USGS-NAWQA), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service (USDA-FS), and volunteers from the Water Action Volunteer-Water Quality Monitoring Program (WAV). The numbers, types, and environmental tolerances of the organisms collected were analyzed to determine if the four different field methods that were used by the different agencies and volunteer groups provide comparable results. Additionally, this study compared the results of samples taken from different locations and habitats within the same streams. The results of this sudy are available online at: http://wi.water.usgs.gov/pubs/FS-216-96/

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Abstract: In recent years, the science of using animals to assess stream health has gone public. Volunteer monitoring programs, such as the Izaak Walton League's Save Our Streams (SOS) program, have sprouted up around the country. The SOS and other volunteer methods are similar in general design to the methods used by professional biologists, but tailored to the capabilities of non-professionals. Cacapon Institute compared results from WV’s volunteer SOS monitoring and the more scientifically rigorous Rapid Bioassessment Protocol (RBPII) stream assessment methods used by WV’s Division of Environmental Protection. We found that SOS Stream Scores as currently calculated don't provide stream assessment data that are consistently comparable to professional RBPII results because they lack abundance data and thereby lack critical information. The identification level used with the SOS method (mayfly, stonefly, clam, etc.) can provide a stream assessment comparable to professional methods if actual counts of the organisms collected are obtained in order to properly weight the importance of each organism. Based on our study, it is possible for non-professional, volunteer conducted, benthic stream assessments to obtain results that compare favorably to professional assessments. The proposed method utilizes the same level of identification skill currently required of SOS volunteers and the same collection technique. It differs by requiring samples to be preserved in the field for “picking” under slight magnification and good lighting at home, in counting the organisms obtained, and in noting different “kinds” within each of the current SOS identification categories.

Navis, N. and N. Gillies. 2001. A comparison of a professional method and a volunteer method for assessing stream health, including discussion of an improved volunteer method: USEPA’s Rapid Bioassessment Protocol II vs. West Virginia Save Our Streams. Cacapon Institute, Science and Society Series Paper No. 2. High View, WV. http://www.cacaponinstitute.org/PDF/sci%20society%20No.2.PDF

Volunteer Monitoring as a Tool to Active Community Participation

The "Role of Water-Quality Citizen Volunteer Monitoring Groups in Watershed Management" is being studies at Cornell University. This research focuses on citizen volunteer water quality monitoring groups (CVM) and their potential role in becoming active participants in the community-based collaborative approaches to integrated watershed management. In this research, it is hypothesized that given the appropriate support and training, members involved in water quality volunteer monitoring groups (CVM’s) could take on dual role in their communities. The first, is that the volunteers can generate information that can be used in decision-making. The second is that as well informed and empowered stakeholders the volunteers can actively participate in local Watershed Initiatives (ad hoc planning committees to address natrual resource problems at a regional level). For more information, contact Mona Barghout, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; msb47@cornell.edu.

In 2003 graduate students Christine Overdevest and Caili Huyck-Orr worked with the Wisconsin Water Action Volunteers Program to assess if participation in a volunteer monitoring program leads to facts-based learning or increased networking, involvement and personal efficacy in local resource management issues. They found that experienced monitors felt more connected in their communities. They also participated more in political action events including talking to neighbors, speaking at public meetings, and researching environmenta issues.The results were published in Human Ecology Review. This paper is accessible in pdf format from this website (48K pdf file) or

Overdevest, C., C. Huyck Orr, and K. Stepenuck. 2004. Volunteer stream monitoring and local participation in natural resource issues. Human Ecology Review. 11(2): 177-185.

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(From Danielle Donkersloot) According to Thomas E. Keller, Ed.D., Board on Science Education, National Academy of Sciences, "the (U.S.) National Research Council (NRC) released its highly-anticipated report Learning Science in Informal Environments: Places, People, and Pursuits. According to the NRC, "tens of millions of Americans, young and old, choose to learn about science in informal ways - by visiting museums and aquariums, attending after-school programs,
pursuing personal hobbies, and watching TV documentaries, for example. There is abundant evidence that these programs and settings, and even everyday experiences such as a walk in the park, contribute to people's
knowledge and interest in science."

Philip Bell, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and associate professor of learning sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle stated that "Learning is broader than schooling, and informal science environments and experiences play a crucial role. These experiences can kick-start and sustain long-term interests that involve sophisticated learning. Think of the child who sees dinosaur skeletons for the first time on a family trip to a natural history museum, and then goes on to buy dinosaur models and books, do Web searches about dinosaurs, write school reports on the subject, and on and on."
In addition to finding that informal learning experiences can significantly improve outcomes for individuals from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, the report notes that there is strong evidence that educational television can help people learn about science. The report also points to evidence that participation in informal science learning (like volunteering in the collection of scientific data) can promote informed civic engagement on science-related issues such as local environmental concerns.

The report outlines six "strands" of science learning that can happen in informal settings, and these strands could help refine evaluations of how well people are learning in these environments. For example, learners can experience excitement and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world. They can come to understand and use concepts and facts related to science. They can learn how scientists actually conduct their work using specialized tools and equipment. And they can develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.

Recommendations in the report include those directed towards exhibit creators (exhibits should be interactive, designed with specific learning goals in mind, provide multiple ways for learners to engage with concepts within a single setting, and prompt visitors to interpret what they have learned in light of their prior experiences and interests); front line staff (drawing on learners' experience and knowledge by using everyday language, referring to common cultural experiences, and using familiar tools is important); and the field as a whole (more professional development and a common knowledge base among scholars and educators).

For an overview of the report, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and a link to read it in its entirety, please visit:
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12190 "


Updated Monday, 12-Aug-2013 15:53:34 CDT

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The USDA-NIFA and this project provide equal program opportunities without regard to race, age, sex or preference, creed, or disability.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2008-03530


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