A Pilot Citizen Science Program for Long-Term Wetlands Monitoring in North Carolina

Poster 218 – Click on poster below to view presentation from author.

Click on poster to view presentation from author.

Molly Landon

North Carolina State University

Co-Authors: Michael Burchell, Kimberly Matthews Rick Savage

The monitoring of undisturbed, natural wetlands is crucial for providing baseline metrics on which to evaluate impacted wetlands. Financial support for monitoring programs is often limited, however, and many programs struggle to sustain themselves in the long-term. Citizen science provides a viable method for supporting long-term data collection while also promoting public education and outreach. By using volunteers for data collection, it is possible that wetland monitoring can be conducted over extensive spatial and temporal scopes at minimal associated costs. The goal of this project is to develop a pilot volunteer-based monitoring program to support long-term wetlands monitoring in North Carolina (NC). Project objectives include: (1) developing a volunteer-based wetland monitoring framework across a network of wetland monitoring sites, (2) developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for volunteer training, (3) creating and populating a data portal for volunteer access, (4) disseminating project results via appropriate outreach media, and (5) evaluating program outcomes to determine if/how to implement a full-scale monitoring program. Monitoring stations will be established at varying types of undisturbed, pristine wetlands across three sites in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Cary, NC. Data collection at these sites will span a variety of parameters, including hydrology, water quality, biota, and soil condition. Once established, program monitoring data will be shared broadly with the intent of supporting state water quality programs, watershed planning, temporal trend analysis, impacted wetland evaluation, community education, and more. If successful, the pilot program will then be used as a basis for expanding a sustainable volunteer-based wetland monitoring network across North Carolina and beyond.

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All posts are publicly visible after review by site administrator. Students’ responses to posted questions is factored into scoring for the poster competition. Finalists announced May 25 and awards presented May 26, 2021.

2 thoughts on “A Pilot Citizen Science Program for Long-Term Wetlands Monitoring in North Carolina

  1. Nice job on the poster and presentation! The use of citizen science for monitoring seems like an ingenious way to accomplish multiple goals at once, and it seems like a framework that, if proved to be successful, could be applied to a range of additional scientific endeavors. What are some of the methods you’ve used or plan to use to perform outreach and develop a volunteer base?

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    1. Hi Matthew,
      Thank you for your question! We are fortunate enough to have several avenues through which we plan to recruit volunteers since this is a collaborative project between NC State University, RTI International, and Carolina Wetlands Association. The plan is to initially recruit volunteers through the Carolina Wetlands Association’s vast contact list which contains over 700 individuals. This list should provide a substantial group of volunteers for our initial endeavors. All monitoring sites are located on public property, such as a public greenway in Cary, NC, so we hope to use this to our advantage for recruiting volunteers as well. For example, setting up educational signage and posting recruitment information about our project along the greenway could entice locals who regularly walk there to join our program. Another possible avenue we plan to use is forming partnerships with local college and university clubs/organizations, which would help ensure a continual volunteer base at each of our sites if successful.
      As for the outreach, we plan to hold workshops and webinars for volunteer training, wetland data updates, and general wetland education. Program information and updates will be posted on both the NC Department of Environmental Quality and Carolina Wetlands Association’s webpages. Further, we will develop and publish wetland fact sheets through the Carolina Wetlands Association and NC Cooperative Extension to detail the pilot volunteer monitoring program, report initial findings and observations, and provide access to volunteer-collected data. I hope this provides you with a better idea of our expected outreach and recruitment methods!

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