The Alliance promotes the common interests of groups actively involved in monitoring Maine’s estuaries and coastal watersheds in order to understand and promote the ecological health of these systems.
What Do We Do?
Currently, MCOA monitors nine coastal areas twice a month for two months annually. Each of the areas consists of between five and eight sites. This effort focuses on developing a track record of using identical and intercalibrated equipment, methods and operators. Currently monitoring is limited to projected worst-case conditions of late summer, when the water temperatures are highest, biological activity is greatest, and low pH and dissolved oxygen are most likely to occur.
The extraordinary power of this collaborative effort lies in its regional scope and the use of an expert technician who provides surface to bottom “profile” measurements that can serve as baseline information for future monitoring. This alliance of organizations continues to offer tremendous support and capacity through meetings, calibration workshops, and shared interpretation of data.
This current monitoring regime builds on the citizen-monitoring programs of the Alliance’s partnering organizations. The study is conducted under a QAPP (quality-assurance project plan) developed by the Friends of Casco Bay and reviewed and approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
MCOA is working to identify protocols, equipment issues, and organizational challenges to ensure that all data will eventually address the related issues of consistent data and regional assessment of acidification eutrification trends. The measurement of pH by inexpensive datasondes is particularly fraught with variation, and we need intercalibration with laboratory-based pH equipment using standard solutions in estuarine salinity ranges with temperature corrections. The inter calibrations of the pH probe is done with equipment and expertise in the University of Maine Bio-geochemistry laboratory.
The long-term benefits of MCOA’s collective approach include: quality control of the data through consistent equipment use and calibration by a single expert technician; quality-assured baseline profile data for all estuarine monitoring groups in the Alliance; enhanced organizational capacity; a sharing and pooling of resources across organizations; and the capacity to identify environmental trends and emerging issues on a regional scale.
keywords: MCOA ; Maine Coastal Observing Alliance