Engaging families in long-term citizen science monitoring
Even as she cherishes her work as Education Program Manager of The Marine Science Consortium—which offers multi-disciplinary educational and research opportunities to celebrate the rich natural resources of the mid-Atlantic Coastal Region— Anne Armstrong unblinkingly recognizes a reality, “the programs I manage have historically been inaccessible and irrelevant to the local populace,” she admitted. “I aim to change that.”
Over the last eleven months, she worked with a nature-based, family education organization called SPARK (Shore People Advancing Readiness for Knowledge), where she met with families once a month to explore and monitor two Chesapeake tidal tributaries on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They tested for salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, and coliform bacteria to gauge the health of the creeks in relation to guidelines set forth by the EPA.
As a mark of success, the SPARK graduation had over 90 people in attendance, and several families inquired about how they could become involved in the future. Anne has generated enough buzz that a county supervisor contacted her regarding a potential sea-level rise project for which we would assess salinity levels and identify vegetation at Holdens Creek, a main body of water.