How much is enough? Developing a citizen-based monitoring plan for mercury in gauged watershed streams at Acadia National Park
PI: Sarah Nelson
This project has three objectives: 1) continue the long-term record of mercury data in paired research watersheds at Acadia National Park; 2) determine the appropriate timing and frequency of sampling to capture the essential data used to calculate mercury budgets in the watersheds; and, 3) develop a long-term monitoring plan for mercury in these watersheds that includes high school students as citizen scientists.
Why mercury? At Acadia National Park, some birds have higher mercury burdens than at a Superfund site in Massachusetts, and some fish studied at Acadia have had the highest concentration of mercury in the state of Maine (Longcore et al., 2006; Bank et al., 2006). Data from paired research watersheds at Acadia have shown that atmospheric deposition and landscape factors are key controls on mercury supply and terrestrial processing (Kahl et al., 2006).
Why is long-term monitoring important? The Acadia paired watersheds have one of the longest and most intense records of mercury data in the U.S. Mercury sampling, ion chemistry sampling, and real-time discharge monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey have been ongoing since 1999. This data record is excellent for biogeochemical investigations and provides a solid foundation for future research. Long-term monitoring allows the investigation of trends and puts current conditions in context (e.g., Magnuson, 1990). However, funding for long-term monitoring can be difficult to secure.
Students as citizen scientists. Students will have the opportunity to participate in field sampling, sample analysis, data interpretation, and monitoring plan development. Tasks will be tailored to students' individual interests. We will work with the Mount Desert Island Water Quality Coalition to identify potential high school student candidates from their Maine Coast Learning Expedition and/or summer internship program. Currently, middle school students in four island schools monitor coastal waters for red tide, acting as a first alert system for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The students collect samples, enter data on-line, and present their work to the public. This project will provide an opportunity for students to work with scientists with different water quality expertise. Students participating in the proposed project may help to involve and inform adults in the community about science in the park. In addition, this pilot program will help to determine the feasibility of student monitoring for ultra-trace substances.