If you live near Delaware’s Inland Bays, want to learn how to use a microscope, and can devote an hour a week to collecting and analyzing water samples, the University of Delaware can use your help!
The UD Sea Grant College Program is seeking more volunteers to help monitor the state’s Inland Bays for certain kinds of algae that can cause problems when they reproduce rapidly, or “bloom,” at the water’s surface.
These harmful algal bloom species, or “HABs,” can produce a range of negative effects -- from robbing the water of oxygen and thus threatening marine life, to producing toxins that can kill fish or shellfish and cause human illness.
A workshop will be held Wednesday, August 10, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the College of Marine Studies in Lewes to give volunteers an overview of the program and to teach them how to collect water samples for phytoplankton analysis. In addition, the workshop attendees will learn how to identify and enumerate various species of algae using field microscopes.
According to Joe Farrell, resource management specialist for the Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and manager of the monitoring program, the volunteers will not only learn more about the fascinating world of marine microbes, but they also will contribute to the science and management of the Inland Bays.
“The data our volunteers have collected have been used to determine and evaluate seasonal and other temporal trends in the water quality of Rehoboth, Indian River, and Little Assawoman bays,” Farrell says. “This information also supports public policy decisions regarding the management of the bays and contributes to research efforts at the College of Marine Studies.”
Farrell says that when large blooms of HAB species occur in the Inland Bays, the monitoring program provides immediate alerts to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
“Our volunteers have detected several major blooms of a species of Chattonella that has been implicated in fish kills and has the potential to cause human health problems,” Farrell notes. “In addition, they have identified algal species that have not previously been known to be present in the Inland Bays.”
Learning to identify a myriad of one-celled algae under a microscope can be challenging, but for those volunteers who have invested the time, the experience “has opened up a whole new world,” according to scientist Ed Whereat, who coordinates the monitoring program on a day-to-day basis.
“The same species of algae tend to show up in samples, so volunteers get pretty competent at identifying those,” Whereat says. “But when something new shows up, it often ends up being a process of discovery for both the volunteers and me.”
The HAB Monitoring Program is sponsored by Delaware Sea Grant, the Center for the Inland Bays, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. It operates in conjunction with the highly successful Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program, established in 1991, in which citizen volunteers collect and analyze water samples at designated sites along the Inland Bays.
To reserve a space at the workshop or for more information, please contact Joe Farrell at (302) 645-4250 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Ed Whereat at (302) 645-4252 or email@example.com