Citizen science programs are growing around the country. They are meaningful ways individuals, communities, and organizations can contribute to local scientific research and environmental management. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance reached out to the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) to share their citizen science water quality success story.
For many Texans, Galveston Bay is more than home – it’s an integral part of their identities. The second largest bay system in the United States, Galveston Bay provides 618 square miles of vital habitat and wildlife for residents to enjoy. It is also a major source of economic growth and supports fishing, shipping and tourism industries alike. In an ever-developing world, Galveston Bay serves as a constant reminder of our inexorable link to the natural world around us.
Galveston Bay Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to the coastal community and addresses issues concerning the bay. The mission of Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. Galveston Bay Foundation’s Water Monitoring Team serves a crucial role in carrying out this mission, and our water monitors test the bay’s water quality regularly and accurately.
The program is unique in that it is volunteer-driven and members of the community collect water quality data themselves. After completing three phases of training, volunteers who may have had little to no previous scientific experience are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to regularly test water quality in their communities.
Each of Galveston Bay Foundation’s 45 volunteers collects air and water temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, turbidity, and other observational data each month at their respective site. Additionally, about half of the volunteers collect enterococci data from their site as well.
Enterococcus is a genus of bacteria that is used by many health agencies to determine if a body of water is suitable for recreation, fishing, or oyster harvesting. In addition to collecting environmental data, GBF’s Water Monitoring Team collects important information regarding public uses of the Bay. The data is displayed through Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System’s website, is easily accessible and suitable for all audiences. To view this data, visit http://gulfcitizenscience.org/.
Through the Water Monitoring Team, GBF hopes to foster a sense of stewardship of Galveston Bay within the greater Houston region and get the coastal community involved. It’s one thing to see scatter plots and trend lines tracking environmental change over time; it’s quite another to see, first-hand, parameters like dissolved oxygen, salinity, and bacteria counts fluctuate in your backyard seasonally or spontaneously. Galveston Bay belongs to all that live there, and the GBF encourages everyone to take steps to ensure that it continues to provide .
- Contributor Nate Johnson is the Water Programs Manager at the Galveston Bay Foundation and a member of the GOMA Education and Engagement Team.