Coming up in August, The North and South Rivers Watershed Association (NSRWA), MassBays, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries are having an Eelgrass Survey Blitz! in Duxbury, Kingston & Plymouth Bay. And we need YOUR help to do it!
Unfortunately, the bay has experienced severe declines in eelgrass coverage over the last several decades. Monitoring these changes allows us to assess the health and current status of eelgrass within the embayment and find out what might be driving the losses.
Eelgrass beds are ecologically important to the health of estuaries by trapping atmospheric carbon, holding sediment in place, and providing food and shelter for a variety of marine organisms. We hope by monitoring the eelgrass in Duxbury, Kingston & Plymouth Bay more closely we can prevent further losses and perhaps spearhead some restoration of this critical habitat.
To support ongoing acoustic monitoring efforts, we will carry out on-the-water surveys on multiple days from August 8th-24th. These surveys will involve small teams of volunteers and NSRWA staff venturing out on boats to collect eelgrass data at a number of pre-selected sites within the bay. In order to do this, we are looking for volunteers with approx. 15-20 ft. whaler or skiff-type boats that can be trailered to the Plymouth town ramp or are already in Duxbury/Kingston/Plymouth Bay. Ideally, the boats would also have GPS capabilities and easy water access for snorkelers (a ladder).
Survey times will vary based on tide and will last 4-7 hours each day (or until all the sites have been monitored). We will begin and end each day in Plymouth. Free parking is available.
An optional on-land volunteer training will be held from 10am-12pm on Sunday, August 7th at the Plymouth harbormaster docks. We will stay on the docks to run through the survey equipment and sampling protocols. Note: Boats are not needed for the training and attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.
Here is a summary of the on-the-water protocol:
At all stations:
- Navigate to the station using GPS coordinates and anchor the boat.
- Record secchi disk measurements (for water clarity) at two locations on the sunny side of the boat using the view bucket.
- At all four cardinal directions around the boat, use the drop-frame to take a sample picture and estimate the percent cover within the quadrat using the visual guides.
- Raise the anchor and navigate to the next station.
Additional sampling at indicator eelgrass stations (a subset):
- Use a grapple or snorkeler to take a bottom grab collecting at least three eelgrass shoots.
- Lay the shoots on the tote cover and fan the leaves, collect photos of the sample.
- Measure the shoots and estimate coverage of wasting disease and epiphytes, and record.
If you have a boat that fits the above description and are able to participate for one or more survey days, please fill out this Boat Captain form with your availability & boats specs. We’d greatly appreciate your help as we still need boat assistance every day of the week!
If you do not have a boat but would like to assist with data collection, please fill out our Eelgrass Blitz form as soon as possible.