Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

Clean Water   Healthy Fisheries   Strong Communities

Citizen Environmental Monitoring Program

PWSK’s Citizen Environmental Monitoring program (CEMP)  strives to have social merit, educational and scientific rigor and to promote environmental stewardship. Using appropriate scientific protocols, community participants are directly involved in data collection and production of knowledge about environmental conditions. This information can be shared across  communities for a cohesive Sound-wide awareness and understanding, and applied to decision making processes.

In 2008, PWSK, in partnership with the Prince William Sound Science Center, launched a harbor monitoring pilot program with 5th grade students. Participants were introduced to visual monitoring exercises and collection of water quality data, such as pH, salinity and water temperature; and visited the Cordova harbor monthly during the school year to collect water quality data and make observations concerning petroleum contamination, marine debris, and presence of biological species in the harbor. This information is being used in conjunction with PWSK’s Clean Harbors Clean Boating program to demonstrate the impacts of commercial and recreational boating on the environment. The goal is to expand this program across all five communities in the Sound to link/leverage the data and build a Sound-wide awareness of water quality issues.

Prince William Soundkeeper trains adult CEMP participants to deploy stream temperature data loggers in order to establish baseline data regarding the possible impacts of climate change on the ecosystem. Water temperature influences virtually every biotic component of stream ecosystems and is crucial in maintaining stream ecosystem health. For salmon specifically, temperature affects survivorship of eggs and fry, rate of respiration and metabolism, timing of migration, resistance to disease and pollution, and availability of oxygen and nutrients. Despite the association between warm water temperatures and reduced salmonid survivorship, there are only inconsistent, long-term water temperature data sets for salmon streams in Alaska. The Pacific Salmon Coast Salmon Recovery Fund identified baseline water quality data in Prince William Sound as a high priority information need. Without such basic information, it is impossible to gauge the health of salmon habitats and resources, and equally difficult to develop management responses to improve watershed resiliency to change.
PWSK’s Eyak Lake Community Monitoring Project (ELCMP), also in collaboration with the Prince William Sound Science Center, is a three-year study of water quality and seasonal variation in beginning in 2009. Eyak Lake was selected as a monitoring site because it provides critical spawning and rearing habitat for Pacific salmon, which are an important natural resource and a keystone species in the ecosystem that may be threatened by climate change and increased human activities. The Eyak Lake Community Monitoring Project is designed to engage community members and students in long-term ecosystem research to increase their understanding of the ecosystem upon which the region’s traditional subsistence lifestyle and commercial fishery depend; and to involve them in a practical, place-based application of the scientific method. ELCMP participants are trained to collect hydrologic data such as water temperature, turbidity, total suspended solids, pH, and dissolved oxygen measurements. Nitrogen and phosphorus will also be monitored to detect changes in nutrient levels in Eyak Lake. In addition to collecting water quality baseline data, climate and weather data is also being monitored. Climate and weather ultimately affects water quality. Daily weather observations are recorded and student participants are engaged in a synthesis of historical climate data and data analysis to possibly show climate linkages with salmon escapement data.

ELCMP will produce a model of community-based research and an educational curriculum that can be applied in other communities, as well as provide quality baseline data that will be use to future researchers to assess seasonal variation and the effects of ecosystem changes as a result of climate change on juvenile salmon rearing habitat.

Prince William Soundkeeper, PO Box 1368, Cordova, Alaska, 99574  tel: 907-424-5701  a 501c(3) non-profit organization.
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