Hydrocarbon Monitoring


Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 14:52:44 -0600
From: “Zarnt, Debra”
Subject: [volmonitor] hydrocarbon monitoring

I am working with a group of volunteers who are concerned about the effects of motorized recreation on a reservoir and the stream below the reservoir and want to start a monitoring program. I have no experience monitoring for hydrocarbons and am wondering if anyone knows of low-cost methods / equipment that would be appropriate. Thank you for your help.

Debbie Zarnt
Community Outreach Coordinator
MT Watercourse
P.O. Box 170575
201 Culbertson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: 406-994-1684
Fax: 406-994-1919


Date: Thu, 28 Apr 2005 06:50:00 -0400
From: Marilyn S Mayer
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] hydrocarbon monitoring

Its my suspicion that hydrocarbon contamination is not the greatest threat posed by the motorized recreation. I would worry more about potential introduction of exotic species (zebra mussels, round goby, wwater chestnut, water milfoil) from other locations recently visited by the boats or jet skis, potential disturbance & danger posed by the boats and jet skis to wildlife (such as loons, least terns) and swimmers, and potential littering by users.

Marilyn Mayer
aquatic scientist
Date: Thu, 28 Apr 2005 08:50:16 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] hydrocarbon monitoring

Other effects to consider are shoreline erosion and increased turbidity, particularly if they are operating in shallow areas where they are disturbing the bottom sediments.


Chemical Safety and Procedures


Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 10:09:24 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot
Subject: [CSREESVolMon] safety procedures & volunteers

I am looking for input as to how some of the other monitoring groups deal with and safety procedures for the volunteers using chemical kits.

“As part of our chemical monitoring program, we have drafted a memo on chemical safety procedures for the chemical volunteers. The memo lists all of the chemicals that the CATs use while sampling, and tells them how hazardous it is and what to do if they spill the chemical, accidentally eat it, etc. However, some of the antidotes for the spills are not common substances. For example, if a volunteer spills alkaline potassium iodide azide, they need to neutralize it with dilute hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is not a common household substance. We’re wondering if we need to even send this memo to the volunteers, and if so, do we need to supply them with hydrochloric acid in case they spill something? We have a large spill kit in our office. Do we need to supply our volunteers with spill kits? If you have any experience with chemical programs and could provide us with how you handle this?”

Any input or advise you could provide us on this matter would be great!

“In order to achieve something, you must get started” Fortune Cookie
Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625


Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 11:35:41 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [CSREESVolMon] chemical safety procedures & volunteers

Hi folks,

In terms of chemical safety the first course of action is to thoroughly rinse the affected area with water, even using the water you just collected. We had 1 volunteer (a chemist mind you) spill alkaline potassium hydride on himself and not wanting to contaminate the stream, drive home before washing it off. So now we explicitly remind our volunteers to plunge their hands into the water. We also tell them that even if they took all the reagents in the DO kit and poured it into the water it would not harm the water. Forget the HCl, you are just substituting one potentially hazardous material with another. Often info on how to deal with a spill assumes you are in a lab. If you are using LaMotte kits, contact LaMotte at 800-344-3100. Linda Watts is the person I deal with, she is quite knowledgeable. If you are using another brand contact the manufacturer and tell them that what you are looking for is advice for volunteers, not if the chemical is spilled in a lab. We do supply the notoriously hard to decipher MSDS’ with the kits, and also give the kits out with a strong rubber band around it to help make sure it doesn’t get knocked over. You can also purchase absorbent pads from a variety of scientific supply houses. Our Safety and Risk department has given all labs a bucket of sand to pour on spills. Garden soil works well too. We give all our volunteers goggles and at least 1 pair of nitrile gloves. We don’t expect the gloves to last all season but to serve as a reminder to use gloves, which they can buy in hardware stores or supermarkets. We tell our volunteers to keep a roll of paper towels handy. We also give our volunteers paper plates (Chinet brand) and urge them to do all their titrations on the plate. The plates are fairly thick, the top is more absorbent than the really shiny ones and the lip of the plate contains most spills. The 6 3/4″ plates will contain 100 ml and the 8 3/4″ ones, 300 ml of liquid (I just checked). We are now also using these paper plates in the lab, especially for salinity titrations which involve the use of silver nitrate, which stains everything brown. The best approach to safety is training carefully and thoroughly and using common sense.

Good luck!
Linda Green

URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804


Road Salt Monitoring

Question 1: Does anyone have any information on road salt accumulation, etc.?

Question 2: I would love some feedback on starting a road salt monitoring program.

Question 1

From: Tony Williams
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 1:58 PM
Subject: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Does anyone have any information on road salt accumulation, road salt runoff to lakes, rivers, estuaries, or other concerns with road salt?
Or a link to a web page on this concern.

Tony Williams
Water Monitoring Coordinator
The Coalition for Buzzards Bay
Nashawena Mills – 620 Belleville Avenue
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02745
Tel. 508-999-6363 x.203
Fax. 508-984-7913

Responses to Question 1

(Editor’s note: Not all responses are compiled here; some were lost before being posted…)

Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 17:45:30 -0500
From: Jeff Schloss
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Not knowing your specifics I have listed some suggestions for starting below:

I have a host of circa 1970, 1980 and early 1990 references on road salt impacts that I can fax you if you need. The one seminal paper is by Robert Bubeck et al. (note: Lucky for you Bob was one of my graduate advisors):
Runoff of Deicing Salt: Effect on Irondequoit Bay, Rochester, New York (in Reports) Robert C. Bubeck; William H. Diment; Bruce L. Deck; Alton L. Baldwin; Stewart D. LiptonScience, New Series, Vol. 172, No. 3988. (Jun. 11, 1971), pp. 1128-1132.

This was one of the first to suggest that accumulated salts in bottom waters could prevent mixing of lakes.

It seems Science had an article on road salt each issue for a while -one of local interest may be:
Release of Mercury from Contaminated Freshwater Sediments by the Runoff of Road Deicing Salt
G. Feick; R. A. Horne; D. Yeaple
Science Vol. 175, No. 4026 (Mar., 1972), pp. 1142-1143

Also closer to home for you (in Mass.) I know Normandeau Associates in NH did a “Generic Environmental Impact Report” on road salt accumulation in February 1992 for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works Snow and Ice Control Program. I only have the draft report of this document but I expect you have better connections.

Also Mark Mattson and others at UMass did a very nice GIS analysis showing water quality impacts to streams nearest to highway networks if you were looking for cause/effect studies. It is available on the JAWA web site.

I also know there has been some funded work by USGS Water Resources Research Centers on salt impact to inverts:

In terms of salt alternatives there has been a lot of work up in Alaska on using acetate compounds but they found a pretty high BOD resulted. See Lake and Reservoir Management Vol 5 (2):
Effects of Calcium Magnesium Acetate Deicer on Small Ponds in Interior Alaska
Jacqueline D. LaPerriere and Caryn L. Rea
pp. 49-57

I would also follow-up on Elizabeth’ recommendations for even more current references.



Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 12:02:45 -0500
From: Marie-Françoise Walk
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] road salt accumulation

Hi Tony,
A late reply in case nobody mentioned this person to you: At the COLAP meeting this past January, Douglas Heath, of USEPA Region 1 in Boston gave this talk and knows a lot about road salt pollution in the region: ROAD SALT IMPACT TO LAKES, STREAMS AND GROUNDWATER from Interstate 93 and Adjacent Roads in Southern New Hampshire —

Marie-Françoise Walk

Question 2

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 08:39:09 -0800 (PST)
From: Kelly Stettner
Subject: [volmonitor] Sodium chloride sampling?
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Good morning. I would like to start a modest program to monitor for road salt at a location where a brook meets the Black River. I would love some feedback if you have any experience with this!
Caveats or warnings? Inexpensive equipment? Best practices & procedures? Testing done yourselves or by a lab? Any other advice?
Many thanks,
Kelly Stettner

Black River Action Team (BRAT)
45 Coolidge Road
Springfield, VT 05156

Responses to Question 2

From: Stepenuck, Kris
Date: Friday, November 13, 2009, 12:27 PM


You might be able to use simple conductivity meters such as the Oakton EC Testr.



On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 12:08 PM, Kelly Stettner wrote:

Thanks, Kris! I’m right there with you, that a conductivity test would be a great first-stage indicator as to whether further testing is warranted. I’ll check around to see who carries the one you mention ~ have you used that one yourself or know anyone who has? I’d love to know if it has any quirks or particularly helpful features!
Much appreciated,


From: Stepenuck, Kris
Date: Monday, November 16, 2009, 5:00 PM


Yes, we have used it with some on-farm monitoring, rusty crayfish monitoring and in marshes. I like it, though we haven’t put them to tough tough use. They can be easily calibrated with a solution I was able to buy in small packets, but they come factory calibrated too, which is nice. Batteries do run out esp. if left sitting for a long time.



Update 2015: See here for Wisconsin’s volunteer road salt monitoring program:


Data Presentation

Question 1: I am seeking ways to present and report visual or habitat assessment data?

Question 2: Has anybody looked at using Google Fusion Tables for managing their data?

Question 3: Do any of you include volunteer data in newsletters? How do you make it meaningful?

Question 4: I would like to be able to provide session attendees with examples of reports or presentations put together by volunteer monitoring groups.

Question 5: We thought that it’d be useful to ask all of you in the volunteer monitoring realm for your favorite tips and techniques for using data to tell a story.

Comment 1: Documents of interest have been found for why  a volunteer monitoring program is measuring so many variables.

Question 1

Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 11:48:11 -0500
From: Danielle Donkersloot

Who has a great example of a way to present and report visual or habitat assessment data? Specifically, looking for examples of graphs and other outputs. In the world of biological monitoring, it’s easy, but visual/habitat data is difficult for us to get a handle on right now. PLEASE HELP.
Thanks in advance…

Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625

Responses to Question 1

Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 15:46:26 -0500
From: “Wills, Sherrill”

When the EPA began to promote the RBP sampling protocol to the state (PA), I was relatively new to the program. What I did notice was that: the substrate composition and surrounding land use was usually noted , as were field readings (temp, DO, pH, conductivity, sometimes alkalinity and/or hardness). Many of the 12 habitat parameters in the first RBP rendition (which most of us prefer to still use) were observed in one way or another and noted. The state biologists have met annually, and a final part of the meeting was a description of the assessment method, a look at the sheet, and a field trip. At the stream, the EPA biologist explained what he looked for when he assessed each parameter. We all then scored the site. The final part of the exercise was for each individual to state their score for each parameter. It was very interesting to see how the “bug” biologists and the “fish” biologists looked at the same parameter at the same site. I believe that another EPA biologist may have recorded each response by parameter or else our individual score sheets were kept. The most interesting result was that when the totals were added up, the end result was usually within the same category (Optimal, suboptimal, marginal, poor). This was repeated at the next two or three annual meetings as well as being a workshop at the annual Region 3 Biologists Workshop at Cacapon State Park, WV. The PA Central Office personnel now travel the state to the regional offices for occasional updates on collection techniques as well as to “recalibrate” the staff and to train new biologists. The regional biologists also train coworkers, interns, and occasionally county staff and private consultants involved in remedial follow-up reporting. Some local watershed groups, with their consultants and some of us from the state as well as EPA, have held habitat assessment workshops, with the result of a human “calibration” of sorts. I feel more comfortable with data submitted by people from these training classes. While we DO NOT use citizen information for regulatory purposes, we do use it as watchdog information. It is impossible to know where every problem is in 11 counties, or if there is chronic discharge problem that doesn’t show up during plant inspections.

While this training is time consuming and gets to be kinda boring after a while, it is good to discuss scoring methods and thoughts among the people that use the information in order that everyone starts from a common point. It’s important to calibrate your instruments; it’s important to “calibrate” the humans, too.


Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 17:32:38 -0500
From: Geoff Dates
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] data reporting

Good point! I led a habitat assessment training once with about 30 people. I divided them into 10 groups of 3. The assessment was done in 3 shifts at 3 sites. So, each group got to do 3 sites. In other words, each site was done by all the groups.

At the end, we compared results and they were all within a very few points of each other at each site..

I think what happened in each group was a process of scoring each characteristic as a group. Sometimes the individuals in the group gave very different scores, say for bottom composition. In the process of discussing it, though, each person explained their rationale. Then a “negotiating” process happened where they attempted to agree on a number. Sometimes they averaged their 3 scores for each characteristic. Out of a possible of 120, all groups were within 10 points of each other. Most groups were within 5.

From this experience, I decided that no one should do these kinds of visual, subjective surveys alone. Two is better, three is ideal. The negotiating process got rid of the “outliers.” In some cases, the “outliers” were people who just did not follow instructions.

I think that these are very important activities. They can provide useful information that helps interpret bio-assessments. They can be an “early warning” and screen for problems. Maybe most important, it changes the way they look at streams.

Geoff Dates
River Watch Program Director
River Network
Home Office:
231 24D Heritage Condos
Woodstock, VT 05091
802-457-9808 w & h
River Network Web Site:

Question 2

From: Anne Lewis (
Date: May 18, 2012

Has anybody looked at using Google Fusion Tables for managing their data? The functionality looks impressive. You can even create maps with it.

Anne Lewis
SD Discovery Center
Special Projects Director
805 W Sioux Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501

Responses to Question 2

From: Thorpe, Anthony Paul
Date: May 18, 2012

I just started messing with this, prompted by your email, Anne. It looks very cool! It has been a long-standing wish of my to allow volunteers to create graphs of their data or to view existing data without having to download PDF files. This might be the ticket.

I was able to import my 2011 data and make a Chlorophyll/Phosphorus graph. In just a few clicks you can aggregate by site, and display average values.

Limitations for tweaking the graphs seem to be numerous. I can’t figure out how to add axis labels or display certain information, for example. I’ll be looking for work-arounds to get this done. One bonus: by uploading more data to the table, the graph will update dynamically.

I like it and hope to be experimenting with this a lot this summer.

Thanks for the tip!

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070

Skype: lmvptony


From: Howard Webb (
Date: May 18, 2012

I volunteer with LMVP (Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program), and while we have not formally used Fusion Tables, or published anything with them; I have played around with them and found them useful for several things:

They are good for geographically dispersed water sampling. Last year there was a one day sampling of the Niangua watershed, and I used Fusion Tables to map a float trip down a stretch of the Little Niangua. I just loaded the table with the data, addes some html formatting, and let it create the view as a map.
It can be a bit kludgey (uneven display quality) and is not quite ready for prime time, but definitely moving in a good direction and getting better. The following is what you want:
1) Create a Google Docs spreadsheet and make an input form for it
2) Create a Fusion Table from the spreadsheet
3) Make a script to update the table from the spreadsheet (cut and paste in the instructions)
4) Create a view on the table (filter for a single location), separate view for each location
5) Visualize the view as a chart.

The form does a nice job of collecting the data and moving it to the table. I had some problem embedding the chart, but just got it working. I may need to set the chart to refresh itself periodically.

Feel free to enter data into the form and try it out. This is ‘play’ and I occasionally delete the data, but you cannot hurt it.

Form for data input (download and click on file to open)

How to link a form to a fusion table

Details on script for form

Spreadsheet behind this form


Question 3

Date: Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:12:59 -0400
From: Kim Cressman
Subject: [volmonitor] Providing data to volunteers

Hi everyone,

The volunteer program I help coordinate is a monthly sampling program, and we send out a quarterly newsletter that contains all of their data. We include relevant water quality standards for comparison, but it seems like that’s rather meaningless to our volunteers.

Do any of you include data in newsletters? How do you make it meaningful?

I’ve been thinking about including averages, so the volunteers can compare their data to everyone else’s. My concern is oversimplification – every water body is different, and if one person’s baseline is different from someone else’s, I don’t want them to think their water is necessarily bad. We’re in south Florida, so there’s also huge variation between the dry season (when the water is very clear) and the rainy season (lots of turbidity) – but this is natural, and again, not necessarily bad.

The challenge here is to give the data context without dumbing it down. Any feedback you can offer will be helpful – what’s worked for you?



Kim Cressman
Environmental Biologist
Environmental Resources Division
City of Cape Coral
P.O. Box 150027
Cape Coral, FL 33915
239-574-0785 x2942

Responses to Question 3

Date: Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:36:59 -0400
From: David Kirschtel

Kim —
I think that this would be a good case for the use of sparklines to present the data.

from the entry at wikipedia (
Sparkline is a name proposed by Edward Tufte for “small, high resolution graphics embedded in a context of words, numbers, images”[1].
Tufte describes sparklines as “data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics”[1]. Whereas the typical chart is designed to show as much data as possible, and is set off from the flow of text, sparklines are intended to be succinct, memorable, and located where they are discussed. Their use inline usually means that they are about the same height as the surrounding text.

He gives some really nice examples in his book Beautiful Evidence. If you follow the link in the wiki article “Edward Tufte’s explanation of sparklines” you’ll get to an online version of that section of the book. The advantage to you is that would would be able to create context by showing the annual (dry/monsoon) and longer term trends in the data as well as presenting their most current data point in a relatively simple graphical format. If you then stack up all the sparklines from each of your individual volunteers you and they(!) will be able get really good sense of overall trends in the data — without having to do a lot of complex analysis.
A nifty example that Tufte gives is that he plots the sparklines from several dozen mutual funds. All the lines fluctuate in virtual the identical manner – suggesting that despite all the marketing hype most funds are holding very similar portfolios. A huge amount of data is plotted very concisely and in an easy to digest format in order to show some very interesting large scale patterns – patterns that you would never see by looking at row upon row of numbers.
It may take a little bit of effort to get this set up, but I really think that it will help in enhancing meaning, and community for your citizen scientists.
David Kirschtel, Ph.D.
Sr. Program Manager
2000 Florida
Washington, DC, 20009


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 09:19:08 -0400
From: “Sullivan, Chris”

What is the typical age of your volunteers? That could help with determining a good way to distribute the data. I think it is great that you get the results back to the monitors at all, let alone worry about making it relevant and meaningful to them. A good comparison would be to use the results from a water body that most people are familiar with and that is known to be impaired, then also include data from a familiar water body that is known to have excellent water quality. With this information setting up your range, I think the monitors would be able to get a better picture of the water quality at their sites/locations.

Good luck!


Chris Sullivan
Project SEARCH
500 Hawthorne Ave
Derby, CT 06418
fax 203-922-7833


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 09:57:52 -0400
From: ginger north
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Providing data to volunteers

I, too, think your newsletter full of data is quite an achievement, we only send published data out every 5 years! Because of the large time span, data trends and summaries are the focus so they can see the trends and compare them to others in their watershed but we do not compare everyone’s data to each other. Just within a watershed and at their own sites over time. Hopefully this makes it more meaningful to them than tables or graphs of all raw data. I do think that a yearly analysis might be a better time frame but we haven’t managed to get there yet. This is a good way to show long term trends but does make the possibility of over simplification a concern. So there are pluses and minuses to this method as well.

I guess the first question may be to ask them if this is a meaningful way to see their data. If they are happy then no worries.

Ginger North
Stream Watch Coordinator
Delaware Nature Society


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 11:22:11 -0400
From: Kim Cressman

To answer Chris’s question, our volunteers are mostly retired, so we’re working mainly in the age range of 60+. Ginger, we asked for feedback in our most recent newsletter, and only heard back from one person! She mentioned that she just wants to know what it means – is it good, bad, or neutral? And why are some areas higher in “stuff” than others? I think some of the basics are worthy of a newsletter article and inclusion in training materials – what are we testing, why are we testing it, why do things change in summer, why is my canal different from that other one. Mostly people just want to know if it’s good or bad, which is an oversimplification that I want to avoid. But it would probably be a good idea to at least highlight data that exceeds standards. And I think Chris’s idea of comparing it to water bodies that people are familiar with is a good one.

Thanks to everyone who’s replied so far!


Kim Cressman
Environmental Biologist
Environmental Resources Division
City of Cape Coral
P.O. Box 150027
Cape Coral, FL 33915
239-574-0785 x2942


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 12:09:54 -0400
From: Carolyn Sibner

Hi Kim,

We also monitor monthly (but only from spring into fall), and have also struggled for years with how to best present our data. I also feared the oversimplification that comes from averaging, esp. considering how much of a factor weather plays in our bacteria results.

The more data I have (we’ve been monitoring some areas for 6 years now), however, the more comfortable I am that I know which sites are more likely to have a problem than others.

In an effort to look at our data over more than one year at a time, we recently went through our data and compared each result to the state Water Quality standard for each parameter. So, for instance, at each site we calculated how many times the samples from that site met the state standard for safe bacteria levels for primary contact (swimming). We did this year by year, so we could see whether it seemed to be getting better from year to year, or worse, or whatever.

We then set up a scale similar to the grades we received in school, since we figure most people are familiar with that old A – F grading scale. And then we color coded each “grade”, with blue being the best water quality (it met or exceeded its water quality standard at least 95% of the times we sampled), and red meaning it did not meet its standard even 60% of the time.

We are still tweaking it, and trying to figure out what is the best way to display this info. Excel tables are the easiest to manage and update, but they can still be kind of dry and hard to interpret. We set up Word documents that are easier to read and understand, but they are a bit of a pain in the patootie to update (i.e. it takes too much time to format and reformat the lines and spacing each time we add a new set of numbers).

We can now look at a summary sheet for a site and tell right away, by the colors, which parameters are doing well, and which ones are having problems, by individual years and over time.

I gave each volunteer the summary for their site at the end of last year, but think that Chris made a good point that being able to compare their data to a site that they are already familiar with would help them better understand how their data compares to other sites.

If you’d like, I can email a sample site summary to you so you can see what it looks like… and then you can give me your feedback on how to make it even better!

Carolyn Sibner
Water Quality Manager
Housatonic Valley Association
So. Lee, MA


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 12:34:59 -0500

Like others have mentioned, you’re ahead of the curve by presenting annual reports to your groups. In Wisconsin with volunteer streams data, we also don’t do annual reports, but the Citizen Lakes Monitoring Network does. Those are summary reports with some key information about water quality in the lakes and a trophic status index score, as well as other information to help people to understand their results. They’re sent to the volunteers about their individual lakes. They’re also available online (

For streams, our approach hasn’t been as consistent, but we’ve done things similar to what others have suggested. One way I liked, in terms of getting information out to citizens in a usable format for them, was to create brochures with simplified data summaries about a localized area – usually a watershed or several small watersheds – so data could be compared. For macroinvertebrate data results, we coded a map with red, yellow, and green labels for how the water quality scores came out for various sites (red for poor scores, green for good scores). For other parameters we included short descriptions of why the parameter was important to monitor and a summary of scores for that area. We generally report medians, since that tends to be a good representation for smaller data sets (though now, with over 4000 data points, means and medians are often equal to one another).

We did a longer data results report for a 10 year data summary, again including short descriptions of why it’s important to monitor what we do, and comparing statewide medians/means, lows, and highs, with the local means/medians, lows and highs, and discussing areas that may be important to do follow up monitoirng.

The brochures and 10 year summary are posted online at:

With our online database, citizens also have an ongoing opportunity to graph data results over time for a single site or to compare sites. Here’s a link to that database if you want to see how we’ve presented data in graphs and tables ( A weakness to those graphs and tables is that we have no supporting information about what the data mean- people viewing them either need a base knowledge of what’s presented.

Kris Stepenuck
Volunteer Stream Monitoring Coordinator
University of Wisconsin Extension and
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
(() phone: (608)264-8948 or 608-265-3887
(+) e-mail:


Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 14:00:18 -0400
From: Carolyn Sibner

Kim and everyone,

The folks at UMass in Amherst have a lot of info on how to display and manage data. Below is a link to their site (I hope it works! – if not, try copying and pasting it into your browser). There’s all kinds of info on their website about monitoring both rivers and lakes!



Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2007 10:53:48 -0400
From: Tony Williams

Kim…and others,

You are correct, for water quality and monitoring most people just want to know if it is good or bad….and so the challenge is how do we answer their question with not to much oversimplification, but also at the same time expand on the opportunity to educate them on the complexities of these water bodies and why one may have “higher stuff” then another and is that a good thing or a bad thing.

We use a health index, or 0-100 point grade and color system to try and explain in a simple manner is the water good, fair or poor. I am always explaining why high nutrient levels are not so good and yet high oxygen levels are good…it often confuses people and even volunteers at first………and so the oversimplification process then works to show them “how” the water is doing….but the follow up to explain and educate them is what really matters.

This is our volunteer program

and this is our new attempt to show the data results for each site…so the volunteer can “see all their data” …but it is a lot of work when you have lots of data and lots of volunteers.

…and in response to Eric’s – “in the digital age, the data gathered by volunteer monitors should be available in real time, all the time.”

For our volunteer program, we go through all the data with a certain level of quality assurance checks before we make it available….this take a bit of time to do and at least for us our volunteers know this…but we feel confident in presenting the data when we finally do. So for us, the real time, all the time volunteer data to just have it out there isn’t as important as having a quality package of data to present with our interpretation of what is happening. After that then the data is available for all.

Tony Williams
Director of Monitoring Programs
The Coalition for Buzzards Bay
Nashawena Mills – 620 Belleville Avenue
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02745
Tel. 508-999-6363 x.203
Fax. 508-984-7913


Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2007 11:37:34 -0400
From: Linda Green

Tony and others,

Thanks for replying with your fine website and also your reply to Eric’s Eckl’s comment “In the digital age, the data gathered by volunteer monitors should be available in real time, all the time.” It takes time, often A LOT of time to make sure that the data being presented has been correctly analyzed, with necessary quality assurance procedures. It is important to remember that most volunteer monitoring programs are not analytical labs with the infrastructure to process samples speedily and not everyone is using the latest electronic gizmos to upload results. It also depends on how many volunteers and locations you have in your program! There is also a vast difference between presenting numerical data and transforming data to results and then ultimately to information that folks can understand and use.

The volunteers in the URI Watershed Watch program know, well we hope they know, that it does take time to make sure everything is correct before it is shown to the world. We post all our results on-line. We do know that folks are keenly interested in bacteria results, so within a week of water sampling we post those results to our website, with a simple coding of red font being over water quality standards and black font below them, which makes a nice at-a-glance visual. It takes a lot longer for the rest of the data and results to get posted. We link all results to explanatory factsheets, and send customized reports and attend watershed meeting upon request.

Linda Green
URI Watershed Watch Program Director
URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
College of the Environment and Life Sciences
CIK, 1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804


Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2007 22:00:33 -0400
From: Eric Eckl

Fascinating, so when I wrote: “In the digital age, the data gathered by volunteer monitors should be available in real time, all the time,” it evoked the expectation of instantaneous upload, which raised concerns about quality control. Thanks for that. I understand the objection.

But what I’m really driving at is something a little different — the inherent shortcoming of having the data housed in thousands of different websites, Excel spreadsheets, newsletters, etc… It seems right now that if you want to access monitoring data that you didn’t gather yourself, you have to hunt and peck for it: post requests to listservs, ask around, call your peers, etc…

Shouldn’t it all be housed in the same website, just a mouse click away for everybody who might need it?

There are several organizations competing to make that possible. One is Google (of course), with Google spreadsheets:

I’m curious whether the prospect of combined master database of water quality monitoring data is attractive or scary?


Eric Eckl
Water Words That Work
P.O. Box 2182
Falls Church, VA 22042-2182
(703) 822-4265
Cell: (703) 635-4380


Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2007 10:02:00 -0400
From: Kami Watson

I’d like to know if anyone has further information about EPA’s proposed WXQ database. My understanding is that this is supposed to be a “user friendly” and updated version of Storet.

I have the 2007 Storet/WQX User’s Conference in Austin, TX during Nov 27-29 on my calendar and hope to be able to attend to get more insight and perhaps share some ideas. However, knowing that Storet simply is not user friendly for watershed groups and volunteers, does anyone know if WXQ will truly be, or will you still need significant IT knowledge to utilize it. The complexity of Storet is the reason our Save Our Streams programs do not use currently use this database to store their data.

Also, other than the requirement of general metadata, will there be a request for the protocol used and whether or not it has a QAPP with EPA? Will there be a control measure in place such as an administrator that posts volunteers input data after review or will it be directly uploaded by the watershed group, state, tribal, or local officials and volunteers?

With Save Our Streams programs being a national monitoring program that molds itself to the needs of states and local communities, we also see the development of individual databases for these programs. Where SOS projects and programs do not have the strenghts in financial and technical partnerships to develop these databases and websites, volunteers are often still keeping their data in spreadsheets on personal computers and in filing cabinets. The volunteers know their data is important and they would like to make it accessable to the general public, but as others have mentioned, it is often kept in a local database and one must do a thorough search to find it. The request for a free national database is one that is expressed to me quite often at training workshops and by our Save Our Streams volunteers. I’m hoping that WQX will fill this need. Does anyone have any insight on this? It would make sense to me to collect water quality data in one house and then allow those who want to utilitze the data to extract it and put it into mapping programs, etc, depending on their individual needs. With the decrease in funding for state and local government to maintain volunteer monitoring programs, and the increase in watershed and conservation groups, and local schools and universities taking an active role in gathering water quality data, whether for education or grassroots advocacy purposes, its available. While the validity of the data can be argued, that is where the metadata comes into play along with the EPA QAPP and quality assurance and quality control measures put into place.

Any insight into this would be helpful.
Kami Watson-Ferguson
Save Our Streams Program Coordinator
Izaak Walton League of America
707 Conservation Lane
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(301) 548-0150 ext. 220


Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2007 12:07:58 -0400


I’m extremely pleased to hear you’re planning to attend the STORET/WQX user’s conference in November. I hope other volunteer monitoring program coordinators can also attend, and lend their voices together to offer ideas, ask questions, and seek support from those who manage data
at the state and federal level.

Our STORET/WQX team is developing a tool to allow small users (such as volunteer monitoring organizations and Tribes) to transfer data from local databases (e.g. spreadsheets, Access) to our national water quality data warehouse via the Web. (The national data warehouse currently stores, and makes accessible, data from many state water quality agencies, other agencies, universities, a few volunteer monitoring programs,etc.) The goal is to make this small users’ tool as user-friendly as possible, something someone who understands a bit about data and the Web could master. I don’t believe it will require that you have an approved QAPP, but it will require data of documented quality, so there will still be a need to include metadata re: how, when, why, where and what the data are all about (and yes, which protocols were used). But since having that metadata is critical to any
well-thought-out program, we hope it won’t be a concern.

I believe the plan is for data to be uploaded by the watershed/volunteer group’s data manager after it has gone through your own internal QA process, rather than having it go through some sort of outside
administrator. Large organizations such as the IWLA may want to provide this function for their subgroups. It seems unlikely (and possibly unwise) to me that individual volunteers would upload data to the national warehouse unless that was their role in their organization.

The STORET/WQX team could use your input as it develops its tool for small users, which should be complete by the middle of next year. If you manage data for your program and have questions, concerns or suggestions, please feel free to contact the team directly, at: (put “small users’ tool” in the subject line).

Find out more about the November STORET/WQX User’s Conference in Austin online.  The STORET/WQX team hopes to be able to demonstrate the beginning of the small users’ tool at the conference and, again, could use your input. We will also be talking about WQX and the small users’ tool at the upcoming Regional volunteer monitoring conference for region 3 states (VA, PA, DC, WV, MD, DE) in Virginia in October (check out

Also, you may have missed our Watershed Academy webcast on WQX on June 21 (“Using STORET to Characterize your Watershed”). You can listen to the audio broadcast and see the slides by going to

Alice Mayio
USEPA Office of Water
Phone: 202-566-1184, Fax: 202-566-1437
Mail: 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW (4503T), Washington, DC 20460
Delivery: 1301 Constitution Ave NW (Rm7324), Washington, DC 20460

Question 4

Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2007 21:03:05 +0000
From: Jo Latimore
Subject: [volmonitor] Request for report examples!
Hello!  I’m part of the team who administers Michigan’s volunteer stream and lake monitoring program (the Michigan Clean Water Corps, or MiCorps).  We’re putting together our annual conference, and I’m leading a session on “Presenting Volunteer Data Effectively”.  I enjoyed the recent thread on the topic, and would like to be able to provide session attendees with a number of examples of reports or presentations put together by volunteer monitoring groups to communicate their data/analyses/
conclusions to various audiences.  These audiences might be the volunteers themselves, local decisionmakers, the media, etc. – one point I’m hoping to make is that the best way to present your results can vary from one audience to another.

I’d appreciate links to websites, attached files, or anything else you can provide.. .thanks in advance!

Jo Latimore

Responses to Question 4

Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 11:40:10 -0500
From: Jo Latimore
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Request for report examples!

Back in August I posted a request to this list for examples of volunteer monitoring data reporting. I’ve compiled a listing of many of the examples that I found or were sent to me, and include them below, if you are interested.

Thanks to all who contributed!

-Jo Latimore
Michigan Clean Water Corps

Examples of Volunteer Monitoring Data Presentation and Reporting
Available Online (Winter 2007)

1. Buzzard’s Bay Baywatchers Program (Massachusetts) (Interactive mapping and data reporting site.) (publications of their volunteers’ data; includes 127 signs they made for their sites, a map with charts, poster, and a synthesis report.)

2. Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program (online annual data report,
with charts and a paragraph about each lake)

3. Loudoun Watershed Watch (Loudoun County, Virginia) (includes downloadable Excel file with
data – bugs, chemistry, bacteria, and charts for all sites) (interactive
macroinvertebrate mapping)

4. University of Delaware Citizen Monitoring Program (Data reports, maps of
sampling sites)

5. Charles River Watershed Association (Massachusetts) (In ‘monthly
maps’ section, data reported with color-coded maps, site descriptions,
parameter explanations, annual summary reports)

6. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Stream-Monitoring
Program (One-page
summaries written for each site, with volunteer’s name, info about land
use in the watershed, and results)

7. Friends of the Rouge (Rouge River, MI) (Click on the stonefly; scroll down to links to
pdf reports)

8. Huron River Watershed Council (Michigan) (scroll down to Adopt-A-Stream for
a collection of monitoring reports through the years – most recent are
organized by subwatershed with maps)

9. Michigan Clean Water Corps (“View Data” lets user explore data sets for
volunteer lake and stream monitoring across the state that follow
statewide standard protocols; summary Annual Reports for the lakes
monitoring program are also available)

Data Reporting and Presentation Guidance

1. Massachusetts Water Watch Program (Ready, Set, Present!)

2. Eleanor Ely’s “Writing to Be Read” workshop: (Aims to give useful advice to
people at environmental agencies and organizations who need to write
about environmental topics for different audiences.)

3. Water Words That Work

4. Volunteer Monitor newsletter

5. Michigan Clean Water Corps – 2007 Conference Proceedings (“Presenting Your
Monitoring Data” slide show)


Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 12:09:50 -0800 (PST)
From: Revital Katznelson
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] another report example

Jo –

From the Clean Water Team, the citizen monitoring program of the State Water Resources Control Board: This report may be an addition to the list you have started (although it was written by the technical support coordinator at the time, yours truly). It is a summary report on stormwater quality data collected by over 70 volunteers, in 26 locations within the Russian River watershed, during the first few hours of the first storm event of the 2002/03 California winter. I believe the part about logistics will be of special interest to others contemplating a ‘first-flush’ monitoring event with multiple teams. Please go to and scroll down to Russian River First Flush Summary Report. Additional graphics are shown in Appendix D on the same page.

Good Luck,
510 406 8514


Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2008 16:10:27 -0500
From: Alabama Waterwatch


Thanks for the accidental message. It brought to my attention that our
website is not mentioned on the list below. Below are some of the basic
stats of our program. Our website features interactive maps, graphs and
access to water data collected since 1993.

Total Water Quality Records 51967
Total Water Chemistry Records 42613
Total Bacteriological Records 9077
Total Bioassessment Records 277
Total Monitors Certified 4689
Total Sampling Sites 1879
Total Training Sessions 1171
Total Waterbodies Monitored 742
Total Citizen Groups 248

Best Wishes,


Question 5

From: [] On Behalf Of Linda Green
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2008 7:56 AM
To:; ‘Volunteer water monitoring’
Subject: [CSREESVolMon] Using Data to tell a story

Hi Folks,

Apologies for cross-postings…

At an upcoming conference we will be presenting a workshop called “Putting it All Together – Using Data to Tell a Story”. On a planning call for the workshop, we got to sharing stories about different experiences we’ve had in preparing reports, presentations, etc. We thought that it’d be useful to ask all of you in the volunteer monitoring realm for your favorite tips and techniques for using data to tell a story.

What has worked best for you? Do you have examples of materials that have worked really well to turn data into a compelling water quality success (or failure) story? Do you have such materials available online (if so, where)? Or do you have tips for other volunteer monitoring coordinators about what to expect when preparing reports or data analysis presentations? We all agreed that you should plan to take at least twice (and probably three times) as long as you expect to develop compelling data stories.

What’s been your worst experience with data presentations or reports? You can come clean about your own mistakes, or of course let us know about someone else’s debacle.

We’ll compile your suggestions into a fact sheet handout for the workshop, and then will post it on-line afterwards, so please let us know if you’d like to be quoted or anonymous when you reply.

Thanks so much everyone!

Linda Green & Elizabeth Herron
USDA-CSREES Volunteer Water Quality National Facilitation Project
URI Watershed Watch Program
URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
College of the Environment and Life Sciences
CIK, 1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804

Responses to Question 5

From: Streamkeepers []
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2008 1:13 PM
To: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [CSREESVolMon] Using Data to tell a story

Hi Linda & Elizabeth,

Interesting questions! Clearly posed by people who have long grappled with these questions.

Our data was used (along with other sources of information) for a comprehensive 2004 report on the state of our county’s streams. Here’s the link: The basic formula was to try to present information about every stream system, with a combination of summary text in 3 categories (overview, implications for people, and implications for fish), a health-rating table (with ratings of healthy, compromised, impaired, highly impaired, and critically impaired) in 3 categories (WQ, biology, and habitat), and a “particular concerns” and “recommendations” box. Plus maps, photos, and a host of explanatory material in introductory and appendix chapters. It took LOTS of work, both by staff and a paid writer/editor, and was about 2 years late in publication. Of course, now we have a template that we can follow and improve on in future years.

This past year, we took on the challenge of creating a display for fair booths “telling the story” of our data. We decided on the following:

–Use the B-IBI as our summary-statistic of stream health (luckily, we have a pretty rich set of B-IBI data).

–Present the B-IBI in map form with colored dots (see “bug ratings” (5.4 MB jpg file), attached).

–Have a poster explaining what the B-IBI is all about and why it’s important (see “BIBI” (678 KB jpg file), attached).

–Present 3 stream case-studies in which data is presented in a way that it not only tells about the health of the stream, but also gets across important watershed-process concepts, so that viewers can have a deeper understand of how watersheds work and how they get disturbed (see “Peabody” (579 KB jpg file), “Bell” (562 KB jpg file), and “Salt” (617 KB jpg file) posters in that order). We wanted to concentrate on concepts that people were less likely to know, such as:

—–the connection between development, hydrology, stormwater, and sediment delivery and movement;

—–the importance of LWD and LWD recruitment;

—–the role of riparian areas.

Again, it took a LOT longer than we thought it would for these 5 posters, probably 60 hours of my time and 350 hours of a contractor’s. These posters will soon be on our website, once our volunteer webmaster gets them loaded.

Some things we’ve decided/found out:

–Think of it as a story. Start out by saying, “What’s the story of this creek? What’s the story we’re trying to tell?” So we started with watershed-assessment documents, plus what we collectively knew about the creeks. Then we looked at the data and whether it supported the story. Then we decided which data to focus on and how to present it. In the process, we certainly became familiar with our data gaps!

–It’s okay to present something that’s not conclusive and say that it’s not conclusive. That’s science.

–Colored dots on maps are good, but too many maps can be overwhelming in a display. We’re working on a slideshow now which has lots of maps, but that’s okay when you have a presenter describing what people are seeing on the maps.

–You can probably present one or two other concepts along with a basic dot on a map. So for instance, we’ve put question-marks in dots that only represent one year of B-IBI data. In another case, we show our monitoring sites along with whether they’re sponsored by an outside client and whether they’re monitoring a restoration project (see “ccwr sk client sites” (472 KB jpg file) , attached).

–Figure out when you need to be comprehensive, and when you just want to focus down on a few salient data findings.

–Multiple presentational graphics are good: we’ve tried integrating text, maps, photos, charts, tables, and graphs.

–Photos in particular are important, so that people can see what the landscape impacts look like, then look at what the data tells about the results of those impacts.

–Headings and subheadings are critical: get across whatever basic message you want to convey in the big letters, so that someone just passing by the booth will at least see those important points (and hopefully be drawn in enough to want to take a look!).

–Callout text of various types really helps make graphs meaningful.

–A good report-production team needs to have people with the following skills/knowledge: watershed ecology, the available data, statistical analysis, graphing, GIS, pedagogy, page layout, and wordsmithing. If you’re lucky, some people will have several of these! We needed a basic team of 3 people.

–The review process is critical. We showed drafts to our advisory board, our volunteer data-analysis team, and our education/outreach team. We gots lots of feedback and went through many, many drafts. As frustrating as it often was, the posters just kept getting better.

–For graphs and maps, you’ve got to check the color-production of the printers and projectors you’ll be using. We found, for example, that with our projector, our orange and yellow dots were indistinguishable, and with our plotter, one of our color orthophotos didn’t show the land-cover features we were trying to show, so we had to take our poster file somewhere else to get printed.

That’s what comes to mind right now. I’m sending this on to some of our volunteers/colleagues to see if they have anything to add.

Cheers, Ed

Ed Chadd & Adar Feller
Streamkeepers of Clallam County
Clallam County Department of Community Development
223 E. 4 St., Suite 5
Port Angeles, WA 98362
360-417-2281; FAX 360-417-2443


Comment 1

Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 10:36:59 -0500
From: Caitlin Cusack
Subject: [cem] Note from Andy Whitman

See below for helpful info. from Andy Whitman.

Caitlin and others,

If you have ever asked yourself why a volunteer monitoring program is measuring so many variables then you may find the following documents of interest :
(; and are examples of LSI described in the first document). The first document describes an rigorous, straight forward approach to create simple indices derived from large data sets. The resulting index is very easy to teach (takes about 40 hours to train on the full set of variables versus 4 hours max for the index), easy to apply (2 variables in <30 minutes, the index takes about 8% of the time that it takes to measure the full set of variables), has lower equipment cost (~$600 per set of equipment versus $150 for a DBH tape and 2 – 100 yd tapes), easy to explain (most volunteers could easily understand the ecological basis of the index by the end of the 4 hour training), and scientifically efficient (the index captures captures about 85% of the information gained by from the full set of variables).

If you struggle with getting volunteers to attend lengthily training efforts, equipment expenses, the challenges of managing unwieldy databases, getting large numbers of samples, QA/QC, and volunteer retention due to demanding program commitments, this example may provide you with some ideas of how to simplify your volunteer monitoring program with little to not loss of information yielded by your data stream. Caitlin you may want to include this on your CEM CD.

Andy Whitman
Manomet – Maine

Editor's note: We archived these three files on our site in the event the links change. They are available here:

FMSN2004-3LSIndex.pdf (229 KB pdf file)

NHIndex.pdf (339 KB pdf file)

SFIndex.pdf (313 KB pdf file)


Data Entry, Storage, Retrieval, and Management

Question 1: I am trying to understand how volunteer monitoring groups store and retrieve their data.

Question 2: Does anyone know of other less massive data storage programs than STORET for physical, chemical, and biological data that are available for volunteer monitoring groups to use?

Question 3: I am looking for a database that volunteer monitoring groups can use.

Question 4: Does anyone have a written policy/guidelines, that can be shared, regarding how and when they share their volunteer data?

Comment 1: For those were aren’t already aware, Excel has some “problems” with its statistical functions.

Question 5: I’m looking for advice on how to get volunteers excited about entering their water quality data online.

Question 6: We are looking to make some changes to our program such as having volunteers enter data online.

Question 7: Do the costs outweigh the benefits for having online databases?

Question 8:  Is getting data into STORET really that difficult?

Question 1

On 5/9/05 8:32 PM, “Muns Farestad” wrote:

I am trying to understand how volunteer monitoring groups store and retrieve their data. As I see it, there may be three general levels:

1st) data sheets,
2nd) data sheets converted to spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, or
3rd) data sheets converted to an in-house relational database such as Microsoft Access, or
4th) data sheets converted to an on-line database.

These data management levels are dependent on a volunteer’s group resources of time, money and skill.

Our group uses a custom designed database tool based on Microsoft Access. We have found this tool to be especially useful for creating queries responding to unanticipated questions that are not covered by regular reporting.

How does your group manage your data? Have you considered using a relational database? If so, what is your opinion of using a relational database regarding cost, difficulty, or sustainability? Do you think that using a relational database is worthwhile?

If you are already using a relational database, what software are you using and did your group customize your tool? Do you have any problems with your program?

If you are not using a relational database and would like to, what do you need?

Would you find a forum to exchange data management ideas and tools valuable?

— Muns Farestad

Responses to Question 1

From: Rita Jack []
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 6:45 PM
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

In the volunteer projects I oversee, we currently enter our datasheet data into an Excel spreadsheet. I would like to use a relational database, but Access is the one Microsoft product I’ve not taken time to understand enough to build my own really useful database. I’d like to be able to graph our results when the data warrant it – but right now, the setup doesn’t support that. We’re using benthic macroinvertebrates for most of our monitoring, but also do a bit of chemistry, too- pH, conductivity, TDS, temp, DO. Benthics are id’d to order level in some cases, to species in other cases.

I don’t want to spend my grant on software if I can avoid it, and if I can make what’s already on my laptop do what I need it to do!

Hope this helps…

-Rita Jack.


Rita Jack

Water Sentinels Project, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

tel: 517-484-2372

Make all Michigan’s waters fishable and swimmable.


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 08:20:01 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Our volunteers fill out a paper datasheet on site. They can then enter the data online or fax or mail us the sheet and we enter it. The database itself is in Access. We cannot manipulate it online (nor can the volunteers – just store in it) but we can download it for manipulation. I think a forum would be cool.


From: Marian Beddill []
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 8:50 PM
To: Volunteer water monitoring


Excel does graphs (Access does not, afaik.) But for building datasets with stability, a database like Access is by far preferred.

I recently wrote a mini-tutorial on Access for a friend. It’s in an RTF generic word-processing format. I have posted it at one of my websites, . Enjoy and share and send suggestions.

Marian Beddill
WA State
“If you cannot trust the way your votes are counted, nothing much else in politics matters.”


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 14:30:23 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: re:[volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

The Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program has volunteers fill out data sheets in the field. Since our volunteers process samples for laboratory analysis, the data sheets stay with the samples until they are picked up. The data is entered by LMVP staff (that’s me) into Excel.

Our Excel spreadsheet is becoming entirely too cumbersome, however, and I think it’s time for us to make the jump. We have both Access and Filemaker Pro and I’m considering the latter for it’s friendly interface.

For what it’s worth, I’d join a volunteer database forum if it existed. I have LOTS of questions on the subject that I won’t pepper the listserve with!

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 13:08:46 -0400
To: “Volunteer water monitoring”
From: Karen Diamond

Hello everyone,

I have been reading portions of this conversation as my supervisor (Ann Reid) passes them along.

Here at Great Bay Coast Watch, we use a combination of Excel and Access to store our data in. We used Excel exclusively until the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) wanted to include our data in their database. Since the form they wanted it in was very different from ours, we decided to use Access to make it more pliable. It worked very well for this. It also works well for when another groups wants specific information, but not the entire data set.

However; there were several complications that arose from this. We found that we did not have the graphing ability that we have in Excel. We have volunteers enter our data at home from copies of the data sheets. We cannot expect them to have Access on their home computers. I am the only person here, currently, that knows how to program in Access, so when we need a new query, form , report … from it, I am the only one who can do it.

Our process now is to have the data entered in Excel, verified at the office and imported to the database. We use the Excel for calculations and graphs in our Annual Report. We use the database to shuffle the data around into the format for NHDES, and export it back to Excel for them. The Excel data pages are yearly, the database is the entire data set.

I created the database myself, as well as the one we use for tracking all of our grants and volunteer activities. (I am a programer, which is rare for a volunteer organization to have.) If your group wants to use a database, the MOST important thing you need to know before you start is what you want out of it. If you don’t know yet, don’t waist the time. Changing a database is much more complicated than doing it right from scratch. Also, computers are binomial, they do not do “sometimes” well.

I hope this helps some of you understand the advantages and disadvantages better,


GBCW Mission
The Great Bay Coast Watch is citizen volunteers, working within the UNH Cooperative Extension/NH Sea Grant Program, protecting the long-term health and natural resources of New Hampshire?s coastal waters and estuarine systems through monitoring and education projects.

Karen Diamond
GBCW Assistant
Kingman Farm
Laboratory Leader
Phone: (603) 749-1565
Fax: (603) 743-3997
Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 18:27:01 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: [volmonitor] Fwd: re:Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Thanks Karen (via Anne!),
I like the notion of using Excel for the present year, but then moving everything to the database. I think I’ll implement that this year.

Does anyone else here use Filemaker? I bought it for managing the volunteer contact information, since I can include photos (my inability to connect names to faces is pathetic). I was thinking about using Filemaker to house the data too.

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 13:26:08 -0700
From: Marian Beddill
Subject: Re: Fwd: re:[volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

I support and concur with Karen’s mixed-method.

I, too, have programming experience, and I do my own civic activities just like she described — a diverse crowd enters data in Excel (we pre-specify the fields and formats) data-fixing is done there if needed, then the sets are imported (appended, etc) into Access. Output may go directly from a Report function in Access, or exports to Excel for graphics or sharing out.

Marian Beddill


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 21:13:22 +0000
From: Katznelson Revital
Subject: [volmonitor] Data management functions

Reading yesterday’s and today’s chain of responses from VolMon folks about the recent data management question is very illuminating. Been there! I have done a lot of digging into various local, State, and National WQ databases over the years, and ended up creating a set of spreadsheets…. in an Excel workbook. The Workbook takes care of a very basic function, often overlooked, which I call (1) “Documentation & QA/QC”. This function is separate from all consecutive functions of a data management system: (2) storage & sharing (3) retrieval, and (4) interpretation & presentation.

Function (1) – Documentation & QA/QC – should be done at the monitoring Project level by folks who know about the project. This is where we need a platform for data entry & documentation, error calculation, data verification and validation, and all other manipulations related to measurement quality. This is where all essential metadata is captured as well. It can be done in Excel by most people, or in a combination of Access and Excel, if there is an Access guru available.

Function (2) – storage – is very easy if all the information is already captured and can be stored as is, at the Project level. However, sharing data with others must be selective, because others never need all the nitty-gritty detail in a central database. We can take a sub-set of essential information fields – for example, the Water Quality Data Elements – to put on our Project website or to export into a central database, be it Regional, State, National, or Worldwide.

Function (3) – retrieval – requires that information is organized and interlinked in a way that allows any data user to sort, filter, group, and do any other query activity using anything from basic Excel tools to sophisticated Access or Oracle tools. If you follow the three normal forms of database structure and you provide for effective linkage between data tables (for example, Station ID is the link between the Location table and the Results table), any search engine and query tool can be applied to retrieve your data from just about any relational database.

Function (4) – data interpretation & presentation – can be done ONLY after your retrieval tools extract the desired information from the database tables effectively, AND you will need additional tools for plotting, mapping, or running statistical comparisons. Some programming-endowed folks like to automate it in sync with the retrieval. Here the sky is the limit.

OK folks. If anyone has seen a data management system that does it all, please let me know ASAP!

Revital Katznelson, Ph.D.
Regional Citizen Monitoring Coordinator
State Water Resources Control Board

Mailing address:
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400 Oakland CA 94612
Office Phone: (510) 622 2470
Cell Phone: (916) 947 4816
Fax: (510) 622 2460
(please note new email address, Nov 2004)

Clean Water Team website:


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 11:02:03 -0400
Subject: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Dear Folks,

Several of you have expressed interest in a volunteer database management forum of some sort. Does anybody have any ideas re: what form this would take? are you thinking of a separate list serve? some other technology? a meeting?

Exchanging ideas and approaches re: database management certainly seems like a worthwhile topic for an extended volunteer monitoring workshop session at the upcoming National Water Quality Monitoring Council conference in San Jose, CA next May (7-11), and is duly noted!
However, we can clearly make progress before then if people see a need and a way to foster info exchange on this key topic. Personally, I’d vote against a separate listserve; people can always delete messages they don’t want to read simply by looking at the subject line.

I’m assuming, as well, that everyone has read the most recent issue of the Volunteer Monitor on Data Documentation and Interpretation. If not, check it out at

Alice Mayio
USEPA (4503T)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 566-1184


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 11:32:40 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

I’ve been following this topic closely too. I agree that we need to have some kind of meeting of the minds with this topic. I also agree that this is a much needed discussion at the 2006 conference. But I
need this now, I’m interested because in NJ we are gearing up to create a data management system for the volunteer community to use as a powerful tool for their own data comparisons and interpretation with the bonus of us (DEP) having access to their data. (We’ve been closely following what our neighboring state of PA is doing as a model, great stuff!)
However, the last thing we want to create, is another unused database. It would be great to have the insight and support from our larger national community of volunteer programs so we don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We are only going to be given funding for this once…

In the idealistic world where we had money to travel… it would be great to see what everyone is doing in a more intimate setting. I would love to see 20/30 minute presentations on the successes and failures of data management and data use. And I would even take it to the next level and say, have the discussion over several days. However, in the real world of budget woes, an internet based data discussion over several weeks or months may be the way to go. Maybe we can always post to the
list serve with the subject line reading DATA DISCUSSION. That way people that do not want to be involved can just delete it, or we may need to set up another list serve?

“In order to achieve something, you must get started” Fortune Cookie wisdom

Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 16:15:52 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Just a thought.
What if somebody were to set up a Yahoo forum or something similar?

I suspect such a forum would be very active for a month or so, then fizzle out (and therefore probably not warranting a seperate EPA listserve). Also, I have a lot of questions that I feel hesitant to ask to the general listserve. The answers to these questions will certainly invite more questions, ad infinitum, which would generate lots of emails for everyone. I don’t think I’d feel as inhibited in a more specific “database forum”.

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 12:40:02 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Hi all,
This also could be a topic for a workshop and associated paper sessions at the May 2006 national conference in CA. At that conference there will also be opportunity for more informal side meetings too. The call for abstracts for this conference will be coming out with in a month. It will get posted
to this list serve when it does!
Linda Green

URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804


Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 10:09:35 -0700
From: Stacy Renfro
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Please keep discussing this topic here – my 2 cents
I’d prefer that the conversations take place here – though I may not need the information right now – I often save discussion threads that are of interest and when I get a moment scan through them for morsels of knowledge that might feed our program or my imagination –

Having to join yet another list to partake of the information and see the questions asked is more cumbersome than I’d like – I find it easy to delete what I don’t want

Student Watershed Research Project


Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 11:38:59 -0400
From: URI Watershed Watch
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Data management functions

Hello all:

The data management discussion has been really interesting to read – and really highlights the fact that there is a tremendous amount of useful information out there within the volunteer monitoring community, and that we need to find an effective way to store and share. Unfortunately we have also discovered that there is not an easy solution – a fact that the professional monitoring agencies have also discovered (hence the development of the much maligned STORET…)

As has already been mentioned – this is definitely a topic that will be addressed as part of the volunteer monitoring component of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council conference next May. As one of the individuals working on that aspect of the conference, I would be very interested in any specific issues that should be part of a several hour workshop as well as suggestions of folks we should get involved in the development of that workshop.

In the meantime (and for those unable to attend the conference) as part of a national facilitation of Extension volunteer monitoring efforts we have been working on a factsheet addressing data management for volunteer programs. Initially we had been trying to create a template for a web-based volunteer monitoring database, but discovered pretty quickly that there were just enough individual differences between programs to make a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach impossible. So we now hope to offer a factsheet that helps guide you in developing your own data management system (the combination of a spreadsheet based system for short-term management, calculations and graphing, with relational database for long-term storage seems to be an effective and popular option!) The factsheet will rely on the experiences of a number of volunteer monitoring coordinators and database managers. Please check out our website at to learn more about our project or to contact us about participating in the database survey. We also appreciate any comments or corrections to any materials found on the website.

Looking forward to hearing more on this important subject!

Elizabeth Herron
Program Coordinator
URI Watershed Watch
Phone: 401-874-4552
Fax: 401-874-4561


Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 15:54:25 -0400
Subject: re: [volmonitor] Fwd: re:Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Tony –

We use filemaker for our member information and access for our water quality data. I like filemaker and think it would work well for a water quality database. Our reason for not using it is more a matter of history and staff who had more experience with Access. We use excel for data summaries and graphing and the ease of use with Access is pretty good; not sure if this would be true with filemaker.

Lauren Imgrund


Date: Sun, 15 May 2005 23:22:42 -0400
From: Muns Farestad
Subject: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack

I think the data management discussion to this point has been very broad, covering a lot of information and even coming up with a ?popular option? of a ?mixed-method? which I will try to summarize:
Volunteers work with data sheets; pass them along to a central location for data entry into either an intermediate spreadsheet or the database itself. If there is an intermediate spreadsheet, the data can be imported as a block into the database with an append query. The database is the ultimate repository of program data and can then export data in several forms, one of which is a back to a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets facilitate data sharing, charting, and (I?ll add) some statistical analysis.
I?ve tried to keep this summary simple and recognize that there may be in place efficiencies like using on-line tools, but add to it as you see fit.
My further questions may be a bit more difficult to answer, and I thank all for the time spent so far.
What is the justification for building a database tool? I assume it must be based on improving some valuable output.
What is the cost of building a database tool? Unless a volunteer group has a capable volunteer, building their own database may be unaffordable.
What is the cost of operating a database? I think that the main cost is data entry but not too different from whatever is happening now, while the main expertise is in query building. I could be convinced that report writing is not as necessary since queries can be exported to Excel, which is what most inquirers want anyway.
Are there any snags (other than version) in the waiting for Access users? Is there a limit to the size of the database?
Does putting an intermediate data transfer spreadsheet add annoying complications to the data append to the database? Can this be controlled with a template that allows volunteers to be a bit ?creative??
Is there anybody that is willing to share some of the tools they have already developed?
This is too long. If you get here, thanks again.
— Muns Farestad
— Delaware Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program


Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 10:46:41 -0400
From: URI Watershed Watch
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack

I would say that your summary of how data is entered and managed is pretty good.

In terms of justification for building a database tool I will offer the reason our program is in the process of doing so. The URI Watershed Watch program is starting its 18th year of monitoring – with some sites have been monitored hat entire time. We have data on in excess of 250 individual sites (lakes, ponds, tributaries, rivers, salt ponds, open marine…) We use Excel spreadsheet files in a variety of formats for managing that information (individual site files for primarily field data (i.e. water clarity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, weather and also lab analyzed chlorophyll concentration.) For other lab analyzed parameters (i.e. nutrients, bacteria, chloride, pH and alkalinity) we use a parameter specific multi-sheet spreadsheet. These files have been created to facilitate BOTH data entry and our reporting mechanisms. And for annual data this works out quite well. Where we have problems is when we start to ask questions like “what was the lowest water clarity in ABC Pond over the ten years of monitoring and when?” We have to go back through 10 Excel files to manually determine that information – we can’t just do queries easily through that many files. And unfortunately spreadsheets of the size we would need to keep ALL this data in one set of spreadsheets it would be way too cumbersome and slow.

So the database will allow us to do trend analyses, other comparisons and assessments much more easily – as well as allow us to customize data output via queries for various data users (such as our state environmental agency and the many consultants that use our information.)

Unfortunately entering data directly into the database (which was created by the RI Dept of Environmental Management for their use and being modified to better reflect our needs) is would make it much more difficult, and slow down our proofing process considerably. So we will continue to use Excel as our ‘intermediate’ data management tool (as well as for graphing, calculations, etc.) with a well defined template set-up to reduce errors in appending information into the database.

Our program has two full-time staff and multiple undergraduate students responsible for managing the program including volunteer training, equipment maintenance, laboratory analyses, data entry and management, etc. so it is difficult to assess what portion of our time is spent specifically on the database. However, once a system is set-up, I would expect that given today’s level of computer sophistication that a well trained volunteer could enter and manage the data fairly easily. The big expense would be the up front cost of setting up a system.

Unfortunately as I wrote earlier, we had investigated developing a web-based database for volunteer programs, but found that programs differed too much to really be able to do that effectively. That said, there are some good examples to help guide development of your own database (or other data management system.) A couple that come to mind are the Missouri Stream Team on-line database, another was developed for Wisconsin (please see for more information.) I’d love to hear about other good examples…

Elizabeth Herron

Program Coordinator
URI Watershed Watch
Phone: 401-874-4552
Fax: 401-874-4561


Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 18:44:59 -0700
From: Revital Katznelson
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack
To: Volunteer water monitoring

I am happy to read the discussion and learn about all the combinations people use; it seems like we are all aware that an “interim” platform is needed and that data might need to be bounced around for different functions. Here are my 9 cents.

California is too big for a centralized system for citizen monitoring that will cater for all data management needs (and all quality assurance needs that are an essential part of it). Our Clean Water Team – two part-time citizen monitoring coordinators plus a couple of part-time student assistants – needs to support multiple monitoring Projects done by many groups in our nine Regions for a variety of data users. Data entry cannot be centralized (unfortunately), nor can we centralize our data quality management. All we can do is deploy, and provide training for, a set of tools: templates and guidance documents.

Essentially, our groups need a platform for “on the ground operations” such as data entry, data manipulation, and specific communication within a Project. A big chunk of the information residing on that platform (e.g., calibration records) has nothing to do with data retrieval, interpretation, presentation, etc. In other words, this platform takes care of two of the four major functions of Data Management Systems [which are: DMS Function # (1) “Documentation & QA/QC”; (2) storage & sharing; (3) retrieval; and (4) interpretation & presentation].

I am aware of several systems used in CA, including the Data Quality Management Project File (an Excel workbook that works “underneath the database”); the Coastal Watershed Council’s database (Access and Excel combined); the BayKeeper data management system (Access); and another system originally based on FileMaker. If you are interested in details about how the first two systems are applied to FIELD OPERATIONS, read on.

A. —- DQM Project File:

This Excel workbook has been used by many groups as a platform for data capture, documentation, error calculations, and data validation at the Project level. It is also used for communication of Project-specific information between multiple field crews (e.g., the specific location and habitat unit where the Hobo-Temp needs to be deployed each time).

WHO: The file is used “on the ground” by Project personnel with basic Excel skills.

— Traditional mode: observations, measurements, and calibration records are captured on hardcopy forms in the field, and then entered into spreadsheets sporting the same appearance. Information on Station Locations, Instruments, Standards, Organization, etc. is entered into spreadsheets directly or from hardcopy notes, and the spreadsheets are kept in the same workbook (this is the “database setup” information).
— PDA (New!) Mode: all field records (observations, field measurements, sampling log, GPS coordinates & associated error, calibration records, and flow discharge) are captured directly in electronic format into Excel spreadsheets on a personal digital assistant (PDA) with SpreadCE software. I have augmented the original Project File spreadsheets with drop-down menus to minimize the need for typing, and added color-coding of special cell ranges to facilitate navigation thru the spreadsheet on the small screen of the PDA. Information on Stations, Instruments, Standards, etc. is filled in the traditional way and the unique IDs of these entities feed the drop-down menus where needed.

ERROR CALCULATION is done by Project personnel (the Trainer & QA person) within the Project file spreadsheets, using a specific set of instructions to glean each Instrument’s precision from repeated measurements pairs, and its accuracy from post event calibration records.

DATA VERIFICATION and VALIDATION is also done by Project personnel (the Technical Leader & QA Officer) working with the Project File spreadsheets. This includes attaching flags and qualifiers, as well as accuracy and precision information, to the Results.

TRAINING REQUIRED: Data entry can be done by any Excel user after 30 minutes training. Training someone who already has some PDA and Excel skills to capture data in the field takes about 20 minutes. Learning how to use the spreadsheets for error calculation and data validation takes about 3 hours, mostly for QA training.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) SUPPORT: Beyond basic Excel skills, the only IT support is needed to prepare and migrate batch files into a central database. If the spreadsheets are organized with a certain receiving database in mind, data migration templates can be created easily. I already have a template that takes field data from the Project File into STORET via SIM, but I need the SIM guru to take it from there.

FUNCTIONS: The Project File is used for all Documentation and QA/QC Function activities (DMS Function # 1), for long-term storage at the Project level (DMS Function #2), and as a platform to create batch files for a SUBSET of information fields for export, to share data with others (DMS Function #2 as well). Small-scale data retrieval operations (DMS Function # 3) are possible via Excel’s tools to Sort, Filter, etc., and data stored in the Result spreadsheets can be easily used for plotting, comparisons with Water Quality benchmarks, basic statistical analyses, and other DMS Function # 4 operations. Excel has got a lot of good tools, however its workbooks are too small for a Region-wide or Statewide monitoring Program database.

B. —- Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) Database:

This system was constructed in ACCESS in 2003 to accommodate the needs of a Coastwise Snapshot Day event, and has been refined since. The multiple database tables include all essential placeholders for data capture, documentation, error calculations, and data validation.

WHO: The database was used for data entry by regional volunteer coordinators, and by a Data Management Team for data entry and other activities. IT support is available most of the time.

DATA ENTRY: Field measurements and calibration records are captured on hardcopy forms, and then entered into Data Entry Forms sporting the same appearance. Data entry on the Internet is in the works.

ERROR CALCULATION was done on Excel spreadsheets generated from queries of the Access database. Once in Excel, it can be done by Project personnel (the Trainer & QA person).

DATA VERIFICATION and VALIDATION is also done by Project personnel, working with Access tables or with query products as Excel spreadsheets; there are also ways to attach flags and qualifiers to the Results.

TRAINING REQUIRED: Data entry can be done by any computer user after 20 minutes of training, if all the bugs have been worked out. Learning how to use the spreadsheets for error calculation and data validation takes about 3 hours, mostly for QA training.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) SUPPORT: This system works because we have two dedicated volunteers that are also IT gurus! Beyond all the structural programming and continuous troubleshooting done by our gurus, routine use of the system requires availability of a person with a number of Access skills (database setup, writing queries, moving batches of data between Access and Excel, etc.). As many of you folks found about Microsoft Access, the software version you are using and the setup of your individual workstation can create a lot of instability and compatibility issues. Having data entered at different workstations and then merging data tables is another challenge. Data “massaging” for export of batch files may or may not be a big task (depending on availability of crosswalks into the target database and other variables). Last but not least, management of data protection and data accessibility requires IT support too.

FUNCTIONS: The CWC database is used for all Documentation and QA/QC Function activities (DMS Function # 1), for long-term storage of data from multiple local Projects and for export of batch files into the regional database (DMS Function #2), as well as for some retrieval operations (DMS Function # 3). As in most cased, once exported or retrieved, data can be used for interpretation and presentation using Excel, SAS, GIS, or other plotting/statistical analysis/mapping tools that cater for DMS Function # 4.

Since my last email I have seen a very nice web presentation (with plots and all) on the Alabama Water Watch!

Good day,


Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 14:54:08 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

The South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program (SCORE) managed by the SC Dept of Natural Resources is a community-based restorationprogram. Once component of the program is a volunteer water monitoring program. Volunteers measure water quality weekly at about 20 sites statewide. The parameters measured are salinity, DO, pH, temperature (air and water), secchi depth (or turbidity tube if at a shallow site) and associated weather and tide observations.

Monitoring data collected by volunteers for the SCORE program are managed in a Microsoft Access database which resides on a web server. There is a user-interface, or on-line form, programmed in ASP that allows the volunteers to enter their monitoring data via the Internet into the database running in the background. Volunteers actually use paper forms in the field, then enter the data into the on-line form later (the on-line form mirrors the paper forms). Since the data are stored in a relational database such as MS Access, the SCORE program staff are able to query and manage the data fairly easily.

In order to QA/QC the data, we currently take the database off-line at pre-scheduled times, make the necessary edits, then repost it to the Web, but the process does not have to function this way. The database could be reviewed over the Web, and changes made directly to the database while on the Web server as needed. We are also able to quality control some of the data entry by setting up a good on-line form. Many of the data entry fields in our form are set up with certain requirements that reduce the chance of human error during data entry. For example, if a measurement is only suppose to be carried out to one decimal place, the on-line form will reject the user¹s entry if they accidentally enter a value carried out to two decimal places.

Some graphical display options are available online for volunteers to use. For more sophisticated displays we export the data to Excel or Sigmaplot.

Please visit our website and check out the monitoring data section (both the entry portion and the display portion).


Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 16:25:29 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

Here’s a question for ya…
I want to know if anyone else is trying to organize many different groups into 1 on-line data management system? (I know PA is working on this) I have about 34 active monitoring groups in NJ and I’m trying to figure out the best way to get them all in one system WITHOUT changing the way the normally do business.

“In order to achieve something, you must get started” Fortune Cookie
Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625


On 5/19/05 8:37 AM, “Cooke, Ken (EPPC DEP DOW)” wrote:


Thanks for the description of your system.

I am particularly interested in how you get Access to draw graphs for you (as scripted in your ASP code.)

Can you point me to the documentation on how that is set up?


Ken Cooke
KY Water Watch


Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 10:43:29 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

We are using a separate program to do the graphing, as this can not be performed within MS Access. We use a program called ChartDirector developed by Advanced Software Engineering ( It reads that data from the Access database and allows it to be graphed or charted on a Web page.
This software is specifically designed for visualizing data on the Web, and allows it to be done on-the-fly. If project managers want to do analyses and graphing with their volunteer data, but not for the purpose of making it readily available over the Web, they are better off pulling the data out of Access into Excel or a stats program.

Question 2

From: J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator []
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 6:30 PM
Subject:[volmonitor] Data storage

I noticed EPA’s new and improved STORET is now available Does anyone know of other less massive data storage programs for physical, chemical, and biological data that are available for volunteer monitoring groups/organizations to use? I know of several other organizations that that have developed their own at a significant cost and I’ve had several organizations ask if there are already developed programs that are less expensive or free that they could use to store their accumulating data.

Any help would on this would be appreciated.

J. Kelly Nolan
Capital Region Coordinator
Hudson Basin River Watch

Responses to Question 2

From: Rita Jack []
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 3:22 PM

I’d like to elaborate on a response now in relation to volunteer groups and STORET – but I’m on my way out to a meeting!

What I’d like to know is – who and how are volunteer groups using STORET? I’m interested in knowing hat volunteer groups’ data are being used by their states when the states prepare the 303(d) lists? I believe – and please correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m missing something – that if data are in STORET and they indicate that a water body is impaired or threatened, then a state should reference that data in preparing the 303(d) list. What are other folk’s thoughts on this?


~~Rita Jack, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter (Michigan), Water Sentinels Project


Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 15:26:58 -0500
From: Lyn Hartman
Subject: [volmonitor] Data storage

Earth Force/GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network) has an excellent online database they developed for just this use – check it out at

Lyn Hartman
Hoosier Riverwatch Coordinator
Hoosier Riverwatch is sponsored by the IDNR in cooperation
with Purdue University
—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 4:01 PM
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Kelly, I recently received an email from MA Coastal Zone Management who has offered to train a small number of our area (Cape Cod) water quality monitoring volunteers on how to use a new data management tool (MS Access based) they developed under one of their programs. This “tool” may be helpful to you regarding your efforts, but I do not know much more about it right now. I recommend you contact Bruce Carlisle at MA CZM for more information. His email address is:

Hopefully, I did not just cause him to become inundated with emails……

Judy Scanlon
Freshwater Monitoring Coordinator
Orleans Water Quality task Force


Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 17:36:34 -0400
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

NYS doesn’t use nor apply any weight to any volunteer monitoring data or from any other source i.e. college/universities, organizations, and or private companies in preparing its 303(d) list. “The fact is, no matter how good the data volunteers – or anyone else – collects, it is DEC’s role to evaluate the data and make an assessment that is consistent with assessments throughout the state.” This means the NYS DEC is the only one who gathers the data for determining the 303(d) list and needless to say the NYS DEC Division of Water, a small but dedicated staff, cannot possibly assess all of NYS waterways. Volunteer data and any other sources of data or reports are lucky to be used for the preparation of the States 305(b) reports.

HBRW is not using STORET.



Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 15:42:29 -0700
From: Revital Katznelson
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage and data quality management (DQM)

Kelly I think you hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

It is not the role of the “data users” (e.g., regulators in charge of 305(b) reporting or 303(d) listing/de-listing) to assess the reliability and quality of data submitted by citizen monitoring groups. We simply cannot expect them to. Generally, users of monitoring data appreciate reliable, defensible, and usable data, but the tools to communicate these quality attributes often lack clarity and consistency, especially where field activities are concerned. In the absence of unambiguous communication tools and understandable reporting formats, assumptions about data quality are often made on the basis of other notions. Too often, users choose data based on who collected the data, whether they were adequately trained, whether they used established protocols, and whether they had an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan in place. This “programmatic” approach, which relies on external perception of merit, does not provide the data user with the relevant facts regarding the actual quality of specific data sets or individual results.

In California we have recently begun implementing a data quality management (DQM) system which allows for each data point to “speak for itself.” I got into it several years ago when I looked for a system that will provide for the primary data management functions of documentation and quality assessment. I couldn’t find any (STORET was not the answer either), so I started developing our own. We apply this DQM system for individual, small-scale monitoring projects, i.e., manageable chunks of monitoring efforts. Today the DQM is an assemblage of tools and guidance all “talking to each other” and all revolving around a set of “placeholders” for information that needs to be captured and manipulated. The placeholders are all packaged in what I call the DQM Project File and includes the Results (Result is the outcome of a measurement or analysis) and all their descriptors. Essentially, the Project File is a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with multiple spreadsheets that hold the Results, the measurement information (i.e., the unique identity of the instrument or kit used, as well as its features and specifications), and the quality of the measurement (i.e., instrument-specific calibration, accuracy checks, and precision records). All this information is used – at the Project level and by Project personnel – to calculate error, validate the data, and generate qualifiers. When submitted to the data users, the results can be accompanied by a clearly defined set of qualifiers that inform the user about the range of associated error, whether the data have been validated, and whether they are supported by adequate documentation. Last time I sent a full DQM Project File to our Regional Water Quality Control Board staff, they had to look at a very small number of fields to quickly see all they need to know about the data. Needless to say, they were very happy to pick and choose what they can use to fit their different needs.

Bonus: The Project File also contains placeholders for “data retrieval handles” that allow the user to sort, filter, and pool individual results based on the monitoring intent (e.g., characterization or capture of worst-case scenario), sampling design (e.g., probabilistic or deterministic), station type (e.g., outfall or creek), conditions during sampling (wet or dry weather), etc.

I have a NWQMC 2002 paper on DQM and I can easily email it to interested folks –

Revital Katznelson, Ph.D.
Regional Citizen Monitoring Coordinator
State Water Resources Control Board
Mailing address:
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400
Oakland CA 94612
Office Phone: (510) 622 2470
Cell Phone: (916) 947 4816
Fax: (510) 622 2460


From: Rich Schrader []
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 6:51 PM
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

My understanding is similiar to Rita Jack’s, that if you can get your data into a format that your state and it indicates impairment that they must look at it for preparing the 303(d) list. Thus, some volunteer monitoring trainers provide databases (or even excel templates) that can dump data into Storet. EPA Region 8 and the Montana Volunteer Water Monitoring Project have been developing these tools which are on the verge of being widely used by tribes and watershed groups/teachers.

My sense is that this approach – non-STORET interface with STORET compatibility is the best direction to take if you want your state to use your data in enforcing the Clean Water Act. As usual, it depends on your monitoring goals .
— Rich

Richard Schrader
River Source
1803 1/2 Agua Fria
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-0726 wk


Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 19:39:17 -0400
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

As I’ve previously mentioned, in NYS even if its in the same format following the same QA/QC NYS DEC will not use it for 303(d) listing. They may look at it… but they will not use it.

Going back to my original request: Where can I get the data bases or excel templates that are user friendly for data storage?



From: “Alison L. Reber”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

I hate to ask newbie questions but I got on this list serv so I could get a better feel for what’s happening outside the (occasional) alternate reality we call Kansas. Are the data in STORET subject to quality assurance? I can’t see how data could legitimately be used for in a 303(d) without this initial step. The other question that seems looming is WHO determines the impairment or threatened status and HOW is the determination made for water bodies shown in STORET?

Here there’s no shortage of 303(d) listings but there does seem to be a shortage of people who are willing to accept and pursue the long-term value of addressing problems in the “headwaters” as well as the mainstems. I can see that in states with very minimal 303(d) lists, being able to garner compulsory attention to impaired areas is a pretty valuable asset.

The program I work for, Kansas StreamLink, is almost exclusively an educational tool. We are trying to get communities (REAL people) tied into identified local (as in “this REALLY is YOUR problem”) water quality issues. The 303(d) and the TMDL Implementation Plans are primary documents we put in the hands of our teams as we try to push them beyond casual (but protocol compliant, of course 🙂 stream sampling excursions. For us, working through the schools seems to be a steady and reliable system for maintaining direct community connections.

I know this time of the year is pretty intense but I’d love to hear about some of the other programs out there. -Alison Reber

PS I’m not sure if someone from Kansas can credibly use the term “headwaters” but “uplands” just seems almost comical….

KS StreamLink
414 East 9th Street Lawrence, KS 66044-2629
785-840-0700 fax 785-843-6080


Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 19:51:26 -0400
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Good for you Alison — Just know that you are doing the right thing. Don’t expect to hear that from the DC EPA people for various reasons, the most important that contentious issues has kept any administration from bringing to the congress a revision of the clean water act since 1987. That is three cycles of the usual reauthorization (5 yrs)of major agency legislation. In sum, we are stuck in approaches that are nearly 20 years old.


Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 23:18:40 -0400
From: Geoff Dates
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage


You may know all this, or have received similar replies, but here’s my take on it. Impairment determinations based on data in STORET (or whatever data storage system the state is using) are usually made based on the state’s assessment protocol or assessment methodology. In some states, this is a separate document. In others, it’s described in the 305b report or 303d guidance, or something similar. It usually takes the form of a “use support” determination: Fully Supporting, Partially Supporting, or Not Supporting the uses designated in the water quality standards and the conditions needed to support them described by the water quality criteria. For example, the aquatic life use is not supported if greater than 10% of the samples for dissolved oxygen violate the 6 mg/l criterion for a cold water fishery. The assessment protocol should also describe the data and data quality requirements needed for both 305b and 303d (e.g. minimum # of samples, age of data, etc.).

Once a water body is determined to not be supporting its designated uses, it may or may not go on the 303d list. Again, the assessment methodology should describe the conditions under which an impaired water body would not go on the 303d list. In PA, for example, there are 3 reasons why an impaired water would not go on the 303d list:

1) The impairment is not being caused by a pollutant as defined in the Clean Water Act. Impairment can result from physical barriers, exotic species, prolonged drought and other sources. DEP does not place these waters on the list since there is no pollutant load to allocate through the TMDL process.
2) Impairments are being, or will be, addressed by required pollution control efforts. DEP determines that eliminating the impairment is better addressed through existing enforcement and compliance pollution control efforts. 3) The waterbody already has an EPA-approved TMDL developed for identified causes of impairment. However, these waters remain in the 305(b) report as impaired until the designated use is fully supported.
(Note: this is from 1999, things may have changed).

Each state is different and I’m not familiar with Kansas, but try to get a copy of the assessment protocol.

Geoff Dates
River Watch Program Director
River Network
Home Office:
6 Poor Farm Road
Hartland Vt 05048
River Network Web Site:


Rich Schrader
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Look what a storm of competing visions you provoked !!!

Tina Laidlaw of EPA Region 8 has an excel template and access database format that seems robust and is STORET compatible using an SIM interface that uploads the data to STORET. The tool was developed for tribes and comes along with training for the tribal monitoring audience. I’ve got a copy but don’t feel at liberty to share sinces it’s not my tool to hand out. You might try to contact Tina Laidlaw (Montana office) directly or wait for a response from her (I think she’s on this listserve since she turned me on to it).

Richard Schrader
River Source
1803 1/2 Agua Fria
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-0726 wk


Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 13:11:45 -0500
From: “Alison L. Reber”
Subject: [volmonitor] State 303ds

Thanks for the information, Geoff! The 303d determinations for Kansas’ 305b report are technically made exclusively by our Dept. of Health & Environment even if identical protocols are used. This is consistent with what Kelly in NYS is saying as well. I know Kentucky incorporates Water Watch data into their 305b – that must have been either a legislative feat or sheer desperation to stay out of court! It sounds like states are free to make their designated use impairment determinations as per their established & EPA accepted (?) prerogative, I mean, protocols – murky water to say the least!

Explaining all this to an arm chair audience is very difficult since there are so many twists and turns in the strands of information. I see the drama in it all but most find it pretty dry. (as in the Sahara!) -A


Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 15:50:07 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: State 303ds
Cc: “Alison L. Reber”
X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.1 (32)
Original-recipient: rfc822;

Hi Alison,
Just wanted to let you know that RI incorporates the volunteer monitoring data from the URI Watershed Watch program into its 305b report, and relies on it for 303d listing for locations and parameters we monitor. As a matter of fact we are in the midst of a 5 year grant from RI DEM where they provide us with a list of lakes/ponds with no/little/old monitoring information. We recruit volunteers to join URIWW and monitor these locations so that RI DEM will have data on which to base 303(d) list or not-listing. This was after we did a QA/QC assessment of our monitoring and successfully compared it side-by-side on-site with “professiional” monitoring.

I represent the volunteer monitoring community on the National Water Quality Monitoring Council and have appreciated all the comments on this situation. And its not just volunteer monitoring. I know of 2 unnamed state environmental agencies that are unable/unwilling to use US Geological Survey monitoring data for their assessments.

Linda Green
Program Director,
URI Watershed Watch
URI Cooperative Extension
Natural Resources Science Department
College of the Environment and Life Sciences
1 Greenhouse Road, CIK
Kingston, RI 02881
401-874-2905 voice
401-874-4561 fax


Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 18:42:08 -0600
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

EPA Region 8 has developed an Excel template that can be uploaded to a website (managed by Gold Systems) and migrated to STORET. The template tries to explain and simplify the requirements for metadata (data about your data).

There are several other tools (STORET compatible web-entry tool for small data sets, access databases, etc) for getting data into STORET. If your goal is to have a state consider your data, I would encourage you to consider making your data STORET compatible and be sure to include the metadata describing your data.

Building upon Geoff’s email that explains how states conduct assessments – I think it is important to clarify the distinction between state uses of “data” versus “assessments”. As Geoff explained, most states have assessment methodologies that explain (some in clearer terms than others) the data requirements and process used to establish whether a waterbody is meeting its designated uses. In most states, the only entity making those “assessment” calls is the state environmental agency. Whether or not a state chooses to use volunteer data to make the use assessment (determination of fully supporting, not supporting) is based, in part, on the state’s described assessment methodologies and the explanation of the level of rigor needed for the data. Some states even specify the format needed for submitting data.

Thanks my two cents.

Tina Laidlaw
USEPA Montana Office
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626


Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 11:35:27 -0500
From: Jason Pinchback
Subject: [volmonitor] Texas 305(b) and volunteer monitoring

Greetings from Texas Watch,

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) accepts limited amounts of quality assured data into its database that develops the 305(b) report. From our ~300 active sites, 22 sites submit data (via Texas Watch) to TCEQ. In response to the laborious nature involved with data validation of these data collection activities, Texas Watch facilitates our monitoring efforts through two QAPP’s. After supporting these efforts for nearly four years, we have decided the resources required to complete all prescribed QA validation measures are too intensive.

The BEST use our resources and data are at the local level.

If we have additional resources in the future, we will once again create this awesome opportunity for citizen monitors to positively contribute to official state assessments.

P.S. The TCEQ is still willing and able to accept certified volunteer water quality monitoring data.

Jason Pinchback
Texas Watch Project Coordinator
Southwest Texas State University


Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 15:28:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage


What a great “newbie” question! I have enjoyed the responses regarding other organizations’ approach to the TMDL issue. We coordinate a volunteer program in the St. Johns River Basin in Northeast Florida. It has been listed in the state’s plan as a priority watershed under the TMDL program. While our data is not on STORET (due to the same difficulties that everyone encounters), it has been requested by state project managers responsibile for assessments. The volunteer data is covered by an extensive QA plan and program, so is providing supplemental data to the process due to its temporal and spatial coverage (approximately 30 sites on the river proper, another 30 in tributaries are monitored on a weekly to monthly basis). However, we have found the most effective application of our volunteer efforts applied at a local basis where local agencies provide a list of critical sites. We recruit and assign volunteers to these sites where they conduct ambient monitoring and collect samples for local agencies to analyize for nutrients and metals. QA issues of these collected samples are covered by the labortory’s QA plan.
We are striving to make our data more useful as well through integration with STORET as we have made great efforts to provide a solid QA program. If you or anyone else learns of ways to integrate Excel or Access programs to STORET and can share or offer at a low cost the programs, we would be very interested!
It is great to see volunteer efforts progress in the application to such high profile program such as TMDL. Any additional tools to further the cause would be great!

Annette M. Paulin
Program Director
Community Watershed Fund


Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 15:39:50 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Rita and Kelly,

Our group (Watershed Action Volunteers; St. Johns River Water Management District) does not use STORET. However, we have developed a solid QA program and QA data management system using Access. Our water quality data and QA data are maintained in separate tables and linked by a common parameters (volunteer name or assigned number). All results from QA checks are provided in the QA table and include standards, results, corrective actions, and corrections factors to apply. The results qualify a specified period of the dataset (QA conducted on a yearly basis). We have found this system to work well for our data users. However, we would like to see our data become more accessible through the STORET system. What would be most helpful is a tool for integrating the information kept under more manageable systems such as Excel or Access to STORET. If anyone has such a tool, we would very interested in learning more!

Annette M. Paulin
Program Director
Community Watershed Fund


From: mark a kuechenmeister
Subject: [volmonitor] data storage

mark keuchenmeister,stream team 888- Mo. stream teams.I,am level 3 certified. This is currently the highest level that I can attain as a volunteer.I attend many learning seminars and field trips. We monitor Maline creek 4 times a year.This takes about 2 hours. We fill out a visual data sheet, a chemical data sheet, a macroinvertibrate data sheet, and a stream discharge worksheet. We then send it to the Mo. dept.of Natural Resources where they check it out. If there are any problems they will contact us.They post our results on their web site for anyone to ues or view.They put our results to good use. I’am not sure how or what they use to store the data. I personally store our data on data sheets in a binder.We’ve been doing this for the past 6 years. I would like to find a way to just enter it onto my computer using a program that can also displays graphs. This will show trends in our creek. This would also help others to see whats going on with our creek and how to make it better since our creek is very, very impacted – mayors, civic leaders, council men, etc. Please check out the teams website it is an invaluable resource for me! It is very up to date.

Question 3

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 11:38:05 -0500
From: christine rodick
Subject: [volmonitor] Databases for Volunteer data

I am looking for a database that volunteer monitoring groups can use. We have two groups near us in GA who have asked us to assist them with data analysis and each have lots of historical data, but no organized way to store it and make it user friendly for analysis.

Does such a database already exist? If yes, please let me know who I could contact for more info.

We could provide some support for getting the database up and running for each group, but we’re looking for a really user friendly one that a volunteer group could easily use without having to depend on us for tech support.

Many thanks, Christine

Christine Rodick
UGA River Basin Center
110 Riverbend Road
Athens, GA 30602-1510
(706) 542-9745

Responses to Question 3

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 12:55:25 -0500
From: Robert McCall

Hi all,

I am in the process of initiating discussion with others on the below topic for watershed groups in NW Ohio as well and would be interested in seeing any responses anyone might have.


Robert D. McCall

Watershed Educator

Ohio State University Extension
Center at Lima
1219 West Main Cross, Ste 202
Findlay, Ohio 45840
Ph: 419-422-6106
Fax: 419-422-7595
Cell: 419-306-9407


Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 11:15:34 -0500
From: Muns Farestad

Christine and Robert…

I am interested in your question. I am the database creator and manager for Delaware’s Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Group. I use Microsoft Access.

I have been waiting to see if anyone responded to your questions with a definitive answer; if so, please let me know.

What data do your monitoring groups collect? How do they use their data now? How do they organize their data now, e.g. paper data sheet, spreadsheet, etc.? Can you describe how your monitoring groups would use this database tool? Are you looking to consolidate their data into an existing central database?

Muns Farestad


Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 11:43:09 -0600
From: Kris Stepenuck


We recently completed a learning module about online databases for volunteer monitoring programs which is available at:

Within that module is a listing and links to online database of numerous programs across the country as well as information about some developing networks for data sharing. In our research, we’ve found that it’s extremely difficult for an online database to work for multiple programs since parameters that are monitored are often different among programs. But, there are some possibilities for sharing databases mentioned/explained in the module that I think would be of interest (e.g., data exchange networks, world monitoring day database, nature mapping, PA Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement, or the Clean Water Team of the California Water Resources Control Board which has a template that can be modified for individual program needs).

I think it will provide you with some good resources and links

Kris Stepenuck

for the USDA-CSREES Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring National Facilitation Project


Also see STORET listserv discussion

Also see compiled list of online databases

Also see data storage discussion

Question 4

Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:03:48 -0400
From: Kristen Travers
Subject: [volmonitor] Data sharing policy

Does anyone have a written policy/guidelines, that can be shared, regarding how and when they share their volunteer data? A small watershed association in our area is concerned about their data being used by a large corporate farm to downgrade a local stream and would like a written policy providing
flexibility for how/when to share their data in the future.

Thanks for the assistance,

Kristen Travers
Stroud Water Research Center
970 Spencer Road
Avondale, PA 19311
610-268-2153 x239

Responses to Question 4

Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:48:04 -0400
From: Geoff Dates
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Data sharing policy

Hi Kristen,

Great question. The real issue may not be whether to share or not. I think it’s fair to assume that the data will eventually get out. If not, what was the purpose of collecting it? And once the data are out there, they are fair game. That means that anybody can use them for whatever they want.

I think that at least the following should accompany the data:

get it out accompanied by the group’s summary and interpretation. Then they can place it in the context they define and perhaps create a situation where any entity tempted to misuse it will develop credibility problems.
They also need to be able to back up the data and establish their own credibility with a good monitoring plan (including data management, summary, and interpretation) and/or quality assurance plan.

I’m an advocate for sharing data. In fact, I’m an advocate for involving communities and interested residents in the interpretation process. This may not be possible or wise in some area, especially if there are bad actors. But the information and “buy-in” you get may be well worth it.

Geoff Dates
River Watch Program Director
River Network
Home Office:
231 24D Heritage Conds
Woodstock, VT 05091
802-457-9808 w & h
River Network Web Site:

Comment 1

Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 10:17:45 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot

For those were aren’t already aware, Excel has some “problems” with its statistical functions. The attached website that provides a freeware source for a spreadsheet with correct equations named Gnumeric. Our thanks to the retired Dave Steadfast at USGS for this info. Hopefully you will find this useful.

Responses to Comment 1

Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 08:36:01 -0700
From: David Kirschtel

Another potential FOSS spreadsheet is the one included in OpenOffice ( This is an integrated software set developed as an opensource off-shoot of Suns StarOffice. OO runs on all major platforms (osx, linux, solaris and windoze)

If you are planning on doing anything more than very simple descriptive stats, you may want to consider looking in to R (http:// However, it’s effectively a programming environment and the learning curve can be rather arduous. R runs on osx, unix and windoze

Excel is notorious for problems with its stats functions – from what I can recall from discussions on other list the problems tend to centered around things like missing data, unbalanced designs (and I’m sure there a more). What makes it even worse is that Microsoft won’t allow the stats researchers to look at the algorithms. So not only are there problems, but you’re never sure when and were the problems will crop up.


David Kirschtel, Ph.D
Sr Program Manager
2000 Florida Ave, NW
Washington, DC

Question 5

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 14:13:44 -0500
From: Anne Sturm
Subject: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers


I’m looking for advice on how to get volunteers excited about entering their water quality data online. We have a well established lake volunteer monitoring program with dedicated volunteers, some of which have been collecting monitoring data for decades. Until recently, hard copies of the volunteer monitoring datasheets were sent to program staff and these data were then entered into the database by program staff. We are now trying to make a transition to an online data entry system where olunteers enter the data they collect directly into the database using an online data entry system.

Have other volunteer monitoring programs have successes or problems trying to make this switch? If so, how have you handled these issues? What sort of response rate can we expect for the online data entry? Also, how can we motivate volunteers to make this transition to online data entry?

Thank you very much for your help.


Anne Sturm
Great Lakes Commission
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Responses to Question 5

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 15:48:38 -0700
From: Anna Holden
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers


I don’t have a direct answer to your problem, but I will be facing a similar problem–some of our volunteers will be entering data on a website, and others will be giving us hard copies. My suggestion (if you have the time) is to spend an extra afternoon with your volunteers at the computer. Make it clear that it’s an important end to the day (or week). In other words, include the data entry into the day as part of the process, and volunteers should catch on pretty quickly.



: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:05:12 -0500
From: John Yagecic
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers


One idea that we contemplated was having a separate group of volunteers enter the data. Our field volunteers would collect the data, fill out the field sheets and send them in as usual. Instead of our staff entering the data, however, we would send copies of the field sheets to people who had volunteered to enter data from home. This potentially has 2 advantages:

First, it provides an opportunity for involvement for folks who would like to volunteer, but for whom field sample collection is beyond what they can do. Data entry can be done from home, after the kids are in bed. It opens up volunteer opportunities to a whole new set of participants.

Second, if you send the same data sheets to two different volunteers, you have an automatic QC check. You can query your database to only accept entries that are identical in both sets. Typos and other erroneous entries are deleted.

Good luck,

John Y.

John R. Yagecic, P.E.
Water Resources Engineer / Modeler
Delaware River Basin Commission
P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360
Phone: 609-883-9500 X271
Fax: 609-883-9522


To: Volunteer water monitoring
Sent: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:08:30 -0500
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers

Hi, the problem of ‘computer avoidance’ is quite popular among the older generation. I first discovered it when training teachers to use computers and utilize computers in their curriculum about twenty years ago. In Illinois we have some unique tools “on line” that you might use to motivate your volunteers and your state officials to consider.

Online tools combined with Google Earth, and Google search skills, may help them to visualize and accept the importance of the computer technology in their daily lives. I have a humanitarian form of ‘shock therapy’ with which many seniors seem to relate – –

I have heard reports that about a third or more of the senior population have an apparent ‘cholesterol processing problem’ and many were placed on ‘Statens’ and many may have had side affects like muscle cramps. One day, I heard a report on National Public Radio about the lack of correlation with these drugs for heart attacks and strokes. But, there was light at the end of the tunnel, as they described an expensive test C-RP (C-Reactive Protein) that did correlate based upon several years of studies. Well, after educating my doctor, i received the < $50.00 test and proved what the stress test showed was correct. This health check-up was activated by my 50th birthday (thirteen years ago), when i decided it was time for my '50,000 mile check-up' and learned that my cholesterol was over the recommended 200.

Well, to make a long story short, as I reacted to all the Staten drugs and also participated in the Margarine Studies, the C-RP result gave me some piece of mind.

I have one other brief example and that pertains to the health affects of fluoridated water. Northwester University has a web site that supports what former Surgeon General Coop alluded to about this issue. 'That there is no scientific evidence that Fluoride via drinking water will protect your teeth'. Actually, lbased upon the Periodic Table, one might conclude that Fluoride can replace Calcium in your body and weaken your teeth and bones. The Northwestern site which you can find with Google even indicates a possible link arthritis.

PS One final tip, you should communicate by E-mail to all your associates. Even if they do not have a computer as they can get free E-mail in the library. The referance librarian should be able to assist them in getting a free 'Netscape' account. I am not pushing Netscape in particular but the price is right.

Regards, Chuck Dieringer, Ed.D., Thorn Creek Watershed, Illinois

Question 6

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 08:13:06 -0400
From: “Weglein, Sara”

Greetings all,

I am with the MD Department of Natural Resources volunteer stream sampling program, Stream Waders. We are looking to make some changes to our program such as having volunteers enter data online and possibly identifying macroinvertebrates in the field. I was just wondering if anyone who had such programs in place had any comments or suggestions that may be helpful.
Thank you!

Sara Weglein
MD Dept. of Natural Resources

Responses to Question 6

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 10:19:01 -0700
From: Sandy Derby

Hello Sara,
Just thinking some of what I have online might be helpful to you– and interesting. Our BioSITE Program, curricula, and data can be viewed online (actually, the data is not updated yet so more will come..) Let me know if you have any questions–

Sandra Derby
Environmental Education Manager
BioSITE Program Director
Children’s Discovery Museum
180 Woz Way, San Jose CA. 95110
w408.298-5437 x261


Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 12:40:43 -0700
From: Eleanor Ely


Are you familiar with the Summer 2005 issue of The Volunteer Monitor newsletter? It profiles a number of macroinvertebrate monitoring programs and hopefully will give you some ideas about the different possible approaches. See

I believe online data entry by volunteers is getting more and more common. One good example is Alabama Water Watch (

Good luck with your program!


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 16:35:01 -0400
From: Jo Latimore
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders

Hi Sara,

Here in Michigan we’ve had mixed results in asking volunteers to enter their data online. The Michigan Clean Water Corps ( set up an online database a few years ago for both stream and lake monitoring data. We handle stream and lake monitoring a little differently, based on program history. Our lake program has been functioning in one form or another since the 70s, with some monitoring done by lake associations, and some by individuals. They pay a small fee to participate, to (almost) cover the cost of equipment and lab analysis. In general, our lake volunteers have been resistant to entering their own data online. Some say that they don’t want to do more work, and others are uncomfortable with computers. We initially hoped to make volunteer data entry required, but so many were opposed that we have abandoned that hope and do much of it ourselves.

Our stream monitors are all organized within their own groups (watershed councils, conservation groups, etc.). The statewide stream monitoring program is relatively young, compared to the lake program, and so are the folks involved. Computer literacy can be assumed, and when groups join the stream program, we require that they enter their own data – and these groups are fine with that. Since they are already organized into groups, they already have plans to use their data for stream/watershed
protection, and want their data in electronic form anyway. Our online database allows volunteers to enter their data and then download a copy for themselves in Excel format, so we essentially save them from having to design their own database. We also offer groups an alternative – if they already have their own database they use, they can just send us a copy of their electronic data, and we import it into our database.

Regarding field ID of macroinvertebrates, I’d give the handy answer, “It depends.” It depends on the level of taxonomic resolution. Order-level IDs by volunteers in the field are certainly possible, with training. I’ve found that often, though, volunteers – especially new ones – aren’t always comfortable with that level of responsibility. You’ll want to have a Quality Control plan in place to check ID’s, and make sure the volunteers know that, so they don’t worry quite as much about getting one or two wrong. I’d also recommend providing a way for them to turn in bugs that they are unsure of – a “mystery jar” of sorts. One big upside of field ID is that the volunteers know the result of their search right away. If you’re looking for family-level ID, though, I’d steer clear of field ID. Even the pros (myself included) don’t have the best track record with that.

On the other hand, at my previous job at the Huron River Watershed Council in Ann Arbor (, we found a way to involve volunteers in identifying bugs at a separate indoor event – described in the issue of the Volunteer Monitor that Ellie mentioned. This type of event may not be feasible at a statewide scale, but your individual watershed groups might try it. The Michigan Clean Water Corps permits field or lab ID of bugs, as long as there’s a QC plan in place to check those IDs.

Good questions! I’m sure others have other perspectives…


Jo A. Latimore, Ph.D.
Lake, Stream, & Watershed Outreach
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University
13 Natural Resources
East Lansing, MI 48824-1222
(517) 432-1491


Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 22:30:11 -0500
From: Kris Stepenuck
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders

Hi Sara

We have a fact sheet about online databases (as well as other types of databases) with links to numerous volunteer monitoring programs’ databases within it. It also includes tips from program coordinators across the country who replied to a request for feedback to share with others about planning and implementing such databases. Here’s a link to the fact sheet:

There are also some relevant discussions from this listserv posted at: Scroll down to online databases – there are two discussions there that seem relevant.

Third, we also did a survey of volunteer monitoring programs across the country about their online databases. We used the information we learned in the fact sheet noted above, but results of the survey itself are also posted online. They’re available at:

Hopefully these will be of help to you.

As for identifying macroinvertebrates in the field. To what level? We have volunteers ID to order level on a regular basis (see our methods: – choose biotic index, and data sheets: But you may mean to family level?


Kris Stepenuck


Date: Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:52:49 -0400
From: Debra Gutenson
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders


You may wish to contact Stacey Brown ( coordinator of VA SOS) re’ our volunteer monitoring and data reporting efforts in VA. This is an all volunteer statewide program, not run by any state agency.

Email :

Otto Gutenson ( OW, EPA- retired)

Question 7

From: Kris Stepenuck
Subject: [Databases] cost-benefit of online databases?

First, thanks to many who offered tips about planning an online database. A summary of responses will be included in an upcoming fact sheet about developing online databases.

Second, another question for those of you with online databases…Have you found that between educating people about how to use your online database for data entry, sending password reminders, quality checking the data that have been entered to the system, and doing other ongoing maintenance with the database that costs are outweighing the benefits of having data entry online? (In other words, would it be easier to have a staff person in your program manually enter the data once it’s sent in to you? -It could still be available online for searching, just that it would be entered to the database internally vs. externally.)

Thanks so much for your thoughts!


Kris Stepenuck
WI Volunteer Stream Monitoring Coordinator and staff on Volunteer Water
Monitoring National Facilitation Project
UW-Extension and WI Department of Natural Resources
210 Hiram Smith Hall
1545 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1289
Phone: 608-265-3887
Fax: 608-262-2031

Responses to Question 7

From: William Deutsch
Subject: Re: [CSREESVolMon] cost-benefit of online databases?


Regarding your question below, it’s my opinion that, now that the pain of developing and trouble-shooting is over, there is overwhelming benefit to our online database. It’s impossible to imagine our program without it, because of the financial savings in our office and the motivation this gives to the monitors. We’re coming up on 90% of all data entered online. That and our 30 volunteer trainers are what keeps us going with declining 319 funding.



From: Jacob Apodaca


We just started our on-line data entry at the Colorado River Watch Network in Austin, Texas in November and had %80 of our monitors use the on-line option.

We review all submitted data before the data goes live on our interactive map. Here is a link to our map

Please feel free to visit our website at Let us know if you have any

So far, we are extremely happy with our on-line data option. It has cut down on the time we spend entering data, and it seems our monitors enjoy entering the data themselves. It gives them a feeling of being more involved with the program.

The benefits have far out weighed the costs.

Our database administrator is willing to share the code he used to put our on-line data option together.

Thank you.

Jacob Daniel Apodaca
Program Coordinator
Colorado River Watch Network
Lower Colorado River Authority

(512) 473-3333 Ext. 7859
1-800-776-5272 Ext. 7859
Mobile: (512) 731-0269
Fax: (512) 473-3390


I don’t think the costs outweigh the benefits but there are costs. You have to be aware of that. We don’t use a password for our data entry so we don’t have that problem. We don’t quality check as often as we ought to which maybe we would be better about if we were entering it ourselves. About half our monitors send us the hard data to enter anyway (they are not computer capable). The ones who enter it seem to be pretty reliable – we don’t often find errors. I guess to a large extent it depends on what you do with the data and we are not doing anything really critical with ours.

The thing to me about the online database is despite your time (is it more than doing it yourself) it enables the volunteers. Some of them don’t want to be enabled that way and you cannot force them but for those that do I think there is a value-added component that is hard to measure but is worth something! And when you come down to it the time spent either way is probably a wash for most groups. Either they entered it and you have to do QA/QC or you enter it. But if they enter it there is the added benefit that they feel more involved, they have an extra ownership level. And assuming they enter it correctly the QA/QC level is no different really – it all comes down to whether their data is believable and that doesnt change no matter who entered it. So actually their entering it saves you some time because you have to do the “can i trust these numbers” question either way. I do find that we do that up front if we receive the data and enter it ourselves whereas we put it off if they are entering it online.

Question 8

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 18:16:10 -0500 (EST)
From: “Pete Schade”
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Volunteer Monitroing and Storet

Hi Folks,

I am interested in what Volunteer Monitoring Organizations are doing to get their data into STORET.  We here in Montana have been working on a system that will allow monitors to input their data online to a SIM-compatible database that can then be uploaded to STORET. What seemed to be a straight-forward process has blossomed into a quite a monster, and I am interested in boiling things down to bones and rebuilding. Is it really that difficult even though it SEEMS to be a rather simple proces of formatting databases correctly and then writing an application that will allow data-entry through a web-enabled interface? My beleif is that it idoable, yet costly in terms of programming, review, refinement, etc…. What I was hoping was a $10,000 project may in actuality be a much larger. Is anyone else struggling with this problem? …and what conclusions/solutions have you come up with? My understanding is that there are a number of monitoring groups who are working on this same thing.  Is $$ this issue?  Is lack of technology the issue?  Is there a need for a regional or national, even, SIM-compatible web-enabled data entry system for volunteer-collected data?  Can we pool $$ so that we can meet all needs? What is the EPA doing to address this?


Pete Schade
Montana Watercourse
Volunteer Water Monitoring Coordinator
ph:  (406) 994-5398
fax: (406) 994-1919

Responses to Question 8

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 21:55:00 EST

Pete, I just attended a EPA workshop for volunteers last week where STORET was one of the topics.  You may want to contact Joe Hall, one of the guest speakers from EPA about your question.  They may be hosting another workshop in your area this year.  There is also another database they have (EIMS) that wants volunteer data, and they stress the requirement for “metadata” to be included.  Joe’s email address is:  And yes, STORET can be confusing!  I am including Joe in this email response in hopes
He can give you some technical advice.

Judy Scanlon
Orleans Water Quality Task Force
(Cape Cod, MA)


Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 07:26:47 -0500 (EST)
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: re:volunteer monitoring and storet

I know it is generally policy to reply to the sender only – but I am also interested in other groups’ experience with STORET. Could answers to this request either be sent to the entire list serve – or send any response to me too.
We are in the planning process at this point, and do PLAN on using STORET. We plan on putting a data entry form on our web page for our biomonitoring program, downloading it and manipulating it as needed, and doing a batch file upload to STORET.  Any experiences (good or bad) and insight into this matter is greatly appreciated.

As an aside – assuming our organization can get this done, I would be glad to share the correctly formatted mechanism (access database, excel spreadsheet, etc) to anyone who is interested. Of course, our organization only collects biomonitoring and habitat data.

Stacey Brown
Staff Scientist
Virginia Save Our Streams Program
7598 N. Lee Highway
Raphine, Va. 24472
540 377 6179 or 434-466-2613


—–Original Message—–
From: Eleanor Ely
To: Multiple recipients of list
Sent: 2/3/02 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: STORET

Hi Pete:
Thanks for raising the STORET issue, which I think others are also struggling with. I would like to second Stacey’s susggestion that responses be sent to the entire listserve

Eleanor Ely
editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
133 – 9th St., 3rd Floor
Providence, RI 02906


Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002 22:45:52 -0500 (EST)
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: RE: STORET

Greetings from Kentucky Water Watch

US EPA Staff at the National and Region 4 have been quite supportive of our volunteer monitoring program using STORET as a data archive.

They have offered free training in Atlanta and Washington for anyone that can make the two day trip. They had sessions at the National Volunteer Monitoring Conference on the topic.

But, all their enthusiasm does not cross the hurdle of how complex the STORET system is. A 200+ table relational database is not to be approached lightly.  Especially if your program has  years of data from hundreds of sites with different methods of analysis.

Designing an interface between your existing data set and STORET can be a complex process requiring the services of a professional database designer. Many volunteer monitoring programs have access to competent database managers, but those database managers need specific training in STORET’s new data design and batch upload systems before they can work.

In my humble opinion, if US EPA wants volunteer programs to use STORET For their data sets, then they need to implement a pyramid system to provide this training to VM data managers through the regions. This training needs to be hands on, computer lab based, with actual task level activities.

One concern I have heard expressed from folks that have taken some of the training offered, is it is more “demonstration” with little chance for practice, trial and error under the supervision of an experienced mentor.
I believe the State of Florida has the best example of this mentoring approach in our region (4). Florida DEP has an individual who takes time to train VM data managers. He has the right mix of technical knowledge AND the ability to teach (not just “show”) those skills to someone else. Get a few more Pat Detschers running around out there and STORET would take off in a big way! For more information of Florida’s program, visit:

Kentucky has requested support from US EPA Region 4 to conduct STORET training for its VM database managers. We anxiously await their answer to that request.

Thanks for your time.

Ken Cooke
KY Water Watch
1-800-928-0045 Ext 473


Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 09:39:51 -0500 (EST)
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Volunteer Monitoring and Storet


I am working on a similar project with two local watershed groups, Greenacres Foundation and Mill Creek Watershed Council. My role in this project is to provide an interface to STORET for volunteer data
submitted to a website. Our technical approach is to produce a flat file from the on-line database that can be imported to STORET. As we produce something, I will submit it to the list server.

Also, I should add a disclaimer. I see this as a significant issue, and one that I am very excited to help solve. This is tangential to my main duties as an EPA employee.  So, we will probably not have time or
resources to come up with a general solution.Our solution will be specific to the forms that we use, but I think others will be able to modify what we have done.

Anyway, let’s stay in touch.


Trent Schade, P.E. (e-mail:
WSWRD Homepage
26 W. Martin Luther King Drive-MS 690
Cincinnati, Ohio 45268
(513) 569-7654 fax-(513) 569-7185


From: “Wager, Jerry”
Subject: FW: STORET
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 07:50:20 -0500

HB 479 proposes to require Ohio EPA to establish a volunteer monitoring program and expand the STORET data base among other things. Groups should review and comment on the bill. This is an email I got recently that speaks about the difficulties of data management, the need for training and
references the Florida STROET website.

Jerry Wager, Administrator
Pollution Abatement & Land Treatment Section
Division of Soil & Water Conservation, ODNR
614.262.2064 (fax)


Documenting Site Location


Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 16:11:24 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear volunteer monitoring colleagues:

First, I appreciated the many thoughtful responses to my earlier posting about “volunteer monitoring trends.” I plan to put this information together for a short newsletter article.

Now I’m looking for your feedback on another topic. For an article in the upcoming issue of VM, I’ve been doing some investigation on how volunteer monitoring programs describe and document sampling site location. As with everything (everything in the monitoring world, that is), the approach taken is tied to data use. For very local uses, something like “behind the high school parking lot” might be sufficient. For use by a state agency, you might want to use a specific water body designation system devised by your state. But for many purposes a more universal method is desirable or necessary (since states apparently use a number of different systems).

The commonly used universal systems are latitude/longitude and UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). Now that GPS units are down to about $200, quite a few volunteer monitoring programs use these. I believe that you can set them to read either (a) latitude/longitude in degrees-minutes-seconds, (b) latitude/longitude in decimal degrees, or (c) UTM coordinates. My first question is, am I right about that?

I have also learned that some states have interactive GIS maps of the state that are accessible online. For example, volunteers with IOWATER can go to the Iowa Water Monitoring Atlas (created by the Iowa DNR) and zoom in on their sampling site. What’s especially cool is that they can also turn on layers that show other information, such as the location of other IOWATER sites, professional monitoring sites, features like sewage treatment facilities, and watershed boundaries. Once they have zoomed in to their approximate site, they can switch to the aerial photography layer and use visual landmarks to help pinpoint their exact sampling site. When they put their mouse pointer on the spot they get the UTM coordinates.

My second question is, what other volunteer monitoring groups have access to an interactive GIS map to identify site locations? If so, is the information provided as latitude/longitude or UTM coordinates?

My third question is, if you don’t have a GPS unit or an online interactive GIS map, what do you do? I would assume that you would use a 7.5′ USGS topo map. Does anyone have a good set of instructions for reading latitude and longitude off a topographic map?

I’m also interested in hearing from any volunteer monitoring groups that would like to tell me their “story” — how they are identifying site location, whether their method has evolved over time, how well their current method is working out, or anything else that could be of interest in shedding light on this topic.

Finally — I could really use some kind of geography or GIS guru to review what I’m writing on this topic!! (It’s pretty short.)

Thanks as always,


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 20:39:21 -0800 (PST)
From: David J Wilson
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Ellie, ever since I got a GPS a couple of years ago I’ve been taking latitudes and longitudes of sites (dd mm ss) so that they can easily be located on a GIS. Other formats are possible–decimal degrees and UTM.

There is a worksheet for doing latitude/longitude calculations from a topo sheet that is in EPA’s “Volunteer Stream Monitoring – a Methods Manual”. This worksheet, “Worksheet for Calculating Latitude and Longitude”, is available separately on the web as an Adobe file and can be found by searching on Worksheet for Calculating Latitude and Longitude–pops right up. See also TN Valley Authority’s Clean Water Initiative Volunteer Stream Monitoring Methods Manual, pp. 64-65. If anyone has a lot of positions for which lat. and long. must be calculated from topo sheets, I have a computer program that does all the arithmetic once you have measured the distances on the map–available free on request.

With best regards,

Dave Wilson

David J. Wilson
11544 Quirk Road
Belleville, Michigan 48111
(734) 699-7623


Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 15:47:43 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: re:[volmonitor] documenting site location

For what it’s worth,
For our program we’ll use GPS when available, and store the information in decimal degrees. We also use the Topozone website ( extensively to locate coordinates for sites when a GPS unit is not available. If you aren’t familiar with Topozone, you essentially can interact with topographic maps of various scales and “click” on any spot to identify the coordinates.

The Topozone method is fairly accurate and works well for lake sites.

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 08:33:12 -0500
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Since our monitoring sites are fixed we (SCDNR) did the initial determination of location. We do have GPS but we have also found the maptech website to be invaluable. It has USGS topo, NOAA nautical and areal photography and when you put your cursor over your location you can see the longitude/latitude or the UTM cooridinates. This system is also available for purchase so that it can run on a computer that may not be connected to the internet.

Nancy Hadley
Marine Resources Research Institute
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 12559
217 Fort Johnson Road
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9841
(843) 953-9820 (fax)


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 09:25:16 -0500
From: Chris Sullivan
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location


For Project SEARCH in CT we originally selected sites with each of our participating schools with proximity to the school in mind. For our records many sites were recorded as to how close they were to the closest road crossing and if they were upstream or downstream of the road. We have now started to take GPS coordinates at each site as they are visited and are updating our GIS maps for each major basin. We are using deg min sec format.

We do not have the GIS map interactive on the web as of yet but that is one of our future goals so that students at any of the over 80 participating schools can see the information collected and produced at every site in the state. We have also started to use GIS with some schools to create land use maps of their watershed to compare with other streams and enhance the discussion of NPS and its effects on a waterbody.

GIS has great potential for volunteer monitoring programs and connecting the use of GPS units to get accurate coordinates is great! We have found Garmin etrex units to be useful enough to collect the data and basic enough to use with high school and middle school students. We were able to purchase these units for close to $100 even. Definitely worth the purchase if your group can afford the expense.

Hope that helps.


Chris Sullivan
Project SEARCH Coordinator
(203) 734-2513
FAX 203-922-7833
Center for Environmental Research Education
Kellogg Environmental Center
500 Hawthorne Ave
Derby, CT 06418


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:45:15 -0500
From: Bob Carlson
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Has anyone ever checked to see how far off the coordinates in Topozone ( from GPS measurements? If it isn’t all that bad, I would think it is far better to have at least the Topozone coordinates on record than to wait for a GPS system to find its way into the budget. I know from sad experience the frustration when nobody bothered to find out where a private pond really was before the volunteer quit the program.

I prefer Topozone because of ease of use, but Terraserver is also useful. DeLorme’s TopoUSA is a nice stand alone program for about $100.

We see all sorts of location descriptions come in for the Secchi Dip-In. It would certainly help us out if the volunteers were given long/lat coordinates, particularly in decimal degrees, since that format transfers directly over into mapping programs such as ArcView. If the site also has an official state ID, as many lakes do, it is a good idea to have that recorded as well. I know every coordinator and project manager thinks their program will last forever, but so much good information can be lost if the site is not well-documented.

Bob Carlson Phone: (330) 672-3992
Dept Biological Sciences FAX: (330) 672-3713
Kent State University E-mail:
Kent OH 44242


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 17:21:19 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: RE:[volmonitor] documenting site location

Bob (and everyone else),
I have checked the GPS-obtained coordinates for several of our sites at Topozone, and they are spot on. Lake sites are, of course, a little more forgiving than small stream sites, since we don’t need to be extremely precise in the pelagic zone.

I have not, however, field checked any of the coordinates obtained from Topozone. Perhaps I’ll do that this summer, and I’ll report back then.

Tony Thorpe
Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:47:26 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear Nancy: I have already heard from several people about another web site,, which I have tried. Just now I tried the maptech web site that you mentioned. It seems to me that TopoZone offers more — for example, you can zoom to different scales for different amounts of detail, and you have more choices for the coordinates and datum. Are you familiar with the TopoZone site? I’d be interested in your opinion and whether you agree that the topozone site is more useful.

(I am posting this to the whole listserv to give others a chance to offer their opinions as well.)


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:59:58 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear listserv:

Phil Emmling sent me the message below and asked me to post it on the

I have a question about Phil’s message. He states that you can get accuracy of 1 meter with a hand-held GPS unit. This was surprising to me because other sources I have read say it’s more like 10 meters — but perhaps they are out of date.


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


The Lyris list manager would not let me forward this message. Could you
send it out?

Phil Emmling
Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program
660 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608 262-2899
FAX: 608 262-0454

Bob Carlson makes a good point that should be discussed concerning map coordinates on the various programs. Perhaps the map coordinates are good enough when accompanied by meta data, however topographic maps have been taken in different years having different technologies. Since the government stopped jamming signals and allowed about 1 meter accuracy instead of 10 meter accuracy, the hand-held units are very accurate and probably better than most topographic maps. I might be wrong but I doubt you could consistently pick points off any map to within 3 feet. Improperly set up GPS units add another level of problems.

It seems to me that good map program or hand-held GPS coordinates recorded to seconds or 0.001 minutes accompanied by some meta data about the site would be as good as agencies could do and would be OK for volunteers. It may be important to be aware that map coordinates may not transfer to field locations as well as a GPS location going back to the same location with the same GPS unit.

Here is another point for appreciation. A second of latitude is about 101 feet 3 inches and 0.001 minute is 6.076 feet. When we record GRS coordinates to either seconds or 0.001 minute, these are the round off accuracies. Longitude is another matter and varies according to latitude.  I monitored a creek that crossed Highway Q three times in about 2 miles making some form of GPS location better than the old township, section, range information.

A degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles, or 69.04 statute miles. A minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile, or 6076 feet; thus, a second of latitude (6076 divided by 60) is 101 feet, 3 inches. Conceptually and practically, latitude is the same no matter where you go on earth; however, in reality it varies from 69.41 statute miles per minute at the poles to 68.70 statute miles per minute at the equator due to the earth bulging slightly from its rotational spin.

Longitude, of course, varies in length according to degree of latitude. The following is a sampling of longitude lengths for selected latitudes, beginning in the southern US and working north.

30 degrees North, (approximately Houston, Texas) a degree of longitude is 59.96 statute miles, 5274 feet per minute (almost equal to a statute mile), 88 feet per second.

35 degrees North, (approximately Albuquerque, New Mexico) a degree of longitude is 56.73 statute miles, 4992 feet per minute, 83.2 feet per second.

40 degrees North, (Kansas/Nebraska border), a degree of longitude is 53.06 statute miles, 4669 feet per minute, 77.8 feet per second.

45 degrees North, (Montana/Wyoming border), a degree of longitude is 49.00 statute miles, 4312 feet per minute, 71.87 feet per second.

49 degrees North (US/Canada national boundary), a degree of longitude is 45.40 statute miles, 3995 feet per minute, 66.59 feet per second.

50 degrees North (approximately Powell River, BC, Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Winnipeg, Manitoba), a minute of longitude is 44.55 statue miles, 3920 feet (1195 meters) per minute, 65.34 feet (19.9 meters) per second.

55 degrees North (approximately Ketchikan, Alaska and Dawson Creek, BC) a degree of longitude is 39.77 statute miles, 3500 feet (1066.8 meters) per minute, 58.33 (17.78 meters) per second.

Finally, 60 degrees North (southern border of the Northwest Territories), a degree of longitude is 34.67 statute miles, 3051 feet (930 meters) per minute, 50.85 feet (15.5 meters) per second.

Phil Emmling
Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program
660 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608 262-2899
FAX: 608 262-0454


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 15:16:11 -0500
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

The National Map Viewer
A useful resource:


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 15:55:59 -0500
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

I just tried topozone and I will say it is greatly improved since I last used it which may have been two years ago. However one feature I like about maptech does not appear to be on topozone. If you know your coordinates (for instance you had your GPS with you) you can move the cursor over the page and it scrolls the coordinates and when it matches up to your known coordinates you can mark that spot. This is how we check the correctness of the map and also double check our GPS.

Also, you may not have noticed all the features at mapquest. Coordinates are available as UTM, Lat/long in decimal degrees, and lat/long in DMS
Topo, nautical and aerial photo maps are available
Topo, nautical and aerial photo maps are available
All maps are zoomable to different scales – however you can only zoom to a scale for which an original map exists. Topozone allows you to zoom in to a resolution the map did not provide (a false zoom like the digital zoom on a camera).
Mapquest has its flaws – the free online version has annoying popup adds for GPS services and sometimes when you zoom the database switches to a different map altogether which can be frustrating. But in general I have found it useful.

However, I read with interest the references to other websites, many of which are improved in the last year, so I will be checking them all out.
Nancy Hadley
Marine Resources Research Institute
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 12559
217 Fort Johnson Road
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9841
(843) 953-9820 (fax)


From: Kris Stepenuck
Date: January 25, 2005
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location
Hi Ellie-

We have a number of GPS units that are with Basin Educators and local monitoring coordinators across WI. They are available to be borrowed by the volunteers to use to determine latitude and longitude. In our database we code the sites by Hydrologic Unit Code (USGS watershed ID system), as well as our state’s waterbody identification code (as you said, that’s unique to our state and based on legal location information (T-R-S-Q-QQ) at the mouth of the stream). We also have people tell us a verbal description of a site as well (like Cedar River at Hwy Y in Wanaukee). The latitude and longitude information is being collected to give us the ability to make maps of sites online. So, it’s not required to register a site in the database, but does help us do additional things for the volunteers or other database users.

I tell volunteers to use to find lat/long information, but they can also use DNR WebView: to find the information and make maps to print or email to others. It’s much like the IOWATER mapping system you described – with layers to turn on or off and digital photos to add to the map, etc.


Kris Stepenuck


Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2005 16:52:20 -0700
From: Richard Schrader
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

I work for River Source, a company in Santa Fe, New Mexico that works regionally designing and managing volunteer monitoring projects. My partner, the NM Department of Game and Fish has funds to purchase some expensive spectrophotometers for the secondar school program, New Mexico Watershed Watch (go to the Programs menu at to see more about this). We’ve used the old DR2000 for many years now and need to upgrade or buy something else that’s cheaper (the new model DR2500 costs around $2,300 plus standards, etc.). Their colorimters work pretty well is seems at a lower cost but they can’t be calibrated regularly.

do any volunteer program managers have words of wisdom for us folks with lots of flowing rivers for the first time in years? My questions include:
1. Can students really get repeatable data from such a sensitive instrument as the DR2500? Why not buy something that at least the glass ware is relatively cheap?
2. The colorimeter is more portable and uses the same reagents at the old DR 2000’s, many of which are still chugging away. Perhaps it’s time to move away from big budget items like the DR2500 and move to something the program could support with less money.
your thoughts are appreciated…


Richard Schrader
River Source
2300 West Alameda, A6
Santa Fe, NM 87507


Educational Invasives Funding


—– Original Message —–
From: “Caitlin Cusack”
Does anyone have any funding suggestions for Dave (see below)?

Dear colleagues,
I am writing to pick your brain for grants or foundations that I could look foreducational funding. I have funding for my research but I am trying to acquire money to create a national monitoring network to monitor for invasive species.

To make this feasible and sustinable, I need to find funding so that educational groups have supplies and/or buses to travel and sample in North America. If you have any ideas or contacts, please send any possibilities. Also if interested and have similar goals, you could be incorporated in the grant.

Any input and help is greatly appreciated.

All the best,
McGill University


Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 12:50:28 -0400
From: Carol Doss
Subject: Re: [cem] Fwd: Educational funding

I went through my files and below are a bunch of sources from my files. I didn’t have time to reread to see if they fit with your proposal, so you’ll need to go through each one. Best wishes.

Patagonia is offering grants to fund environmental work. Check out the grant guidelines at
They welcome proposals during the months of April and August.

Also: EPA Section 319(h) Funds
Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) is the leading cause of water quality degradation in the US. Pollutants including: nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides, acid mine drainage, and fecal matter are all considered nonpoint source pollutions. In 1987, Section 319(h) was added to the Clean Water Act to create a national program to deal with nonpoint pollution. Section 319(h) authorizes EPA to disperse grant monies to states with approved NPS Assessment Reports & NPS Management Programs. On a yearly basis, the EPA allocates section 319(h) funds the states. It varies from state to state which departments/agencies deal with nonpoint pollution. Upon the allocation of EPA section 319(h) funds to the states, whichever state department/agency deals with nonpoint pollution first divides the 319 monies into two categories: Incremental funds & Base funds. States decide based on priorities how to 319 funds are used. Funds are made available through subawards (contracts & subgrants) to both public & private entities. Subawardees (watershed groups) use section 319(h) funds to implement NPS projects. A nonfederal match is required to go along with the section 319(h) grant.

Find out how your state distributes NPS 319 funds


ALABAMA Norm Blakey, Chief
Department of Environmental Management
Nonpoint Source Unit
PO Box 301463
1400 Coliseum Blvd.
Montgomery, AL. 36110â?’2059
Phone: (334) 394-4354
FAX: (334) 394-4383

ILLINOIS Amy Walkenbach
Nonpoint Source Unit Manager
Illinois EPA
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
Phone: (217) 782-3362
Fax: (217) 785-1225
INDIANA Linda Schmidt
IN Department of Environmental
P.O. Box 6015
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6015
Phone: (317) 233-1432
Fax: (317) 232-8406

IOWA Ubbo Agena
Department of Natural Resources
Wallace State Office Bldg.
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: (515) 281-6402
Fax: (515) 281-8895

KENTUCKY Corrine Wells
KY Div. Of Water – NPS Section
14 Reilly Road
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-3410
Fax: (502) 564-0111

MARYLAND Kenneth Sloate
NPS Program Manager
MD Dept of Natural Resources
Chesapeake and Coastal Watershed
Tawes State Office Bldg., B-3

Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: (410) 260-8736
Fax: (410) 260-8739

MISSOURI Greg Anderson
Nonpoint Source Coordinator
Missouri Dept of Nat. Resources, WPCP
PO Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: (573) 751-7144
Fax: (573) 526-6802

OHIO John Kessler
Ohio EPA
122 South Front Street
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, Ohio 43215â?’1049
Phone: 614â?’644â?’2020
Fax: 614â?’460â?’8275

OKLAHOMA Jim Leach, Assistant Director
Conservation Commission
Water Quality Program
5225 N. Shartel, Ste. 102
Oklahoma City, OK 73118-6035
Phone: (405) 810-1039
Fax: (405) 810-1046

J. D. Strong
Office of the Secretary of Environment
3800 North Classen Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
Phone: (405) 530-8995
Fax: (405) 530-8999

Jennifer Wasinger
Environmental Grants Administrator
Office of the Secretary of Environment
3800 North Classen Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
Phone: (405) 530-8800
Fax: (405) 530-8999

PA Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Watershed Conservation
P.O. Box 8555
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8555
Phone: (717) 772-5642
Fax: (717) 772-9549

TENNESSEE Sam Marshall
TN Dept of Agriculture
PO Box 40627
Nashville, TN
Phone: (615) 837-5306
Fax: (615) 837-5025

VIRGINIA J. Richard Hill, Jr.
Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
203 Governor Street
Richmond, VA 23129
Phone: (804) 786-7119
Fax: (804) 786-1798

Assistant Deputy Director
Nonpoint Source and Framework Branch
Division of Water and Waste Management
Division of Environmental Protection
1201 Greenbrier Street
Charleston, WV 25311
Phone: (304) 558-2107
Fax: (304)558-2780

Information relayed by ECRR

Also,Grant Glance from ECRR (
Altria Group, Inc. 2004 Environmental Request for Proposal
The parent company of Kraft Foods & Philip Morris is accepting RFPs until September 30, 2004. Their grants support programs & projects that foster new ideas & encourage collaboration among stakeholders that address water impairment & water use issues, & their impact on watersheds.
Altria Group will award up to 20 grants ranging from $10,000 to $75,000 per project.
Grants will be awarded in two categories: Foster Scientific Understanding/ Build
Best Practices or Promote Community Engagement / Encourage Responsible Policy.

More information than you want probably, but here is a list of various sources:

Potential Sources for Environmental Grants

Check the web for sources and take a look at these potential funders.
Watershed Grant Directory maintained by Boise State University:

Environmental Protection Agency-

Wal-Mart (Ask your local manager about special grants for nonprofits.)

National Soft Drink Association-

Seed Grants from America the Beautiful Fund (not Keep America Beautiful)
Write 1730 K St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20006 or call 202-638-1649

American Greenways

NAPCOR – National Association for Plastic Container Recovery
Grants program changed a few years ago; inquire about current status.

Clean Water Partners

Innovations Work Group

Environmental Support Center

PG&E National Energy Group



Southeastern Rivers and Streams
Five Star Grant

Virginia Environmental Endowment

Slemp Foundation
Star National Trust Services
425 Walnut St.
P.O. Box 1118
Cincinnati, OH 45201-1118

Wallace Global Fund
Grant proposals are processed & reviewed on a continual basis by the Wallace Global Fund staff. The average grant size is $50,000, with actual grant awards ranging from $2,000 to $400,000. The Fund makes both one-year and multi-year grants. The review process typically takes between one & three months. In addition to grantmaking, WGF staff often provides potential network contacts, advice, & other assistance to applicants.

To get started, WGF recommends submitting a concept paper, not in excess of three pages, prior to the submission of a full proposal. This paper, accompanied by a brief letter of inquiry, should state: the problems being addressed, the goal of the initiative, specific objectives, & accompanying
strategies as well as anticipated results, requested grant amount, project time period with start & end dates, and primary contact person. Applicants will be informed if a full proposal is warranted, at which time prospective grantees should submit materials & supporting documents as outlined online.

Address letters to:
Wallace Global Fund
1990 M Street, NW, Suite 250
Washington, DC 20036
phone 202-454-1530
fax 202-452-0922

Assessment & Watershed Protection Program Grants
Request for Proposals FY 2005
Due date: February 16, 2005
Summary: Assessment and Watershed Protection Program Grants (AWPPGs) provide eligible applicants an opportunity to conduct projects that promote the coordination and acceleration of research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys, and studies relating to the causes, effects (including health and welfare effects), extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of water pollution. The goals of this program include supporting a watershed approach to better address water quality problems in the US and building the capacity of all levels of government to develop and implement effective, comprehensive programs for watershed protection, restoration, and management. These are tied into goals two and four (clean and safe water) of the EPA Strategic Plan, which includes restoring and maintaining watersheds and their aquatic ecosystems and oceans in order to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants, and wildlife. States and local governments, nonprofits, and nongovernmental institutions and individuals are eligible to apply. Grant awards from $5,000 to $80,000 More info:
The proposals must be submitted in their entirety, no more than six pages, in electronic form to
Watershed Program priorities contact Tim Icke 202-566-1211
Nonpoint Source Program priorities contact Katie Flahive 202-566-1206

“Upon those who step into the same rivers different and again different waters flow.”
Regional Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program Research Projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) is a long-term research program designed to statistically monitor the conditions of our Nation’s ecological resources. REMAP, which is a component of EMAP, was developed to test the applicability of EMAP’s probabilistic approach to answer questions about ecological conditions at regional and local levels. The research projects should address real regional environmental issues where monitoring results will influence decisions; address data gaps and advance the science of ecological monitoring. Areas of emphasis for this year’s projects include approaches designed to advance integrated monitoring. These would include (but are not limited to): Designs and tools for assessments of great/large rivers, wetlands, and lakes. Integration of 305 (b) reports and other existing data sources with the 303(d) listing process. Improved development of biological reference conditions for establishing biological criteria. Approaches to demonstrate the effectiveness of restoration/remediation at the watershed level.

The successful applicant must deliver outcomes which support the efforts at meeting longer term environmental outcomes and are linked to EPA’s Strategic Plan and EPA’s long-term research goals for Ecosystem Protection. These goals include clean and safe water, land preservation and restoration, healthy communities and ecosystems and compliance and environmental stewardship.

The breakdown of these goals can be found on the EPA’s website. Expected Outputs delivered by this assistance agreement would include, but are not limited to:
Provide environmental managers and researchers with a better understanding of links between human activities, natural dynamics, ecological stressors, and ecosystem conditions. Provide tools that managers and researchers can use to predict stressors on ecological resources. Provide scientifically defensible methods for protecting and restoring the ecosystem condition.

Award Information: Proposal budgets must total $384,000 or less, with one award for each EPA region.

Application: The information for the proposal can be found at, on pages 6 and 7.

Submission Dates: March 14, 2005 to
U.S. EPA Mid Continent Ecology Division
Attn: Jo Thompson, National REMAP Coordinator
6201 Congdon Blvd.
Duluth, MN 55804

More Information:
Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 14:46:11 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [cem] Fwd: Educational funding

I suggest you contact
Joan Deely
Program Assistant, New England Invasive Plant Group
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
52 Avenue A
Turners Falls, MA 01376
413.863.0209 ext 1
413.863.3070 fax

to learn about other invasives monitoring programs in the US.
Linda Green
URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804


Hach DR 2500 vs Colorimeter


Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2005 16:58:42 -0700
From: Richard Schrader
To: “Volunteer water monitoring”
Subject: [volmonitor] Hach DR 2500 vs colorimeter 890, what seems best for volunteers?

I work for River Source, a company in Santa Fe, New Mexico that works regionally designing and managing volunteer monitoring projects. My partner, the NM Department of Game and Fish has funds to purchase some expensive spectrophotometers for the secondar school program, New Mexico Watershed Watch (go to the Programs menu at to see more about this). We’ve used the old DR2000 for many years now and need to upgrade or buy something else that’s cheaper (the new model DR2500 costs around $2,300 plus standards, etc.). Their colorimters work pretty well is seems at a lower cost but they can’t be calibrated regularly.

Do any volunteer program managers have words of wisdom for us folks with lots of flowing rivers for the first time in years? My questions include:
1. Can students really get repeatable data from such a sensitive instrument as the DR2500? Why not buy something that at least the glass ware is relatively cheap?
2. The colorimeter is more portable and uses the same reagents at the old DR 2000’s, many of which are still chugging away. Perhaps it’s time to move away from big budget items like the DR2500 and move to something the program could support with less money.

Your thoughts are appreciated…

Richard Schrader
*/River Source/*
2300 West Alameda, A6
Santa Fe, NM 87507


Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 09:10:18 -0500
Subject: re: [volmonitor] Hach DR 2500 vs colorimeter 890, what seems best for volunteers?

Richard –

We have done some testing of the Hach 890 colorimeter on nitrate and phosphate and did not find that it performed as well as the Hach 2010 that we had at the time. Although these tests were by no means exhaustive, the 890 seemed to give on average higher results than expected (we used standard solutions to conduct these tests). In fact we prefer the Hach kits to the colorimeter. We use a Hach 4000 in our lab now (which is quite expensive) and it gives the best results of all. If you’d like the data on the experiments we did let me know.

Lauren Imgrund, Director
The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM)
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA


Date: Mon, 07 Mar 2005 10:01:10 -0500
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Hach DR 2500 vs colorimeter 890,
what seems best for volunteers?


Before you purchase your equipment it is important for you to consider what your students’ data is being used for, which is what you seem to be doing. Is the data used primarily for educational purposes? Is it being used to document existing condition? Is it being used to pinpoint problems for follow-up investigation? Is it being used as a part of River Source’s ongoing data collection regime? Depending on how the data and results from the instrument are being used should certainly affect what you ultimately purchase. I won’t try to guide you on specifics, but lately I have seen the costs of some multi-parameter probes and instruments going down, but on the other hand relatively expensive, required, annual maintenance by the manufacturer increasing. Depending on how much you are monitoring and where, I still, in many cases, prefer monitoring kits. For one thing, it can give students more of a sense of the chemistry involved to get a result and the fact that there are a lot of variables involved in obtaining data. But with lots of samples at lots of sites at a frequent sampling interval, instruments sure can make life easier.

This summer professional monitors using an expensive multi-parameter probe to monitor the water quality of Narragansett Bay actually came and borrowed one of our $50 LaMotte dissolved oxygen kits to use alongside their probe to make sure the probe was working properly! It wasn’t.

Best Wishes,

Linda Green

URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804


Labs that can Analyze Fish for Metals and Other Contaminants


Subject: [volmonitor] Labs that can analyze fish for metals and other contaminants?
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Does anyone have information and recommendations on laboratories that can analyze fish tissue for volunteer monitoring groups for metals and other contaminants including private, academic, commercial, aquaculture, and government labs? EPA has a lot or really good information at: but no lists of labs per se. I assume that some labs do not perform analyses for individuals or watershed groups (i.e., dedicated internal support labs and similar) but there should be others out there who do. Any help, advice, and recommendations will be greatly appreciated. Thanks and have a great day!


James Hoelscher
Lake Fayetteville Watershed Partnership
P.O. Box 461
Fayetteville, AR 72702-0461

Phone: 479-443-6616
Fax: 775-743-3247


Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 12:49:27 -0500
From: Nicole Pedersen
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Labs that can analyze fish for metals and other contaminants?

Hi James:

Nicole Pedersen here. Affiliated with Friends of the Bay in Oyster Bay, NY. We do our sampling here in the Oyster Bay Cold Spring harbor estuary. We have analyses done for our organization by the Nassau County Department of Health. In addition, there is a lab we use to test nitrogen levels in Plainview, NY. Don’t know how this would help you since you are in AR. But, maybe checking with your local Department of Health might help.


Nicole Pedersen


Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 21:55:00 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: re:[volmonitor] Labs that can analyze fish for metals and other contaminants?

One of the LMVP volunteers has used Midwest Labs in the past and he is pleased with the results. There is a list of the metals analyses they do on their website, along with the costs.

Be warned that you can only view their website with Internet Explorer.
Hope this helps,

Tony Thorpe
Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070


Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 17:17:47 -0500
From: Dick Coin
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Labs that can analyze fish for metals and other

You might find this link interesting.

I believe the agency in Ohio that was analyzing fish in Lake Erie has lost funding. It might have been the Department of Natural Resources.

DIck Coin


Stream Debris Survey Protocols


Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 14:23:15 -0400
From: Drew Ferrier
Subject: [volmonitor] Stream Debris Survey

Are there any established protocols for stream debris surveys? Marine debris surveys that quantify the amount, type, and source of the debris/solid wastes seem to be pretty well established, but, while there are many “stream clean-ups”, I’ve not seen methods for analyzing the debris collected. Is anyone conducting such surveys?


Drew Ferrier

M. Drew Ferrier, PhD
Professor and Director of Environmental Biology
Department of Biology
Hood College
401 Rosemont Ave.
Frederick, MD 21701
301-696-3660 voice
301-696-3667 FAX


Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 16:13:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Stream Debris Survey

The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board has a “rapid
trash assessment” protocol.

For information, contact the board’s Surface Water Ambient Montitoring
Program (SWAMP) – Karen Taburski

Susan Schwartz
Friends of Five Creeks


Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 22:07:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Stream Debris Survey

Good question, have been wondering how to classify stream debris. We have annual pick ups on the MO. River and many small streams. Not hard to classify debris like aluminum cans, glass bottles, etc., but wondering about age in order to give some idea of pounds per year, etc., etc.etc. If we clean the same area once a year and keep records of amounts, etc., it may give us an idea of how effective our litter prevention programs are working. Looking for ideas….

Chas. Laun (MO. Stream Team Member)


Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2005 07:36:25 -0400
From: Kimberly Morris-Zarneke
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Stream Debris Survey

Check out the International Coastal Cleanup program – Here in Georgia our statewide cleanup program works with them to collect data on the debris found and they do the analysis. Many states including Maryland have a state contact person.


Kim Morris-Zarneke
Adopt-A-Stream Coordinator
Dept of Natural Resources
Environmental Protection Division
4220 International Parkway, Suite 101
Atlanta, GA 30354
ph: 404-675-1636
fax: 404-675-6245