ESSLA Board Member John Greening is a citizen scientist and certified Citizen Program Coordinator for DEC’s WAVE program (Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators), which gathers data for the agency’s Waterbody Inventory. Here John explains the WAVE program and invites you to volunteer to help him collect and interpret water quality data in the wadeable streams of the Schroon Lake watershed.
Our streams and rivers play an important role in our watershed ecosystem. They provide critical habitat, food and shelter for numerous species of plants and animals. They also mitigate damage from floods, provide sources of drinking water, filter pollutants, and support economically important local and downstream recreational and commercial uses. (archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html)
Benthic macroinvertebrates (bottom-dwelling organisms without backbones, visible to the eye) are living monitors of environmental conditions of rivers and streams. (https://archive.epa.gov/nheerl/arm/web/html/indicators.html#lbenth
Examples of these organisms include immature stages and adult stages of flies, beetles, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, as well as aquatic worms, snails, leeches and numerous other organisms we find inhabiting stream bottoms.
Because some of these organisms are more sensitive to water quality changes than others, they are “nature’s early warning” indicators: their presence (or absence) provides very important biological data regarding the health of our watershed communities. DEC categorizes these organisms into “Most Wanted” and “Least Wanted” organisms for the purposes of data collection and study.
WAVE volunteers are citizen scientists who collect this data in support of DEC’s assessment of water quality of wadeable streams. They collect benthic macroinvertebrate samples and provide observed river and stream habitat assessment data from pre-planned stream points. They put one to two example specimen macroinvertebrates into collection containers and deliver them along with their assessment sheets to a local Data Coordinator who evaluates and interprets the data. Final assessment information is shared back with the Volunteer WAVE coordinator about their sampling site.
DEC collects data for 17 watershed basins based on a rotating integrated basin study that is updated every 5 years. DEC uses WAVE citizen-sampling results to identify quality categories of stream segments as “No Known Impact” or “Possibly Impaired.”
“No Known Impact” rating corresponds to the highest quality category assigned to stream segments the New York State waterbody Inventory. The “Possibly Impaired” category serves as a red flag for sites that may deserve further investigation at the professional level.
Since the WAVE program began only in 2012, numerous rivers and streams within our Upper Hudson River basin have not yet been monitored.
I attended a training session and become a WAVE Coordinator. The collection process consists of “Kick Sampling,” wading into riffle areas and using fine collection nets to collect bottom substrate. I had a lot of fun sorting, discovering and identifying nymphs, larvae and crawfish present in samples I collected. (Fly-fishing enthusiasts will tell you this is very valuable information for their sport, too!)
The WAVE program is a fun and “hands on” way to learn more about river and stream ecosystems while providing valuable assistance to citizen organizations and DEC to help focus on compliance, restoration, and protection and grant funding activities.
I feel it is important to gain new and useful information about our watershed area establishing new monitoring points and regular monitoring to detect and interpret “nature’s early warnings.” This strengthens our role as environmental stewards to help prevent future negative impacts to our watershed community.
If you are interested in assisting me with WAVE sampling efforts and or becoming a WAVE volunteer yourself, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about NYSDEC’s WAVE pro: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/92229.html