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Water: Beach Grants

Appendix 4E1: Training

This appendix provides supplemental discussions, examples, and additional references that may be helpful to beach program managers. It does not create additional requirements beyond those in the main guidance document.

Training volunteers to do their jobs properly is an essential component of a successful monitoring program. Training is a dynamic process and does not simply begin and end with a kickoff classroom session. For example, follow-up training should occur to resolve specific operating problems discovered in an ongoing program. Even experienced staff benefit from occasional continuing education sessions, which help everyone stay in touch with the program and foster the ideal of team effort.

According to USEPA (1991), training should be planned from three basic perspectives:

  1. Training new staff
  2. Training experienced staff (teaching the use of new equipment or improved methods)
  3. Solving specific operating problems

Each of the three training perspectives should include the presentation of unique material. The training processes involved in presenting this material, however, are similar and consist of the following components:

  1. Creating a Job Analysis
  2. Planning the Training
  3. Presenting the Training
  4. Evaluating the Training
  5. Providing Follow-up Coaching, Motivation, and Feedback

Additional sections include:

  1. Volunteer Monitoring Programs
  2. References

1. Creating a Job Analysis

The job analysis phase can be the hardest but most important part of training development. The outcome of the job analysis is a list of all the tasks staff should accomplish when sampling a parameter. The tasks should be identified to ensure that procedures are performed consistently throughout the program. This list should include a list of sampling tasks, the required quality level for each task, the job elements that compose each task, and a sampling protocol (standard operating procedure) or job description handout that will be referred to and followed by staff members each time they collect water samples or perform laboratory analyses.

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2. Planning the Training

Once the job analysis has been completed and the job description prepared, the actual training session should be planned. Training might take place in a group setting or individually. Group training saves money and time, especially when many staff are trained simultaneously. For extensive water sampling efforts throughout a county, however, this approach has drawbacks. Each beach has unique characteristics, and certain circumstances or problems can be addressed only on an individual basis. In practice, it is often best to structure the training program so that there are group sessions as well as individual follow-up sessions.

The training should stress the importance of samples being representative of the waterbody from which they are taken, including the theory behind indicator organisms and quality samples, QA/QC activities and following the protocols specified in SOPs and the monitoring program plan. Ensuring that staff understand how to carry out the protocols to meet those requirements is the primary concern. Training to collect water samples, for example, should also include how to plan sampling activities, how to make field notes describing the sampling site and station, and how to perform on-site inspections. The safety aspects of field sampling and laboratory analysis are an important component as well.

3. Presenting the Training

A well-organized, well-paced training session is essential to facilitate understanding and motivate staff. The lesson planning phase provides the trainer with the basic agenda for the session. The trainer, however, is responsible for adapting the lesson to the expectations, knowledge, and experience of the audience. The person presenting the training should know the material and should be organized. Lectures, activities, and discussions should be planned and kept to a timetable. Similarly, demonstration materials, audiovisual equipment, and handouts should be accessible and easily incorporated into the presentation. The trainer should be able to anticipate and respond to problems and questions that might occur during an actual training session. A relaxed presentation that fulfills the education objectives is the basic goal. Although trainers will bring their own styles to the training session, they should incorporate basic public speaking techniques, such as establishing rapport with the audience, enunciating clearly and distinctly, using effective body language and eye contact, and encouraging questions and comments.

Whether in the classroom or in the field, staff should be allowed to demonstrate what they have learned. The trainer should observe closely and offer immediate feedback in the form of positive reinforcement or corrective assistance. This portion of the session is usually when the real learning takes place. During the review portion of the training session, the trainer should summarize what was learned and the staff have an opportunity to ask questions. The session should close with the reassurance that staff will continue to receive training throughout their tenure with the monitoring program.

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4. Evaluating the Training

Training evaluation should encompass the entire training process. It includes the trainee's perspective, as well as that of the training program designer and trainer, on how effective the session has been. To gain immediate feedback about training, staff should fill out evaluation forms at the end of the session. Volunteer Beach Monitoring Programs Across the Nation.

Alabama Coastal Foundation volunteers data are used for trend research by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.

Alabama Water Watch is a statewide citizen volunteer water quality monitoring program. More than 50 active groups monitor about 250 sites on 100 waterbodies in 20 to 30 counties in Alabama and Georgia. Six chemical parameters are measured, and several groups are beginning to test for pathogen indicators. The program is coordinated from Auburn University, where the central database is maintained.

The Surfrider Foundation is an environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world's waves and beaches through conservation, research, education, and local activism. The Blue Water Task Force, particularly chapters from Southern California coastal counties, analyzes water samples collected at beaches for bacteria and posts results on the Internet.

The Citizen Stewards Program trains volunteers to assist the Casco Bay Keeper in monitoring the water quality of Casco Bay, Maine. Volunteers gather data at more than 100 selected sites along the 500-mile shoreline, collecting surface water and performing tests monthly from April through October. The data are entered into a comprehensive computer database for management and interpretation. Water column profile data are also collected from the BayKeeper's boat at offshore sites, and water is sampled at closed clam flats to test for bacteria.

The Environmental Quality Laboratory at Coastal Carolina University monitors water and sediment quality in the Waccamaw River and 45 sites from the North Carolina state line to Bucksports, South Carolina, using EPA-approved methods. Monthly physical, chemical, and biological analyses are performed, and occasional measurements of nutrients and heavy metals are taken. Results are interpreted using in situ instantaneous U.S. Geological Survey data on water stage and flow. The sampling plan is designed to identify nonpoint pollution sources. Results are shared with South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The Salt Pond Watchers currently monitor fecal coliform bacteria levels in approximately 30 stations in seven coastal salt ponds on Rhode Island's Atlantic coast. Data are provided to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and local communities to help determine areas unsuitable for fishing and swimming.

In Maine the Clean Water/Partners in Monitoring program provides coordination, information, support, and technical assistance to groups of volunteers and students who want to monitor their local waters. Active programs include water quality, phytoplankton, and marine intertidal diversity monitoring. Training is also provided to certify volunteers to monitor water quality in shellfish-growing areas.

In Hawaii the Hanalei Heritage River Program uses volunteers from the community help take a "snapshot" of the Hanalei's waters by simultaneous sampling all along the bay, up the river, and in its tributaries. This sampling has identified "hotspots" where bacteria counts far exceed standards. The volunteer program provides these data to the Department of Health, which then conducts its own bacterial sampling. If possible, it is often effective if a 'hands-on' session can be included where trainees can observe staff in action as they collect or process samples. If there are problems or if techniques are not performed according to the desired protocol, trainers might need to apply new methods in subsequent training sessions.

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5. Providing Follow-up Coaching, Motivation, and Feedback

As stated previously, training should be conducted throughout the life of the monitoring program. Follow-up coaching is an integral part of the training process. Coaching usually occurs on a one-on-one basis to maintain communication between team members, resolve problems, instill motivation, and implement new or improved techniques. The key to follow-up coaching is personal contact to increase staff satisfaction. That personal contact should be maintained throughout the life of the program.

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6. Volunteer Monitoring Programs

EPA acknowledges that citizen volunteers often can be used to perform some beach monitoring program functions. Using volunteers to collect water samples and transport them to a laboratory for analysis is one way to save on program monitoring costs and, at the same time, establish a partnership with local citizens. Some citizen monitoring programs also perform water quality analyses, and a few determine bacterial indicator levels. Program planning officials, however, need to be aware that establishing a volunteer monitoring program requires a commitment of time and resources to ensure that volunteers are properly trained and managed and that data quality objectives are met. Officials should not view citizen volunteers as unpaid adjunct staff. Typically, their motivation to participate in a monitoring program is not based on a desire to help reduce agency costs; rather, they donate their time and energy to serve as guardians and stewards of their local waters. This recognition should be considered in every aspect of the volunteer monitoring program development process.

The EPA document Volunteer Water Monitoring: A Guide for State Managers (USEPA, 1990) lists seven "basic ingredients" for developing a successful volunteer program:

  1. Develop and articulate a clear purpose for the use of the data.
  2. Produce "data of known quality" that meet the stated data quality objectives.
  3. Be aware that volunteer monitoring is cost-effective, but not free.
  4. Thoroughly train and retrain volunteers.
  5. Give the volunteers praise and feedback (the psychological equivalent of a salary).
  6. Use the data volunteers collect.
  7. Be flexible, open, and realistic with volunteers.

Including these seven basic ingredients in the development of a volunteer monitoring program has produced many success stories across the United States. The latest edition of the National Directory of Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Programs (RISG and USEPA, 1994) documents a total of 772 programs currently in operation. The National Directory also provides a list of volunteer organizations around the country engaged in monitoring rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, wetlands, and ground water. The National Directory can be found at http://yosemite.epa.gov/water/volmon.nsf. In addition, EPA's Volunteer Monitoring web site provides information on various monitoring programs as newsletters that contain information on bacterial methods and how they are used by various volunteer groups. This information is currently available at https://www.epa.gov/volunteer/.

A frequent criticism of volunteer monitoring programs is that using the services of volunteers yields data of less certainty than the data obtained when professionals do the job. In general, however, if the seven "basic ingredients" of a successful program are included, data quality should be the same for both groups. Putting this theory to the test for any particular program includes running parallel water sampling tests that compare data collected by professionals those collected by volunteers. Periodic parallel testing serves two purposes. First, it assures the sponsoring agency that volunteers' data are reliable and can be used for the program's purposes. Second, it helps identify areas where the volunteer program can be improved, especially if the results indicate there is a difference in quality between the volunteers' data and the professionals' data.

EPA's volunteer monitoring guide also discusses several other ways to maintain volunteers' interest:

  • Sending volunteers regular data reports.
  • Keeping volunteers informed about all uses of their data.
  • Preparing a regular newsletter.
  • Making program officials easily accessible for questions and requests.
  • Providing volunteers with educational opportunities.
  • Keeping the local media informed of the goals and findings of the monitoring effort.
  • Recognizing the efforts of volunteers through certificates, awards, or other means.
  • Providing volunteers with opportunities to grow with the program through additional training, learning opportunities, and changing responsibilities.

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7. References

  1. RISG and USEPA. 1994. National Directory of Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Programs, 4th ed. EPA 841-B-94-001. Rhode Island Sea Grant, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.
  2. USEPA. 1990. Volunteer Water Monitoring: A Guide for State Managers. EPA 440/4-90-010. U.S. Environmental Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.
  3. USEPA. 1991. Volunteer Lake Monitoring: A Methods Manual. EPA 440/4-91-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

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