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Water: Monitoring & Assessment

Wetland Bioassessment Glossary

The involvement of volunteers in ecological monitoring is a realistic, cost-effective, and beneficial way to obtain important information which might otherwise be unavailable due to lack of resources at government agencies. Initiatives such as RiverWatch, Adopt-a-Stream, and the Izaak Walton League's Save-Our-Streams programs have been highly successful in maintaining groups of interested volunteers as well as in yielding data useful to scientists, planners, and concerned citizens.

mndip2 Although many programs aim to assess the health of streams and lakes, relatively few volunteer programs have attempted to monitor and document the biological condition or functional values of wetlands. This is due, in part, to the fact that scientists are still developing and testing biological assessment methods for wetlands. The diversity of wetland types can also complicate efforts to monitor wetlands. It is nevertheless feasible to use volunteers to help collect valuable data on wetlands, such as water levels, vegetation types, water quality, and composition of plant and animal assemblages. It is also feasible to monitor specific plants and animals such as non-native weeds or amphibians.

Volunteer Monitoring Fosters a Sense of Stewardship

Volunteer monitoring programs empower citizens to become more active stewards of wetlands in their communities. Volunteer programs provide an opportunity for land owners, children, and other community members to become more familiar with the functions and values of wetlands in their watershed as well as the pressures placed on these resources. Informed citizens can play a key role in encouraging land and water stewardship in all sectors of society, from industry to private homeowners, and from housing developers to municipal sewage treatment managers.

Volunteer Monitoring Provides Valuable Data

In 1995, elementary school students in Minnesota discovered frogs with malformations. They captured the nation's attention and professionals and other volunteers have subsequently found malformed amphibians across the Great Lakes region and in northern New England.

Volunteer monitoring programs can provide data for federal, state, tribal, and local water quality agencies and private organizations. Although these data are generally not as rigorous as data collected by trained professionals, organizations can use these data to screen areas that otherwise may not be assessed. If the volunteers spot warning signs, they can alert professionals to the problem, and the professionals can follow up with more detailed assessments. As scientists make more progress in developing wetland biological assessment methods, volunteer monitoring of wetlands will increase. In the meantime, there are other ways that volunteers can monitor wetlands.


More Wetland Volunteer Monitoring resources are available in the Volunteer Monitoring section of the Wetland Bioassessment Links page.

Detailed information about state volunteer projects, organized by state, is available on the Wetland Volunteer Monitoring Programs page.

Detailed information about state volunteer projects, organized by state, is available at:


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