According to National Geographic- “Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. Through citizen science, people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programs”. Local citizen scientists are more familiar with our environmental setting and see it more frequently than a government official and as such we are often the first to see environmental changes. Our monitoring efforts can and do make government officials aware of issues before they become out of control.
So why do we monitor water quality in Little Lagoon and surrounding waters? Because we want to know that we are swimming, fishing and recreating in waters that will not harm us and will support abundant life. In order to properly characterize and understand the health of area waters we measure various parameters- dissolved oxygen, salinity, Ph, water temperature, water clarity, fecal bacteria, nutrients, and phytoplankton (micro algae). We also want to know if change is happening in the Lagoon for better or worse.
Adequate dissolved oxygen levels are essential to support the fish, shrimp and crabs we love to eat. Water which has Ph that is too low too or high can also negatively affect life in the lagoon. Turbid waters can indicate algal blooms, contribute to bottom “ooze” and negatively impact sea grass growth. High fecal bacteria levels can make us sick if we are exposed to or ingest lagoon waters or eat uncooked seafood. Harmful algal blooms can cause fish kills, harbor toxins and make us sick. High nutrient levels can be predictors of and cause harmful algal blooms.
Little Lagoon sometimes has problems with fecal bacteria, harmful algal blooms, summertime hypoxia, water bottom “ooze” accumulations, murky water due to high algae levels, and high nutrient (nitrogen) levels due to ground water aquifer contributions. Frequent monitoring of these parameters can help make the general public and regulatory agencies aware of potential problems before they occur.
The LLPS volunteer water quality (WQ) monitoring program is considered by our peers and researchers to be “cutting edge”. The program was initiated by Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) researchers Dr. Hugh MacIntyre, Dr. Justin Leifer and Dr. Lucie Novoveska in 2007. Volunteers have been trained by professionals with Alabama Water Watch (AWW), the NOAA Southeastern Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (SEPMN), DISL researchers and veteran trained LLPS personnel. We receive follow-up oversight from these professionals.
LLPS volunteers have monitored 5 sites within the Lagoon approximately every two weeks since 2007- SE-1, NE-2, NW-3, SW-4 and Gator Lake-5. Currently, 9 volunteers from two “teams” alternate sampling every two weeks. This means each team normally samples once per month. Team 1 team leader is Chan West and Team 2 team leader is Graham Baxter. Dennis Hatfield sets up the lab at Site 1-SE for the sampling teams, brings equipment needed for sampling, plates out and counts bacteria samples, identifies and quantifies phytoplankton and enters data into our 12-year-old data base.
If you would like to join our WQ monitoring group, please contact Dennis Hatfield at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be assigned to a group and receive hands on training by Dennis and the team leaders. You will be asked to be available one time per month for about 3 hours per outing. Our sampling program begins at 9AM on a sampling day and ends by about noon. We still encourage and ask our new members to receive basic training with AWW early in their tenure as WQ volunteers.
If you would like to have a graphical look at most of our data, see and click on the “Test Sites” section under the “Water Quality” tab at the top of the page on this website.
We are most grateful to George and Jean Dunn for making this possible by helping establish this program and allowing us to use their home on West 8th Avenue for Site 1-SE and for a lab. Jean’s son, Chris Anderson, has carried on the tradition with the passing of Jean and for that we are most grateful.