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New Citizen Scientists Join Vital Signs Community

Jun 1, 2011
Spring 2011

Volunteers from the Kezar Lake Watershed Association and the Lovell Invasive Plant Prevention Committee now know how to apply scientific tools and methods in their fight against invasive species. This expertise came to Lovell thanks to the first train-the-trainer workshop provided by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute's Vital Signs team.

"Vital Signs has been an outstanding resource as we've launched our Eyes on the Water campaign," said participant and organizer Lucy LaCasse. "The web-based tools are tremendous, and the workshop was fun and informative. We discovered that all we need to engage with Vital Signs is curiosity, a digital camera, and access to a computer. We're looking forward to getting more of our members involved."

Workshop participants spent the morning practicing their skills at identifying differences between species, taking photos, using GPS, and constructing a case of evidence to back up an identification claim. They then divided into teams to investigate invasive plants in the town of Lovell. They uploaded their data, checked one another's data quality, and explored tips and tricks for identifying the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's 11 most unwanted aquatic invasive species.

Workshop trainees reported that they are eager to share these skills with other members of both organizations as well as with residents of the local communities through their Eyes on the Water campaign and through community events, such as Old Lovell Days.

Engaging these local watershed organizations has deepened GMRI's collaboration with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program. Scientists from these organizations already serve as species experts for all the aquatic invasive plants that Vital Signs participants might investigate. Now this partnership is exploring ways to increase participation in invasive plant monitoring and to share data, curriculum resources, and training opportunities.

"More expert eyes outside and on the water is Maine's most promising asset in addressing invasive species," said Maine DEP's Paul Gregory. "Vital Signs is facilitating just that, by making meaningful scientific inquiry understandable, accessible and fun. And that, in the race against milfoil and hydrilla, stacks the odds in favor of environmental stewards and against the invasive species that challenge them."