PUNTA GORDA – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recognized the contribution by members of the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network at an appreciation event on April 18. Since 1996, this network of 80 volunteers has donated more than 55,125 hours to the state of Florida monitoring water quality in six aquatic preserves, across three counties, surrounding Charlotte Harbor.
The team of local citizens has been trained to collect water-quality samples for analyses, creating a monthly log of conditions across six aquatic preserves: Cape Haze, Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound-Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Estero Bay. This long-term data set enables resource managers to identify background conditions, assess status and trends and identify potential threats to estuarine health.
“Florida’s Aquatic Preserves are fortunate to have this dedicated team of citizen-science volunteers,” said Florida Coastal Office Director Kevin Claridge. “We thank our volunteers for their time and expertise in helping us monitor these estuaries and protecting Florida’s valuable coastal resources.”
As part of the event, the volunteers were rewarded with a wading trip to Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve, providing the volunteers an opportunity to enjoy the estuarine life they help protect. A cookout followed, sponsored by the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves. Awards and plaques were presented to first-year volunteers and those reaching their 10-year milestones.
Regional support for this program spans three counties and involves partnerships with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. In 2007, the program won a Gulf Guardian Award for its effective partnerships with the local community. Support also comes from the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and the Estero Bay Buddies Citizen Support Organizations.
For more information on the volunteer program, please click here.