The following questionnaire is meant to answer your questions about how to start a volunteer monitoring program. You don't have to go through all 17 questions. If you are starting from scratch, you may want to stop after question 1 or maybe go through questions 1 to 4.
If you already know what kind of help you need, scan the questions below until you see the topic you need.
And.... if at any time this survey bumps you out to a dead end where you haven’t had your question answered, contact MassWWP directly (413-545-5531 or 545-5532)
1. Do you belong to a group?
Yes: Good, go to Question 2
No: Read box below:
MassWWP does not provide assistance to unaffiliated individuals. Consider joining an existing organization or starting a new one. Check on our Directory page for a list of monitoring groups in your area. For assistance in locating other environmental organizations, or in starting an association yourself, we suggest contacting the following groups. If your interest is:
- Rivers and watersheds, contact the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition (978) 534-0379 or the Riverways program (617) 626-1540
- Lakes, contact the Congress of Lakes and Ponds: COLAP (800) 845-2769. In western Mass., contact LAPA-West
- Estuaries, contact the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (508)457-0495 or the Coalition for Buzzards Bay (508) 999-6363. The Coastal Zone Management may also be helpful.
Municipalities and environmental consulting firms are other possible sources of information or assistance.
You may find the following Word document useful in your research: "Characteristics of a Successful Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program"
4. Do you have any background
in limnology or river ecology?
It helps to have some basic knowledge of how a lake or river works in order to decide what parameters to monitor, and to interpret the data.
Yes: Good, go to Question 5
No (or to refresh your memory): For lakes, see Lakes' Physical Environment, Lake Chemistry, and the Lake Book (a pdf file that may take a long time to download) and for rivers, see our River Ecology page
5. Has your group written a
study design (or QAPP)?
A study design or a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) are documents you write to develop and describe your monitoring program. We strongly advise groups to spend some time on this step in order to avoid future frustration and waste of effort and money.
6. Has your group conducted
a shoreline/watershed survey?
A visual survey of the surrounding land is often a good first step for a monitoring program. This helps you learn what features exist, good and bad, that affect your water body. This kind of survey helps in choosing sampling sites--and also in the data interpretation step.
Yes: Pick one:
- Sedimentation: May want to measure sediment depth, Turbidity or Total Suspended Solids in tributaries
- Other: Consult you Technical Advisory Committee or MassWWP
No: Want to assess current health. Go to generic survey (need to write?)
Already know know what parameters you'll survey: Go to Question 8
Yes: MassWWP maintains a Calendar of training opportunities offered by MassWWP and other organizations. These events range from workshops on lake sampling to full courses and conferences.
No: Go to Question 9
9. Do you need a lab?
If you plan to monitor parameters that require laboratory analysis, you may be able to do some of these yourself (see training in Question 8), or you may wish to contract the services of a qualified laboratory.
Yes: Read box below:
How to recruit volunteers:
- Put a notice in your local newspapers, your own newsletter, other environmental organizations' newsletters, and on your local access television station's News and Events.
- Put the same notice on your web site if you have one
- Put a listing in your local Volunteer Registry
- Call a public meeting to introduce your program and advertise your needs there
- Attend other organizations' meetings and make a public announcement
- Put up notices in your library and store fronts
Develop a volunteer job description
Read why people volunteer
No: Go to Question 12
12. Do you need help with
Even though this step occurs once the program has started, it's a good idea to plan it ahead of time. You'll want to think about paperwork (forms, labels), data entry and checking, and how to summarize the numbers so they are easy to interpret
Yes: Some ideas are to get help from COLAP, Riverways, Massachusetts Watershed Coalition, develop presentations for local boards, contact your State Legislators. Your regional planning agency may also be able to help you follow up on your study with grants for on-the-ground projects.
No: Go to Question 16
Yes: Read box below:
Ideally at the end of each monitoring season, the program coordinator pulls together the Technical Advisory Committee or another group to evaluate the program: What went well, what went wrong, should anything be modified to improve the program or redirect it in a more appropriate track?
We are not talking about data quality control here, but rather about the goals of the program and whether they are being met.
Was the study realistic, should it be narrowed or expanded?
- Were enough resources allocated to the program?
- Was the timing or timeline appropriate?
- Is the study completed and can it be terminated?
- Was the focus adequate or should the program revised? In what ways?
You are trying here to ensure that your group is making good use of its resources and running a credible program that is meeting your goals. In most cases, you will need to tweak a few aspects of the program and continue the monitoring in the future.
No: Go to Question 17
17: Do you have further questions?
Contact MassWWP 413-545-5531 or 545-5532.
updated 2/16/06 by MF Walk - MWWP Home - Contact MassWWP