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Westchester (NY) Volunteer Water Monitoring


Citizen’s Volunteer Water Monitoring Program

Westchester County, New York

This program was established in 2003, in order to create a baseline of water quality data for streams, rivers, ponds and lakes in Westchester County, and to make this water quality history accessible to the public through an interactive website database.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: Year round
  • Geographic location: Westchester County
  • Tools: Vary, depending on whether you are joining an established group, or forming your own.
  • Time commitment: Volunteers work in teams and must commit to the program for a year. Collecting water quality data will take between two to three hours of time weekly, but it’s recommended that team members alternate, or rotate through, collection dates.
  • Cost: None
  • Other: All volunteers must go through a training workshop. Training workshops consist of one weekend field day.

Central NY – Project Watershed



Project Watershed is a consortium of groups that facilitate water resource education in Central New York. They provide access to programs, equipment and training for water monitoring projects, and contribute to, and use, an internet database. The consortium coordinates three separate projects, two of which focus on high school students. The third project, Select-A-Stream (SAS), is aimed at adult volunteers in Onondaga County. Volunteers work in teams to monitor seven compromised streams in Onondaga County: Beartrap Creek, Butternut Creek, Ley Creek, Limestone Creek, Onondaga Creek, Nine Mile Creek and Skaneateles Creek.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: Select-A-Stream surveys are conducted in April, June, August and October.
  • Geographic location: Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties.
  • Tools: Each of the two projects listed above owns a DREL portable lab.
  • Time commitment: Several hours four times a year.
  • Cost: None
  • Other:

NYS Lake Assessment Program


Citizen Statewide Lake Assessment Program

Modeled on successful citizen monitoring programs in other states, the New York Citizen Statewide Lake Association Program is a lake monitoring program run by the New York State DEC and the New York State Federation of Lake Associations. Volunteers monitor lake temperature, transparency, pH, color, phosphorus, chlorophyll, nitrogen and calcium. Water samples are sent to a testing facility and the results are used to predict changes and trends in water quality.

  • Focus: Water Quality
  • Season: June through October
  • Geographic location: New York State
  • Tools: Training is provided and a detailed manual is available online.
  • Time commitment: Collect bi-weekly samples for a period of five years.
  • Cost: None
  • Other: This is a time intensive project for volunteers.

National Water Monitoring Programs


Volunteer Water Monitoring Programs

EPA – National Directory

Project Description: This is an EPA hosted clearinghouse with citizen science opportunities in water monitoring, including rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal areas.  There are some glitches on the site, but try going to “View Programs By State” on the side menu, hit “next” to get to the page showing New York, then hit the tiny drop-down arrow to see the specific projects.  Keep in mind that this list is not screened by Empire State College and may be more out of date than the other citizen science projects we describe on our site.

  • Focus: Water monitoring
  • Season: Any
  • Geographic location: Nationwide including New York; some very local projects on particular streams and watersheds (e.g., Flint Creek, the Little Hoosick, or Ontario County)
  • Tools: Varies, many projects will train you and provide equipment such as pH meters
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: None
  • Other: If you start your own citizen science project, this might be a good place to post it.

Monore (NY) County Water Watch

Monroe County Community Water Watch

Project Description: All the water that moves through the homes and gardens of residents of Monroe County eventually flows to either Lake Ontario or the Genesee River, carrying a variety of household and garden contaminants. This water quality monitoring project enlists citizen volunteers to monitor the smaller streams in the county that are not always monitored by government agencies due to limited resources.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: all year
  • Geographic location: Monroe County (New York)
  • Tools:
  • Time commitment:
  • Cost: None
  • Other:

EPA: Adopt Your Watershed


EPA: Adopt Your Watershed


This is a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site that connects users to citizen based groups that are active in stewardship of local watersheds. As of October 2007 the site linked to 2200 different groups engaged in watershed monitoring, cleanup, and restoration of rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes, ground water, and estuaries. Volunteer monitors are trained in pollution prevention, may help clean up polluted sites, and collect data for sites that might not be assessed otherwise. As with other water monitoring projects, the data that volunteers provide becomes a valuable resource for decision makers.

  • Focus: Water quality
  • Season: Year round
  • Geographic location: Nationwide
  • Tools: Vary, depending on whether you are joining an established group, or forming your own.
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: Varies, depending on whether you are joining an established group, or forming your own.
  • Other:

Project Nestwatch: Cornell Ornithology


Project NestWatch

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

This is a continental-scale monitoring program for people who like to find and document bird nests.  You’ll collect information about the net itself, bird habitats, number of eggs, and fledglings to help scientists track survival and success of birds in an increasingly human landscape.  Participants can also access databases about birds of interest in their local area, to see which species are thriving or declining.

  • Focus: 25 focal species that are common and widely distributed, but nest records from any species are sought.
  • Season: Spring/Summer (breeding season)
  • Geographic location: Any
  • Tools: Internet
  • Time commitment: Any
  • Cost: None
  • Other: Web materials include an overview of the nesting cycle.  Note that it is illegal to significantly disturb or collect bird eggs or nests without a federal scientific permit.

Adirondack Loon Conservation Project


Adirondack Loon Conservation Project

Audubon Society of NYS

Common Loons have long-been romantically associated with wilderness, but scientists are learning that they truly are sensitive environmental indicators, particularly in terms of human disturbance, water quality, and fisheries.  There are concerns about loon populations suffering from ingesting lead fishing tackle as they forage lake bottoms and about accumulating mercury traced through the food chain back to power plant emissions.  Citizen scientists are needed to count loons, record vocalizations and behaviors, help band loons, and educate park residents and visitors.  You can become a “Loon Ranger” to regularly report on nesting success, disturbance, and shoreline development on one or more lakes.

  • Focus: Common Loon
  • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall (annual census is in July)
  • Geographic location: Adirondack Park
  • Tools: Binoculars helpful
  • Time commitment: Open
  • Cost: None
  • Other: This project connects with other state and regional efforts to manage loon populations.

New York State Dept. Of Environmental Conservation


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Varied opportunities with friends groups at DEC regional environmental centers, delivering sportsman education, observing wildlife (e.g., gamebirds, bobcats), and even diving on artificial reefs and submitting records.

  • Focus: Varies
  • Season: Varies
  • Geographic location: New York State
  • Tools: Varies
  • Time commitment: Varies
  • Cost: None to participate
  • Other: Search DEC website using the keyword “volunteer” then scroll through listings
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