Shell Day 2019: Engaging Citizen Science Groups to Monitor Coastal Acidification

Citizen Science
Oral Presentation

Prepared by M. Liebman1, P. Gassett2, E. Turner3, E. Stancioff4, A. Strong5, J. Rheuban6, C. Hunt7
1 - EPA Region 1, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100, Boston, MA, 02109, United States
2 - University of Maine, 20 Thomas St., Camden, ME, 04843, United States
3 - NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, 35 Colovos Road, Gregg Hall Rm 146, Durham, NH, 03824, United States
4 - University of Maine Sea Grant, 377 Manktown Rd, Waldoboro, ME, 04572, United States
5 - Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd., Clinton, NY, 13323, United States
6 - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MS #25, Woods Hole, MA, 02543, United States
7 - University of New Hampshire Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory,, 142 Morse Hall, 8 College Road, Durham, NH, 03824, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 617-918-1626


As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, some is absorbed into ocean and coastal waters, causing a decrease in pH. Coastal ecosystems and their resources are affected, especially near the coast where land-based drivers interact with coastal waters in complex ways. Our understanding of these effects is limited in view of the complexity of biogeochemical and biological processes in coastal waters and restricted monitoring capacity. Existing efforts from buoys and monitoring programs can greatly benefit from regional collaborations of organizations involved in water quality studies and of citizen’s interest and involvement in science participation. Here, we present the results of more than 50 organizations that engaged in a monitoring “blitz” day throughout the Northeast U.S. on August 22, 2019. From Long Island Sound in the south to the Downeast Maine coast, these organizations collected water samples at more than 80 sites to provide a snapshot of seawater conditions affecting shellfish and other coastal resources. This “Shell Day” of 2019 aimed to examine how the buffering capacity of seawater (or total alkalinity, TA) varies across the region and its relationship with salinity in different embayments over a tidal cycle. Each sampling group collected a minimum of five water samples, measuring temperature and salinity at low, mid and high tide at one site. Bottle samples were sent on ice to participating laboratories for TA analysis. This presentation will discuss outreach to citizen science groups, Shell Day activities and some results of sample analysis. Although a moment in time, these results will advance our broad geographic scale perception of TA variability across the coastal Northeast of the United States. Shell Day has already accomplished a goal of connecting scientists, nonprofit organizations, and the public to promote collaboration in regional monitoring, public education, and environmental awareness.