Meet the Bay Watchers, Members of the U of I Citizen Scientist Program
Recently, the Community Water Resource Center (CWRC) at the U of I in Coeur d’Alene wrapped up its third year of citizen scientist data collection on Coeur d’Alene Lake with the Bay Watchers. The Bay Watchers is a dynamic group of volunteers that meet with CWRC outreach employees once a month to monitor water quality parameters in their local area or bay on the Lake. The program now samples 12 sites on the Lake for different water quality parameters.
The Bay Watchers is a dedicated and fascinating group, and each member has a unique story and an impressive resume of service work. Many Bay Watchers are former board-members or C-suite executives of local companies/organizations. These volunteers give up their precious summer days, priceless currency here in North Idaho, to come assist U of I and monitor our lake.
As noted in the recent National Academy of Sciences report that was published about the lake, there is a need to monitor the bays where early signs of nutrient enrichment and nuisance algal growth are most likely to appear. Protecting the water quality of Coeur d’Alene Lake will require that monitoring efforts be fortified and expanded to provide an early warning of deteriorating conditions, regular syntheses of data, and targeted studies followed by application of those results to managing the Lake.
Steve Wilson is the Bay Watcher for Cave Bay and has been since the beginning. He found out about the program through his work at the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce. He loved working with the Natural Resource Committee and learning about our environment, so he immediately volunteered to be a Bay Watcher when the opportunity came up. Aside from getting to learn new things, Steve’s favorite part about the program is his enhanced awareness of the lake and the appreciation for the detailed and scientific side of life. To help protect and conserve our natural resources, Steve gives the advice to, “be aware, take an interest in our environment, and don’t take advantage of it.”
Julie Fromm is a new Bay Watcher for Rockford Bay. Julie joined Bay Watchers this year after raising concerns about heavy run-off into Rockford Bay. Her favorite part of this experiences is learning about the Lake and meeting the other Bay Watchers and U of I staff. Since this year is her first year, she is also excited to see how her results from this year’s monitoring will compare to next years. Julie is curious about the long-tern health of the lake and how pollution effects it, including stormwater contamination.
Barb and Bob McFarland are the Bay Watchers for Blue Creek and Beauty Bay. They have also been with the Bay Watchers since the beginning of the program. The McFarland’s chose their bays because of development in the area. Barb and Bob caught wind of a potential resort being built in Beauty Bay and wanted to monitor the bay pre and post construction. Blue Creek was also a strategic choice, and the couple has been monitoring the effect of the logging in the area on the Lake.
At the end of the season the CWRC staff put together a report outlining the data collected from each site over time. Now in its third year of data collection trends can be analyzed over time and data will be shared with the state and the tribe. With the help from Avista and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality the Bay Watchers will have an opportunity to start monitoring nutrients in select bays starting in the 2023 sampling season. For more information, visit the Bay Watchers website.