In 2021, a team from COBALT (Collaborative for Bioregional Action Learning & Transformation) based on Portland, Maine, met with regional leaders in the field of coastal/marine stewardship and explored the potential of launching a citizen science effort dedicated to mapping and documenting the health of eelgrass meadows in Casco Bay.
In spring/summer 2021, meetings were held with leaders from the Friends of Casco Bay/Casco Baykeeper, Casco Bay National Estuary Partnership, as well as from Maine DEP and seagrass researchers who had experience in the region. Recognizing this was a pilot exploratory effort, there was support to proceed and leaders from Team Zostera coordinated with Maine DEP to coordinate next steps and identify how we could contribute to key management questions.
At this inception stage, the purpose of Team Zostera is to align closely with other stewardship efforts and seagrass mapping initiatives in Casco Bay. Given that there are other citizen science efforts in the greater Gulf of Maine as well as elsewhere across the globe, Team Zostera recognized it needed to do some homework and outreach to learn from what others were doing. First, however, we needed to identify if this was feasible from a safety and logistics perspective, if there was interest from other volunteers and confirm that core partners felt this was contributing to a better understanding of the dynamic and complex Casco Bay ecosystem. As part of this early phase, we remained in close contact with key leaders in the field of seagrass research, leaders in citizen engagement/stewardship in Casco Bay and those leading regulatory efforts associated with eelgrass meadows.
We learned that there was indeed enthusiasm for a citizen led effort from other potential volunteers, so in summer 2021, the COBALT team met with leaders at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a pilot test of two target sites of key importance to Maine DEP that is focusing on issues related to water quality and health of eelgrass meadows in Casco Bay.