Pilot Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Program

Program Overview

Carolina Wetlands Association is partnering with North Carolina State University and RTI International through an EPA-funded grant to employ a new strategy for wetland monitoring in North Carolina through the Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Program (VWMP). This volunteer-based monitoring program leverages the outcomes of 15 years of wetland monitoring experience to establish the procedures and methods for a sustainable, citizen-based program. 

Outcomes of this project will lead to an increase in wetland quality and quantity as more easily accessible and standardized wetland data can be used to improve reference-based success criteria for future wetland mitigation in North Carolina. Mitigation techniques can be altered if it appears that wetland structure or characteristics are not being met based on reference data comparison, ultimately resulting in higher quality and more functional wetlands.  

The volunteer wetland monitoring protocols, safety procedures and training materials are based on previous monitoring work but will be tailored to the varying abilities of the volunteers. A web-based data portal will be developed for uploading, storing, and sharing monitoring results and to provide a central location for volunteers to access the data and to use visualization tools to display their data. 

What volunteers will do:

  • Collect reliable and accurate wetland information (e.g., water level, water quality, plants, amphibians, soil descriptions) 

  • Help collect wetland data that will contribute to North Carolina’s water quality and watershed planning programs and provide data for further analysis such as trends over time, comparisons to data from impacted wetlands, and detect climate change effects

  • Provide new data which can be used by wetland partners (e.g., regulators, resource managers, environmental consultants, state agencies, and researchers) to improve statewide wetland resource management, wetland restoration, and other environmental decision making 

  • Learn how wetland condition relates to ecosystem integrity, functions, and services, and how stressors can negatively impact wetlands 

  •  Visualize data through a data portal and create a database compatible with NC DEQ’s wetland program data repository  

What is CITIZEN SCIENCE?

Citizen science uses the collective strength of communities and the public to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, and develop technologies and applications – all to understand and solve environmental problems. – EPA.gov 

In this case, Citizen Science engages the public with hands-on experiences that can lead to greater understanding and outreach about the importance of wetlands and their protection. A citizen science program such as this can boost public awareness of wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide resulting in increased participation in watershed stewardship, in particular, wetland protection. 

Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Sites

Where are the program wetland sites and why were they chosen? 

The VWMP is being piloted at three wetlands recognized as Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. These locations were chosen for this project because they are relatively undisturbed, protected wetland sites, are easily accessible and are familiar to citizens who use them for recreation and educational purposes. The three sites are located near Raleigh and Durham, NC. 

What Data Will Be Collected?

Data collected and analyzed from these wetland sites will include: 

  • Hydrology – water level and water volume 
  • Water chemistry  
  • Soil type, color, and organic matter content 
  • Vegetation type, cover, and invasive species 
  • Wildlife – with emphasis on amphibians and birds 

Lead Investigators