Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Program Kicks-Off With Field Training Session

A volunteer collects a water sample from Robertson Millpond Preserve.

On February 5th, 2022, the field work portion of the Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program was kicked off with an in-person training session at Robertson Millpond Preserve in Wendell, NC. We enjoyed a cold but sunny morning at this beautiful Wetland Treasure site. 

The training session was attended by 17 program volunteers regardless of the wetland location they signed up to focus on. Some had experience in the field, and some were new to wetlands, monitoring protocols and field work, but all came with a curiosity and commitment to help collect important data that will help us track the status of the wetlands in this pilot program. 

Our morning began with Rick Savage (Executive Director of the Carolina Wetlands Association) giving a brief summary of the project and introductions of the team. 

Then Thomas Reed (amphibian expert from Wake County) talked about our host site of Robertson Millpond Preserve. Amanda Johnson (VWMP Project Manager) gave a high-level introduction to iNaturalist and Wildnote. And last, Patty Cervenka (VWMP Volunteer Coordinator) provided a pre-field work safety briefing. 

Starting at the lower monitoring site (#2), the volunteers split into two groups with half starting at the station with Dr. Mike Burchell and graduate student, Molly Landon, (both from NC State University Dept of Biological and Agricultural Engineering) to observe the installation of wells and to learn about water monitoring procedures.

The other half worked with Thomas Reed on learning how to carefully find, observe and record amphibians in the study area. As it is early in the season and the temperature was in the mid 30s, only one amphibian was found. The adult Southern Two-Lined Salamander we found was observed, photographed, logged in Wildnote and returned safely to its habitat. 

Observing a Southern Two-Lined Salamander

The two groups switched as we moved to the second monitoring site (#1) at Robertson Millpond. Despite a thorough search, no more amphibians were found, and this site proved to be more challenging to install the well. The team from NC State stayed behind after our training session to make sure the well installation was completed successfully.  

Using iNaturalist and Wildnote to collect data on wetland observations.

One other unexpected issue occurred when our iPad app for iNaturalist was not finding our location correctly, so we were unable to successfully submit observations within the GPS site boundaries.

However, the plan to use Wildnote as a backup worked very well and this problem will be solved for the next site visits by removing those boundaries.

Overall, this was a highly successful outing with just the two above-mentioned challenges. Our next in-person event will be the introductory monitoring days scheduled for all three wetland sites on February 19th and 20th. For the complete schedule and more information on the Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program visit HERE >