The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is gearing up for the 2021 survey season by hosting training for volunteer participants this March.
Every year, the Center hosts several volunteer-driven surveys to collect data on important species, such as fish and blue crabs, as indicators of the health of their coastal environments. That information in turn can help scientists and decision-makers identify and effectively plan restoration and conservation efforts.
“Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Center, and we rely on them to conduct these important surveys,” said the Center’s Project Manager Nivette Pérez-Pérez. “The surveys are a great way for people to learn more about the natural habitats of our Bays, and the volunteers find it rewarding to play such an important role in local science and restoration efforts.”
In March, the Center will train volunteers how to participate in two of its six citizen science surveys, an Osprey Survey and the Shorezone Fish & Blue Crab Survey, as well as training participants interested in the Center’s James Farm Ecological Preserve Docent Program.
The Osprey Survey is new to the Center this year and aims to track the nesting activity of adult ospreys in the Bays. Ospreys are important indicators of the health of the Bays because they are at the top of the food chain. In a process called biomagnification, the birds ingest pollutants that may accumulate in the fish that they eat.
Researchers have been tracking data on the number of active osprey nests around the Bays since the 1990s, but previous surveys to track active osprey nests stopped several years ago. Because osprey activity is such an important indicator of the health of the Bays—an indicator that is used in the Center’s five-year State of the Bays report—the Center has decided to create a new, volunteer-based survey this year.
Since 2011, the Center’s Shorezone Fish & Blue Crab Survey has collected data on fish populations at 16 shoreline sites in the Inland Bays watershed. With more than 100 species of fish known to use the Bays, data collected through this long-term survey can help scientists track changes in populations of the smaller and juvenile fish that inhabit marshes and intertidal areas.
The James Farm Docent Program plays a key role in educating visitors of the Preserve as they immerse themselves in a variety of beautiful habitats. Docents are trained to greet visitors, answer questions, and offer resources to the public, such as information on the history and mission of the Preserve. The James Farm Ecological Preserve is a 150-acre property on the Indian River Bay near Ocean View that is owned by Sussex County and managed by the Center.
This year, all survey training will be held online through Zoom. Pre-registration is required, and all volunteers must fill out a volunteer application and waiver, both of which are available online at inlandbays.org/volunteer.
The Osprey Survey virtual training will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 9. Interested volunteers can register at tinyurl.com/OspreySurvey. To learn more about the survey, go to inlandbays.org/ospreysurvey.
The training for the James Farm Docent Program will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 24. Interested volunteers can register at tinyurl.com/JamesFarmDocent. To learn more about the program, go to inlandbays.org/james-farm-docent-program.
The training for the Shorezone Fish & Blue Crab Survey will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 31. Interested volunteers can register at tinyurl.com/CenterFishSurvey. To learn more about the survey, go to inlandbays.org/fishsurvey.
Additional training for the Center’s Volunteer Horseshoe Crab Survey, Diamondback Terrapin Survey, and Reforestation Survey will be held in April, and more information will be shared on those programs at a later date.
To learn more or to participate in the Center’s volunteer programs, go to inlandbays.org/volunteer.
The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is a nonprofit organization established in 1994 and is one of 28 National Estuary Programs. With its many partners, the Center works to preserve, protect and restore Delaware’s Inland Bays and their watershed. Learn more about the Center’s work at inlandbays.org.