10 years of volunteer water sampling helps preserve Cape Cod ponds

Citizen-based effort backed by UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology

UMass Dartmouth scientists and students and volunteers across Cape Cod are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of a citizen-based effort to monitor and sustain the quality of freshwater ponds. The volunteers, members of the Pond and Lake Stewards (PALS), recently completed collection of water quality samples from 126 ponds on the Cape to help UMass Dartmouth scientists and regional policy makers manage these fragile environmental resources. 

The samples will be analyzed for the communities and pond organizations free of charge by the students, staff, and faculty at the Coastal Systems Program laboratory at the University's School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST).  "This is one of the University's largest and most important community service efforts, and one of the largest volunteer efforts of its kind in the nation," said Dr. Brian Howes, director of the Coastal Systems Program. "Sustaining this effort for a full decade is truly a testament to these volunteers' love of the Cape. The data gathered by these highly dedicated and well-trained volunteers and our students will provide valuable information to communities as they work hard to sustain our wonderful quality of life." 

The annual PALS Survey is organized through the Cape Cod Commission and SMAST staff.  Volunteers coordinated their efforts with town staff to produce PALS "Snapshots" of pond water quality.  The Snapshots have resulted in 254 ponds being sampled with more than 3,900 samples collected over the last decade.  For most Cape Cod ponds this is the only information on pond health available. 

PALS Snapshot results have provided essential new information for a variety of Cape Cod environmental management efforts, including:   

* Cape Cod Pond and Lake Atlas 

* Lake-specific assessments throughout the Cape, such as Mystic Lake and Lake Wequaquet in Barnstable, Long Pond in Brewster, Santuit Pond in Mashpee, and Lovers Lake in Chatham 

* Massachusetts Estuaries Project assessments of natural nitrogen removal by freshwater ponds in estuary watersheds in Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Harwich, Orleans and Eastham.   

Volunteer enthusiasm in some towns has also led to the creation of more comprehensive sampling programs.  SMAST has served as the technical arm of the PALS program from its inception and has assisted many communities using the data for pond management and restoration actions.   

Besides SMAST and the Cape Cod Commission, the PALS partnership includes Barnstable County, APCC, The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Cape Cod National Seashore, and many of the Cape's towns and pond associations.  The overall PALS effort was initiated to provide constructive guidance, to integrate pond protection into overall water quality management strategies and to encourage communication among citizens and organizations concerned about pond water quality on Cape Cod. 


Brian Howes, SMAST 
Director, Coastal Systems Program 

Ed Eichner, SMAST 
Senior Water Scientist 

Tom Cambareri, Cape Cod Commission 
Water Resources Program Manager 


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