Citizen Science Part IV: People making a difference in their community and across the state

You can make a difference for our Great Lakes coastal areas!

Every day, people from across the state are contributing to our knowledge and understanding of Michigan’s bountiful natural resources through their time to collect information that scientists can use to figure out what is going on in the environment. Michigan Sea Grant works with several organizations who offer opportunities for interested people to get involved in citizen science.

One such group, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is seeking assistance from people who would like to help with their Adopt-a-Beach™ Program. According to the program manager, Jamie Cross, last year 3,122 volunteers removed 8,309 pounds of debris from 140 beaches and shorelines in Michigan. Through their participation, volunteers submitted nearly 600 data sets into the Adopt-a-Beach™ online data collection system. Information collected is shared with the public, management agencies, and others to help make informed decisions about shoreline and beach health, and to work toward improvements for our Great Lakes coastal areas.  

Get Involved: You can volunteer in two ways: as a team member or team leader. As a team leader, you can lead your own group and visit your favorite beach or shoreline area to conduct a shoreline assessment using science-based observations and sampling. Teams also remove litter and record their findings for inclusion in the Great Lakes database. Not sure you want to lead your own team…then join an existing team! Information collected during your event is logged into the Alliance Adopt-a-Beach™ online system, and is available to the public as well as beach managers and health officials. Beach locations in southeast Michigan have included Metroparks, Belle Isle and Sterling State Park.

Time Commitment:  Generally, a litter removal and monitoring event takes about 1.5 hours on a single day from start to finish. You can decide how often you want to conduct an event at your adopted location. If you are team leader, you will also need to include more time for training and preparation for your event.   

Skill Level Needed: Light lifting and walking is required. However, there are options for groups that have individuals with physical challenges that participate as part of the team. Team leaders are encouraged to participate in an online training or in-person training, where available.  Team members joining other teams will receive instruction on the day of the event.

Special Equipment Needed: If you are a team leader, you will need a pole or waders, thermometer, rope measured into meters, gloves, garbage bags, paper and pencil. The Alliance supplies you with a simple water bacteria kit.

Other Things to Consider: Safety first – always use care when picking up potentially hazardous  materials such as broken glass, metal, syringes, etc., and use caution and common sense when conducting water sampling.  

Getting started: To find out more about becoming a team leader in southeast Michigan, contact Sam Lovall or visit the Adopt-A-Beach™ Team Leader web page. To locate volunteers for an event in your location, visit the Alliance for the Great Lakes Event page.  

Making a difference: Michelle Rogers is one of many team leaders responsible for energizing the Adopt-a-Beach™ program in southeast Michigan. While working on her Master of Civil Engineering degree at Wayne State University (WSU), she regularly donated personal time promoting Alliance for the Great Lakes programming among the WSU community. In addition to leading her team, Hydro Lounge Beach Club, in several Adopt-a-Beach™ events on Belle Isle, she participated in multiple events held by other team leaders. Going beyond Adopt-a-Beach™, Michelle assisted the Alliance in conducting presentations for Water Festivals on the Rouge and Detroit Rivers – reaching hundreds of 5th and 6th graders in southeast Michigan and Windsor schools regarding the importance of clean water. 

Michelle says "Adopt-a-Beach™ is a great program, and I am so happy I had the chance to get involved during my time at Wayne State. Our team never had a shortage of volunteers. It turns out that people don't mind spending time on the beach after work, even if it involves picking up trash! In fact, the feel-good factor that comes from removing waste from the beach is perhaps the best part."

Check back monthly, as we highlight other volunteer opportunities from our partner organizations and volunteers who are making a difference.

Part III

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