As a Stuart resident for the past 25 years, Lora Hoffman has been aware of the ongoing collapse of the Indian River Lagoon and recently decided to take action. “My family and I have always tried to help in little ways with beach cleanups and other things, but moving right to the river allowed me to get more involved in doing something that would be more at the forefront to see a change occur,” says Hoffman, who is a volunteer LagoonWatch monitor with Palm Bay–based Marine Resources Council (MRC). The organization works to improve water quality and protect and restore fish and wildlife resources by advocating and utilizing science, education, and the public.
LagoonWatch is a coordinated partnership between MRC, Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach, and Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island. As a volunteer, Hoffman takes weekly water samples from her dock, testing the water for things like salinity, pH, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels. Data from volunteers across the 156-mile stretch of water is then recorded and analyzed to help MRC understand the long-term trends in water quality that can be crucial to identifying and planning restoration projects.
LagoonWatch’s Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program launched in 1991, says coordinator Kara Woods, who works with more than 50 volunteer monitors. “In addition to citizen science, MRC also conducts restoration and education programs, providing a myriad of volunteer opportunities throughout the lagoon watershed,” she says. Locals interested in becoming civilian scientists must commit to at least one year of weekly sampling and can contact Woods via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive in-person training at one of the three facilities and take home a test kit and manual. Volunteers can test right off their own dock or go to public parks or boat ramps to sample. savetheirl.org.