For over 30 years, Baywatchers have monitored the health of Buzzards Bay and its harbors, coves, and rivers. The Baywatchers program is the largest, longest-running volunteer-based coastal monitoring effort in New England. This Bay Health data forms the foundation of all the Coalition’s work to restore and protect the Bay.

Who are Baywatchers?

Baywatchers are people like you – local residents who love the water and want to do their part to protect it. These “citizen scientists” go out about one morning per week in summer to test key aspects of the water’s health. Since the program began in 1992, more than 1,000 local residents have volunteered as Baywatchers.

As part of volunteering, Baywatchers:

  • Commit to monitoring at a designated location one morning per week from May to September.
  • Attend a training to learn how to collect and test water samples.
  • Follow instructions in the Baywatchers kit to ensure accurate measurements.
  • Are comfortable working on docks, piers, beaches, and boat ramps at the water’s edge.

Not only do Baywatchers test the water, they also represent the Coalition in their communities. Baywatchers often get the opportunity to talk with others about their volunteer work and the importance of protecting clean water.

Become a Baywatcher

To become a Baywatcher, contact Tony Williams, Director of Monitoring Programs, at (508) 999-6363 ext. 203 or fill out our volunteer application and choose Monitoring/Baywatchers.

Resources for Current Baywatchers

Where do Baywatchers work?

a woman testing the water in New Bedford Harbor

Baywatchers like Jessamyn Finneran test water samples at over 200 sites around Buzzards Bay every summer.

Baywatchers volunteer at over 200 monitoring stations in 30 major harbors, coves, and rivers across Buzzards Bay — an area covering more than one-quarter of the Massachusetts coast. Visit our Bay Health section to learn more about where Baywatchers test the water.

What do Baywatchers measure?

Each week, Baywatchers measure the following parameters:

  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Temperature
  • Salinity
  • Water clarity
  • General weather conditions

Approximately four times per summer, Baywatchers collect additional water samples that the Coalition delivers to the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. There, scientists analyze the water samples for nitrogen, phosphorus, and algal pigments.

All data collection and analysis is conducted in accordance with a Quality Assurance Project Plan approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

What happens to this data?

Sound science forms the foundation of all the Coalition’s work. And when it comes to understanding Buzzards Bay, no data is more important than that generated by our Baywatchers program.

This Bay Health data helps the Coalition and local decision makers identify pollution problems all across the region. Baywatchers data has even been used for long-term research projects like understanding the local impacts of climate change.

What other types of monitoring do Baywatchers help with?

Some Baywatchers volunteer with the Coalition’s research and monitoring programs all year long. As a Baywatcher, you can help count migrating river herring in spring and monitor stream flow on local rivers.

River Herring Monitoring (March-June)

  • Assist with installation and removal of electronic fish counters.
  • Record daily counter numbers.
  • Remove debris from counter tunnel.

Stream Flow Monitoring (Year-Round)

  • Visit stream gauge(s) every two weeks (day and time flexible) and record observations for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Enter data online from home.

Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: