Mission: Casco Bay Aquatic Systems Survey

Research Question

What can we learn about the Casco Bay ecosystem? How do anadromous fishes use the Casco Bay watershed?

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Photo by GMRI CBASS team

You’re Invited

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) is doing a 10 year study of Casco Bay. From river herring runs, nursery habitat, to plankton surveys, scientists want to know all they can about how the Casco Bay ecosystem works. A crucial part of that system is the water that flows into it from the Presumpscot river and surrounding water bodies. That water has a large impact on the fish that live in Casco Bay. Scientists want to know all they can about how this system changes over time.


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Photo by VS user Obscurus4

Why this mission matters

Long term studies give us a deep understanding of systems in ways that short term, “one-off” projects, can’t. Long term datasets help us see patterns over time. The downside to long term studies is the cost, effort, and good dose of patience it takes to do them.

Over the next ten years, GMRI scientists would like to know more about the freshwater resources that are connected to Casco Bay, especially the Presumpscot River and Highland Lake. Many animals, like species of shad, rely on this water. Looking for shad and collecting simple data, like water temperature and pH, can help scientists learn more about this complicated ecosystem.

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Photo by GMRI CBASS team

Mission steps - Download the Entire Protocol

    Choosing a site and setting traps

  1. Find a spot in the CBASS mission area (see map) where you can leave minnow traps. Lakes, ponds, and slow moving sections of river work best. You’ll need to set traps for at least 24 hours but not more than 3 days. Supplies you’ll need:
  2. Set your traps near the shoreline - download instructions
  3. Field day - removing the minnow traps

  4. Materials you will need
    • Vital Signs species and habitat datasheet and shad ID card
    • rope, stakes, and buckets or bins to hold animals while identifying
    • rulers, cameras
    • GPS if your site is not easy to pin point using google maps
    • freshwater fishing license - make sure to bring it with you
    • (optional) white 5 gallon painter's bucket to measure water color
    • (optional) thermometer and a pH meter
  5. Return to your site, note any field conditions in the field notes section on your VS species survey and habitat datasheet. Did you find any shad? Collect FOUND and NOT FOUND data with your VS species survey and habitat datasheet.
  6. Release species after your datasheets are complete. Be sure to rinse, wash, and air dry your traps! Do not transport any plant fragments from the site - this could spread invasive species.
  7. Post your FOUND or NOT FOUND data to Vital Signs!
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Photo by GMRI CBASS team

Want to do more? Water Quality monitoring:

By collecting more detailed water quality information, you can help scientists understand more about the freshwater resources that drain into Casco Bay.

  1. Find a spot along the Presumpscot where you can safely take water samples. Plan to make at least two trips, more is better! Supplies you’ll need:
    • 5 gal white painter’s bucket
    • thermometer
    • pH meter (if you have one)
    • meter stick (with cm marks) - for flow rate
    • oranges - for flow rate
    • waders - for flow rate
    • CBASS water quality datasheet
  2. Using the CBASS water quality datasheet, collect information about the water conditions that day. You can also use the CBASS water quality datasheet to calculate flow rate in your patch of river. For flow rate you will need to wade across the stream - consider whether this is safe and feasible for your site - not all areas are suitable.
  3. Post your datasheet to the Project Bank!