Masthead Friends of Good Harbor

Marsh Assessment and Monitoring Project

The following description was posted in early summer, 2012, to recruit volunteers.  Although dated, it contains the details of the project being carried out.  An updated article will be posted when the final report is completed.

The Friends of Good Harbor, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, are sponsoring a summer-long Marsh Assessment Study led by Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW). The purpose of the study is to assess the condition and quality of the marsh, including impairments to its health. The project will require 8-16 citizen volunteers who, under the direction of the project leader, Barbara Warren and her interns, will take periodic samples and measures of multiple elements of the marsh. A report will be issued in the fall of 2012 containing findings, comparisons with data collected five years ago and recommendations for action. The ultimate goal is to restore, where needed, and maintain the marsh as a healthy natural habitat and as a resource for public awareness and enjoyment.

Decline of the Salt Marsh

Seven years ago, SSCW completed five years of monitoring at the Good Harbor beach marsh in order to establish benchmarks for restoration efforts at Eastern Point salt marsh in Gloucester. During this time, the reference site, Good Harbor, experienced a three-year decline from not impaired (2002) to somewhat impaired (2003) to moderately impaired (2004), based on the parameters of the study. It was recommended that at some future point there should be a follow up study. Several other studies have also been conducted which revealed problematic locations around the marsh in need of further investigation and in some cases remediation (these studies are posted in the FOGH web site section, Resources). For these reasons, FOGH is launching the Good Harbor Assessment and Stewardship Project.

Marsh Assessment and Monitoring Process

The project will be organized around the collection of quantitative data using the methodology described in the manual, A Volunteer Handbook for Monitoring New England Salt Marshes (sometimes referred to as the Wetland Health Assessment Toolbox, or WHAT), produced by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Seven parameters will be studied in two categories:

A summary of the methodologies for studying each parameter may be viewed here.

Opportunity for Volunteers

Volunteers are invited to participate this summer in the marsh assessment project. SSCW will train the volunteers and accompany them into the field for data collection to ensure rigorous scientific standards are met. The project will provide multiple opportunities to directly participate in monitoring salt marshes and to learn about the benefits of restoration. Volunteers will come away with increased knowledge and appreciation of their local environment and with the knowledge that they can make a difference. The specific volunteer opportunities are four-fold:

Component: Vegetation
Number volunteers: 8-16 persons (2 digital photographers needed)
Time: 2 days: July 31 & August 7), 8 am until work done
Training: Volunteers to be notified following availability poll
Component: Nekton (fish, crabs, shrimp) and Salinity
Number volunteers: 4-8 persons
Time: Once per month, July 17 (beginning at 9:00 am to set, retrieve, and process traps, and collect salinity data, and again on August 14 (time to be determined).
Training: Interns to provide training and supervision in the field
Component: Macroinvertebrates
Number volunteers: Individuals may observe and participate in sorting/identification
Time: One-time event for sampling July 31, 12 noon to 3 pm. Sorting and identification will take place at the SSCW office (times to be determined).
Training: None
Component: Avifauna (birds)
Number volunteers: 4 persons or more, 1 expert needed, binoculars required for all
Time: One morning each month (early start time, approximately one hour in length), June through September
Training: Volunteers to be notified following availability poll

Dates may be subject to change and no monitoring will take place if there is a threat of thunderstorms.

For further information, interested persons may call Barbara Warren at 978.741.7900 or email at Volunteers are asked to complete the volunteer form and send it via email to the same address or regular mail to Friends of Good Harbor, P.O. Box 3145, Gloucester, MA 01931. The volunteer form may be downloaded here.

Volunteer Form

About Salem Sound Coastwatch

Salem Sound Coastwatch is a non-profit coastal watershed organization that works with government agencies, businesses, other non-profit organizations and citizens from the communities on the north shore in Essex County. The organization is focused primarily on the Salem Sound Watershed but extends its services to other towns along the coast. The mission of SSCW is to increase the public's knowledge and appreciation of the natural resources of the watershed and the threats to the ecological health of the watershed, to foster responsible and sustainable resource management practices, to conduct and facilitating environmental monitoring and scientific research, and to promote citizens' awareness and understanding of their connection and role in restoring and protecting the health of the watershed. The executive director is Barbara Warren. SSCW is located at 201 Washington Street, #9, Salem, MA 01970. SSCW web site:

For more information or comments on this project, interested persons may send an email to FOGH which will be forwarded to the project coordinator (select Contact Us on the sidebar menu).