What is Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers program?

The second tier of the Chesapeake Bay SAV Monitoring effort is the Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers program. This is a volunteer-based effort coordinated by the Bay Program’s SAV Workgroup that provides community members with an educational experience while generating useful data for Bay scientists and resource managers. Volunteers collect information on SAV diversity and habitat characteristics at sites throughout the Bay and its tributaries and submit photos of their observations. These data are useful for broad-scale condition assessments and for identifying and quantifying driver-response relationships, such as improved water quality conditions resulting in SAV growth.

Volunteers can choose from two tiers of monitoring depending on their level of experience and availability:

Tier 1 Monitoring Program: Designed for volunteers who want to contribute SAV observations while they’re on the water, but do not necessarily belong to an organized volunteer monitoring group. Tier 1 volunteers could include waterfront homeowners, recreational boaters, fishermen, kayakers and students.

Tier 2 Monitoring Program: Designed for volunteers who want to monitor SAV as members of organized groups like Riverkeeper organizations, local watershed advocacy organizations or schools.

SAV Watchers Program Tutorial Videos

How do you become an SAV Watcher?

Interested in volunteering as an SAV Watcher? There are currently 14 groups with certified trainers. Find one near you and connect with them via their website.

Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers Protocol

Protocol for Tier 1

Tier I SAV Watchers program participants use the Water Reporter mobile app or website to upload photos of their SAV observations while out on the water. Below is an overview of the protocol for Tier 1 of the SAV Watchers program. More information can be found in the Tier 1 SAV Watchers Guide.

Equipment Needed for Observing

  1. Smartphone equipped with the Water Reporter app, GPS location services, and a camera.
  2. Waterproof phone pouch.
  3. SAV Pocket Field Guide

How to Make and Submit an Observation

The following five steps are needed to make and submit a complete Tier I observation.

  1. Download the Water Reporter app.
  2. Create and update a user profile.
  3. Join the Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers Group.
  4. Observe SAV and take photos. Use the Bay Grass Identification Guide on the Water Reporter app or the Pocket Field Guide for assistance in identifying SAV.
  5. Submit monitoring site data and photos to Water Reporter.

Volunteers may also submit an observation off-site, meaning that they are submitting SAV data to Water Reporter after sampling, either using the Smart phone app or using their computer and the Water Reporter website. Volunteers who do this should take pictures of the SAV observed and record necessary monitoring site data (GPS location, sampling data, sampling time, and SAV species observed in order from most abundant to least abundant) while in the field. Volunteer submissions made to Water Reporter are immediately made public to other app users, although observations may be commented on and edited as needed.

Protocol for Tier 2

Tier 2 volunteers monitor a variety of parameters related to SAV growth, diversity and the surrounding habitat and record observations on printed data sheets that are then digitized, shared with the SAV Watchers program coordinator and incorporated into the VIMS interactive SAV map. Below is an overview of the protocol for the Tier 2 SAV Watchers program. More information can be found in the Tier 2 SAV Watchers Manual .

Training and Certification

Participation in the Tier 2 SAV Watchers program requires training and certification. To become a certified trainer, leaders of volunteer monitoring groups must complete an in-person train-the trainer session with the SAV Watchers program coordinator, where participants are given a brief lesson on SAV, practice SAV species identification and learn how to properly collect, record and digitize the data. Volunteer monitoring group members must complete training as specified by the monitoring group coordinator to obtain SAV monitor certification.

Equipment Needed for Data Collection

  • Data sheet and pencil
  • GPS-enabled device
  • Watch or clock
  • Camera
  • SAV species guide or Pocket Field Guide
  • Dry erase marker
  • Secchi disc
  • Measuring tape or pre-marked rope
  • Paddle, pole, or long rigid device
  • Binoculars (optional)

Data Collection

The following five steps are needed to make a complete Tier II observation.

  1. Record basic information on the data sheet.
  2. Record the unique Site ID.
  3. Record SAV, habitat and site observations on the data sheet according to the Tier 2 SAV Watchers Manual instructions and take corresponding pictures (pages 25-36).

Data Submission

After collecting data, these three steps are needed to submit a complete Tier II observation.

  1. Label and organize photos by monitoring event.
  2. Digitize data sheets.
  3. Submit data to SAV Workgroup.
Volunteer in a kayak drops Secchi disc into the water.
Volunteers monitor water depth using a Secchi disc as part of the Tier 2 SAV Watchers program. ((Photo by Sky Swanson/UMCES Integration and Application Network))

SAV Watchers Program Resources

The following links contain resources essential to SAV Watchers Program participants.