Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers is a program to provide volunteer scientists with an engaging and educational experience with submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) while also generating useful data for Bay scientists and managers. This is the first official SAV monitoring program for volunteer scientists developed by the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV)—also known as underwater grass—plays an essential role in the Bay ecosystem and provides us with a number of ecosystem services.
Some of the benefits of SAV include:
SAV is sensitive to both positive and negative changes in water quality, and scientists and mangers often look at the status of SAV as an indicator of overall Bay health. Because SAV is such an important component of the Bay ecosystem, the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) and its partners have remained committed to its restoration since the CBP was first established in 1983. Each year since 1984, scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) have partnered with the CBP to map SAV throughout the Bay and its tributaries from aerial imagery. This information has directly informed policy and management decisions that have led to the largest resurgence of SAV in the world.
Despite this significant success in protecting and restoring the Bay’s SAV, we have more work to do to meet our ultimate restoration target. The aerial survey provides useful information on the location and density of SAV beds throughout the Bay, but it does not provide local-scale data on SAV species diversity or habitat conditions. For this reason, scientists have asked volunteers for help collecting more widespread, coordinated and detailed SAV data, which could inform new, targeted restoration efforts and management decisions that help us reach our SAV restoration target sooner.
The Chesapeake Bay SAV Watcher’s program has two tiers. Each tier is aimed at a different user group and represents a different level of monitoring intensity.
Participants in the Tier 1 Monitoring Program use the Water Reporter mobile app or website to upload photos of the SAV they observe while out on the water fishing, kayaking, or paddle boarding even.
Steps for uploading data:
For each photo, volunteers identify the SAV species present at their monitoring location and share the GPS coordinates of the site. Observations appear on the group page, where members can comment on posts to confirm species identification, ask clarifying questions, or share other information. Scientists can use the shared data to get a better idea of which species are growing in different areas of the Bay.
Participants in the Tier 2 Monitoring Program monitor a wide variety of parameters related to SAV growth, diversity and the surrounding habitat. Participants that collect Tier 2 data record their observations on printed datasheets which are then digitized and shared with scientists for incorporation into an interactive map of SAV in the Chesapeake Bay.
To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers program, visit the Resources and Tutorials lists located on this page. Among them, you’ll find the following:
Contact Brooke Landry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 260-8629.