Shifting gears towards virtual trainings

 Due to the pandemic, the CMC team has had to quickly adjust our volunteer engagement strategies and monitoring support to ensure the safety of all participants. These efforts have focused on established monitoring groups by creating virtual training videos and certification programs. This also means implementing new safety guidelines for monitors that include social distancing protocols.

As we wade into this new way of engaging our community, we are constantly learning how to create positive virtual experiences. We have also encountered some challenges along the way. Engaging new groups virtually is difficult due to the hands-on nature of learning new equipment or identifying macroinvertebrates. It takes some creative thinking and trial and error to adapt content and training to new formats. The CMC team is continually trying ways to improve and adjust our virtual format. For example, ALLARM discovered it takes twice as long to demonstrate calibrating a meter virtually than it does in person.  

Out of the challenges have also come new tools and resources. Here are some of the virtual tools and resources that have been successfully employed by the CMC team over the last six months. If you or your organization has had success moving your training and support to virtual platforms, and you would like to share your tips and tricks with the broader community, contact Liz Chudoba.

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (RiverTrends)

  • Virtual recertification program that includes an online interactive webinar coupled with an online QA quiz. Registration is required for the webinar portion.
  • Training videos that demonstrate the proper sampling techniques for the RiverTrends methods and equipment, and review common issues and questions. These are posted online and available for anyone to view.
  • An online supply request form for monitors to easily request additional chemicals or equipment, all of which are mailed.
  • Additional online support for monitors via email, phone calls and video chats to answer questions and troubleshoot issues.

Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (Stream Team)

  • Monthly to bi-monthly open video calls for volunteers to ask questions, discuss concerns, and refresh on specific content.
  • Online webinars (Creek Courses) to provide background content on aquatic resource topics (ex: Chesapeake Bay, Water Policy, Land Use and Geology).
  • Training videos for reference and training on protocols and techniques 
  • A duplicate sample quality control check for all volunteers after pausing monitoring for 4 months.
  • Live virtual hands-on chemical monitoring workshop where volunteers received the monitoring supplies in advance and could walk through the water testing process in real time.
  • Live virtual training and presentations on uploading the data to the Chesapeake Data Explorer and interpreting water quality data.

Izaak Walton League of America (VASOS)

  • Virtual training sessions, both live and recorded, to learn about stream health and Macroinvertebrate ID.
  • Online Certification tests to prepare volunteers for field sessions to quickly finish the  monitor certification process.
  • Monthly webinar series on Clean Water topics, such as stream health and drinking water, monitoring trash, the impact of salt, and more! 
  • Online resources for volunteers like bug id guides, instructions and data sheets that were normally given out at in- person trainings.
  • Support for monitors via email, phone calls and video chats to answer questions and troubleshoot issues.

colorimeter kit