|Programmatic Coordination Newsletter||contact: Paul T. Jacobson (pjacobson@LangheiEcology.com)|
|Volume 6, April 1, 2002|
|Urbanization and chironomid pupal exuviae||
| The low diversity of benthic invertebrates in highly urban
streams makes it difficult to differentiate the degree of impairment of
such habitats using biological indicators; e.g. the number of EPT taxa decreases
rapidly beyond a "threshold" of development. Chironomid larvae,
however, persist even in highly degraded streams. Does chironomid community
structure (relative abundance of genera and species) change more gradually
over a gradient of urbanization? If so, it might be possible to identify
indicator species, or to construct chironomid metrics that would be more
sensitive to changes in quality of urban streams. The degree of association
between the distribution of chironomid species and particular types of urban
stressors, such as oxygen fluctuations or sediment-bound metals is unknown.
In order to answer these questions, a small-watershed survey has recently been initiated by Dr. Susan Gresens (Towson University) in collaboration with Dr. Leonard Ferrington (University of Minnesota- St. Paul), with the assistance of the City of Baltimore Water Quality Management Office and Baltimore County DEPRM. The unusual feature of this survey is that the floating pupal skins (exuviae) are being sampled instead of the benthic larvae themselves. Analysis of chironomid exuviae has three advantages: 1) samples integrate over all habitats for a considerable distance upstream, 2) it takes much less time to sort exuviae from floating debris, and 3) exuviae can usually be identified to species with minimal preparation, in contrast to the larval stage. Leonard Ferrington has previously used this method to develop chironomid indicators of metal contamination at a Superfund site, and of urban impact in Kansas City streams.
Currently, the survey includes twenty-five sites in Baltimore City and
County, which span a range of urbanization from mostly forested watersheds,
to areas with high residential density and commercial or industrial land
use. Exuviae are being collected at 3-week intervals. In addition, basic
field measurements of water quality are being taken, and nitrate, phosphate
and associated anions are being analyzed in the lab. A field-survey method
is being used for semi-quantitative estimation of attached algal biomass.
On several dates during the survey we anticipate collecting sediment samples
for analysis of metals. Collections will continue at least until fall
2002, which should cover the most active periods of chironomid emergence.
Analysis of samples and data will continue into 2003.
Virginia Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program Letter of Agreement reaffirmed for 2002; Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay joining as new signatory to the agreement
|The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance); the Virginia
Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR); the Virginia Department
of Environmental Quality (DEQ); and the Virginia Division Izaak Walton League
of America, Virginia Save Our Streams Program (IWLA VA SOS) signed a Letter
of Agreement on April 9, 2002 to implement the Virginia Citizen Water Quality
Monitoring Program. The 2002 Letter of Agreement shows the signatories'
dedication to support the Virginia Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program
throughout the Commonwealth for the purpose of collecting useful water quality
information and encouraging environmental stewardship. This Letter of Agreement
continues the collaborative partnership begun in 1998 and reaffirmed in
the 1999 LOA among DEQ, DCR and IWLA VA SOS; the Alliance for the Chesapeake
Bay is entering in 2002 as a new partner. The Agreement was officially signed
as part of the Kick-Off reception to the 2002 Environment Virginia Conference
at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. Signatories included:
David Bancroft, Alliance Executive Director; Jay Gilliam, VA SOS Coordinator;
Jay Bolton, President, Virginia Division Izaak Walton League of America;
Joseph H. Maroon, DCR Director; and Robert G. Burnley, DEQ Director. Tayloe
Murphy, Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources received a signed copy
of the agreement at the event.
The 2002 Letter of Agreement reflects the signatories' plan for cooperative efforts, outlines the function of the Virginia Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program, and identifies the roles and responsibilities of the signatories. The 2002 Letter of Agreement also defines data uses for citizen-collected water quality data in Virginia. While uses are not limited, specifically identified uses are education, baseline information, local land use decisions, red-flag for acute pollution events, special studies, and state water quality assessments.
As the coordinator for the successful Chesapeake Bay Citizen Monitoring Program, it is appropriate that the Alliance join as a new signatory to the 2002 Letter of Agreement. Launched in 1985, the Alliance's Citizen Monitoring Program originally was designed to test the possibility of including a permanent, Bay-wide volunteer monitoring network among the long-term Bay management strategies of state and federal governments. The Citizen Monitoring Program has done that and more. Over 400 volunteers across the Chesapeake Bay region - in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have monitored over 300 sites. Some have worked with the Alliance for more than fifteen years, watching their rivers through the seasons and regularly submitting the valuable data they collect. Volunteers in this program learn to be stewards of their rivers and surrounding lands, and can foster this ethic in others while providing valuable water quality information. Citizen volunteers collect weekly water quality samples and perform tests with equipment and supplies provided by the Alliance. Tidal and non-tidal waters are tested for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, salinity (where appropriate), water clarity, and weather observations. Volunteers at tidal sites in Virginia and Maryland have monitored water quality at shoreline sites to determine if the water quality meets habitat quality objectives for the potential restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is not new to partnerships and collaboration:
the regional nonprofit organization, founded in 1971, grew out of a citizens'
movement that drew public and political attention to the dire state of
the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Specifically, a coalition of citizens worked
to bring regional governmental leaders together to discuss a Bay-wide
coordinated approach to restoration. Throughout its 30-year history, the
Alliance has worked to engage all the citizens of the region in the environmental
and public policy decision-making that impacts the health of the Bay and
its rivers. By fostering partnerships and building consensus on difficult
issues that will determine the eventual success of the restoration of
the Chesapeake, the Alliance serves as the 'Voice of the Bay'.
|Pilot Study for Montgomery County and Maryland DNR Data Integration: Comparison of Benthic Sampling Protocols For Freshwater Streams||
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring a Versar study comparing benthic sampling protocols used by the Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) and Montgomery County, Maryland to assess freshwater, non-tidal streams. Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection are participants in this study. Montgomery County has monitored streams since 1994 and is currently exploring adoption of MBSS protocols for benthic invertebrates. A methods comparability study was needed to ensure that the change in methods would not affect assessment results for their program and to facilitate use of County data by MBSS to develop consistent assessments of stream condition. This pilot study, involving two established programs, afforded an opportunity to develop a statistical design and comparison approach that has general applicability for the integration of county and State monitoring programs.
To begin, Versar developed an experimental design for comparing the effects of differences in the Montgomery County and MBSS benthic sampling and laboratory processing protocols on Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores for a wide range of stream conditions. Applying this randomized paired comparison design, Montgomery County field staff collected paired samples at 24 sites in Spring 2001 using D-net and kick seine methods. Results were targeted to assessing the effects of differing these field sampling protocols, as well as laboratory subsampling routines (100- vs. 200-organisms) and taxonomic level (identification of oligochaetes and chironomids to family vs. genus).
Analyses to date indicate that while some individual biological metrics differed between samples collected using different program protocols (D-net, 100 organism vs. kick seine, 200-organism), that the overall IBI assessments were not significantly different. Comparisons isolating subsample size differences alone suggest that scores for a 200-organism sample can be predicted quite accurately from the first sample of 100 organisms. Comparisons by different taxonomic identification level are in progress. Optimization analysis will be used to develop estimates of targeted maximum precision for characterizing a watershed given a fixed total cost (i.e., whether improved taxonomic resolution, larger subsample size, or greater overall sample size yield the most cost-effective approach to enhanced precision in watershed estimates). The final results evaluating the effects of field and laboratory protocols on estimates of stream condition will provide a means of effectively integrating stream monitoring programs.
|Developing a Framework for Public Health Indicators in
the Chesapeake Bay
|contact: Kristen Chossek
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Baltimore, MD 21205
|The goal of this project is to increase public awareness about
the connection between the health of the environment and human health, specifically
in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The project will identify indicators suitable
for establishing a public health framework for tracking both measurable
environmental conditions in the watershed and establishing their relationship
to population exposure and human health. The first step is to identify environmental
monitoring activities in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland,
in particular water quality monitoring, and the potential utility of each
as public health indicators. All identifiable data sets on the state, local
and federal level are being examined to determine the types of water quality
data available and which can be directly linked to primary public health
In selecting indicators, priority will be given to indicators where a
population exposure is associated with an established adverse health outcome.
Analysis will include identification of public health indicators derived
from existing data; identification of gaps in existing data; identification
of available local, state and federal infrastructure and capacity for
measuring the selected indicators for the purpose of public health assessment
and management. Implementation of the public health framework created
by this project would allow tracking of trends over time and will serve
as a link between existing programs in water quality management and surveillance
to protect the public's health. Ultimately, based on this strategy, improved
support and more targeted prevention and policy interventions can be developed
to bridge the gap between environmental monitoring programs and their
utility for protecting public health, and to guide legislators in developing
appropriate regulatory and enforcement laws.
|Detection of Fecal Coliform Bacteria Using Coliscan EasyGel||contact: Dr. Karin Readel
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Physics Bldg. 111
Baltimore, MD 21250
|Fecal coliform bacteria, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae,
are found in the feces of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Though
not harmful themselves, large numbers of fecal coliform bacteria have been
associated with the presence of other pathogenic organisms. These disease-causing
organisms are often very hard to detect due to their small numbers, and
low survival rate outside their host organisms. Fecal coliform bacteria,
on the other hand, can be detected very easily, and are therefore useful
indicators of contaminated water.
Micrology Laboratories has developed a simple method for fecal coliform detection called "Coliscan EasyGel ®". Each testing unit consists of a specially treated petri dish and a bottle of liquid medium. A small sample of the water to be tested is added to the media and poured into the petri dish. Ions in the petri dish coating react with the liquid causing it to gel completely within about 30-40 minutes. Plates are incubated for 24 hours at 37º C at which time colonies can be counted. The media contains two dye- linked sugars that are activated through bacterial enzymes. The enzyme ß-galactosidase is produced by general coliform bacteria and it results in a pink colony color. The enzyme ß-glucuronidase is produced by true fecal coliforms, including E. coli, and results in a blue-green color. Therefore fecal coliform colonies will appear as a dark purplish blue as a result of production of both of these dyes, and can easily be distinguished from the pink general coliform colonies.
Over the past two years, I have used this technique to monitor the fecal
coliform levels at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study's main sampling sites,
and at various locations on the UMBC campus, on a weekly basis. We have
found that levels of fecal coliform bacteria vary widely throughout these
areas. UMBC campus sites generally have lower levels than the urban locations
within Baltimore City. Within the Baltimore Ecosystem Study's sites, the
lowest levels are found at Pond Branch, which is a small completely forested
watershed. Those results are comparable with samples take from the Conservation
and Environmental Research Area (a 45 acre forested tract of land) on
the UMBC campus. The more urban areas on the Gwynns Falls (e.g. Carroll
Park and Gwynns Run) typically have the highest levels which are well
above those often identified with public health hazards. However, extremely
high levels have been observed in the water flowing in storm drains on
campus as well. Increased runoff due to precipitation generally increases
the bacterial levels at most sites, which often remain elevated for a
period of several weeks afterward.