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June 1 Returning to Monitoring: A Letter to Volunteers

Dear WAV Volunteers,

During this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous questions regarding volunteer monitoring activities. While we value your dedication and the data you collect, we as a program (Water Action Volunteers, the Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison Division of Extension) do not expect your participation if you are not comfortable being involved at this time.  Your personal safety and good public health practice come first!

Throughout the past months, I’ve been working within the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison Division of Extension guidelines regarding suspension of volunteer monitoring activities and my support of volunteers during this time. More recently, I have been developing a plan for volunteers to safely return to monitoring that aligns with the Department of Natural Resources plan for resuming field operations in general and monitoring activities, specifically.

Baseline Monitoring activities of temperature, transparency, dissolved oxygen, stream flow, and biotic index can resume in June if/when you are comfortable with state and local conditions and your own risk factors. Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and US Center for Disease Control (CDC), as well as, any local guidelines or restrictions regarding social distancing, travel, and activities should be followed. Monitoring alone or with members of the same household where limited or no travel is required to reach the stream site is preferred.

If you typically monitor with a person (s) who are not part of your household, consider having each household monitor alternating months rather than monitoring as a team each month. If you choose this option, strive to have a member of the same household present for safety reasons even if that person is not a trained WAV volunteer. Do not enter the stream if there are safety concerns due to stream depth, velocity or any other condition which would cause you to feel less than fully safe in entering the stream.  See the note, further below, for additional information on monitoring from a bridge or streambank.

Your local coordinator or WAV group may issue its own specific guidance on resuming monitoring for you to follow. If you do not receive one locally, use this (above) as your general reference.

At this time, I can ship small supplies to replenish baseline monitoring kits of current trained volunteers, if needed. Learn more and sign up via this form: https://forms.gle/WgyyGyLMr1N6XM7F6.

In accordance with UW-Madison restrictions, in-person training events will not be scheduled for the month of June.

There is always some level of risk associated with volunteer monitoring.  Participants should weigh that risk with their own situation and not participate if they are uncomfortable with the associated risks.

Note on monitoring without entering the stream:

Temperature, transparency and dissolved oxygen could all be monitored from a bridge or streamside if needed. The transparency methods factsheet found here, https://wateractionvolunteers.org/files/2019/10/5Transparency-Monitoring2010.pdf, specifically describes the "bucket" method. The WAV video for dissolved oxygen, found here, https://canvas.wisc.edu/courses/172203/pages/monitoring-methods-dissolved-oxygen, shows the alternative of attaching the sample bottle onto a pvc pole. A thermometer could be attached in a similar way. For transparency, dissolved oxygen temperature if the pole (or bucket) allows a way to collect the sample in the main channel flow, and about 4" down from the stream surface or halfway down from the surface to the stream bottom, it would be within guidelines.

Stream flow and biotic index will have to be omitted that month, which should be recorded in your notes when entered into SWIMS.

Letter to Volunteers June 2, 2020