Climate Change Committee to start citizen scientist program

By Kendra Caruso | Aug 11, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Belfast Harbor.

Belfast — The Belfast Climate Change Committee is establishing a citizen scientist program to monitor water levels in Belfast Harbor in the interests of heading heading off climate change threats.

The committee generated a report last year that looked into how much the sea level will rise in Belfast Harbor as the world’s glaciers continue to melt. The study concluded that Belfast would see a 2- to 11-inch water rise but couldn’t make a more targeted prediction because of the lack of data for the harbor.

This was the inspiration for the new citizen scientist program, according to Climate Change Committee Chairman Jon Beal.

“One of the reports was that we needed more specific information about water level surges, high tide, etc., in Belfast,” Beal said. “So, what we said was ‘we need to develop an active management plan for the coastline, we need precise scientific information analyses in order to make higher resolutions in real-time local predictions.’”

So far, the committee has received a one-year grant from an anonymous donor to operate the program. The committee intends to continue the program for several years to monitor how the harbor is reacting as the climate changes.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute became interested in the committee's report and is helping to draft a plan for the program. The committee is working with the National Weather Agency to identify key areas that are most susceptible to climate change in the harbor.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute will be overseeing the citizen scientist program for its first year.

Sarah Kirn, an institute program manager, has been working with the committee to establish the program. She said data accuracy relies on how clear and practical instructions are for citizens collecting data.

“If we make this project complicated, fewer people will participate, but maybe the data will be, potentially, more useful,” Kirn said. “We could also define it so the protocols are quite simple and that would make it easier for more people to participate, but maybe the data we’re collecting wouldn’t be quite so informative. So, we’re balancing lots of things when we design this project.”

She appreciates Belfast’s initiative to tackle and deal with climate change as it comes, but said she is not surprised because people in the state tend to be proactive with the environment.

“Maine has a history of not waiting for someone to save us,” Kirn said.

Eventually, the climate committee wants to observe wind and water patterns to get a clearer picture of how the harbor is going to change as climate change continues to affect the planet.

The committee hopes to begin the program in October. A public hearing for the proposed initiative has not yet been set, but is planned before final rollout to obtain public input. The committee welcomes public comment by mail or email at belfast.cit.sci@gmail.com.

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 11, 2019 20:34

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