The Wicomico Creekwatchers sample 21 sites within the Wicomico River watershed, chosen to represent both tidal and non-tidal waters (see map), on a biweekly schedule, beginning the second week of March and continuing through the first week of November each year (18 dates). Water samples are collected by citizen volunteers, who simultaneously collect environmental data, including Secchi depth (as a measure of water clarity), wind speed estimates, water temperature, etc. (see sampling form).
Samples are chilled and transferred to the Salisbury University Department of Biological Sciences analytical laboratory for analysis by student volunteers. This analysis includes measurement of pH, salinity, and chlorophyll-a using a YSI 6920 sonde with a YSI 650 MDS; nitrate using an ion-selective electrode; and phosphate using a HACH spectrophotometer. Samples are also prepared for total nitrogen and total phosphorus analysis at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory.
Bacterial monitoring of fecal enterococci (generally accepted as an indicator of waterborne pathogens and thus of risk to human health) is conducted at eight of the sampling sites. Protocol follows that of the Mid-Atlantic Tributary Assessment Coalition (MTAC), with sampling beginning immediately after Memorial Day and continuing through the first week of October (10 dates).
Annual mean values are calculated and mapped using GIS for each sampling site, and for all four functional units (Ponds, Upper Wicomico, Lower Wicomico, and Wicomico Creek). The latter are compared with the previous year and with a long-term average, and data are presented in an Annual Report.