The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2021 recipients of its fifth round of Environmental Science, Education and Outreach grants in the Merrimack Valley Watershed region of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In this round of grants, the MCP awarded grants totaling $29,593 to seven projects that will help fund environmental science, education, and outreach activities related directly to the Merrimack River or its watershed. Funds can be used for activities such as youth or public environmental educational activities, development of outreach and educational materials, river clean ups, water quality testing and monitoring activities, and other science, education, and outreach efforts.
In 2010, the Merrimack was identified by the US Forest Service as the most threatened watershed in the nation in terms of projected loss of private forestland over the next 20 years. The two-state region of the Merrimack Watershed spans a total of 2.1 million acres and 3,275 square miles of which 54% is in NH and 46% in Massachusetts. The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, NH and flows through eight of NH’s largest cities, then continues into Massachusetts to its mouth at Newburyport.
Launched in 2012, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of private organizations and public agencies working on land conservation in the Merrimack Valley Watershed. The partners share a vision of conserving (on a strictly willing-seller/donor basis) the region’s most ecologically significant forests and the key connections between them for wildlife passage and human recreation.
Applicant: Appalachian Mountain Club
MCP Grant Award: $5,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $51,903
The Dragonfly Mercury Project
The industrialized urban environment and legacy of pollution in the Merrimack River watershed has resulted in exposure of Lowell and Lawrence residents to mercury through recreational fishing and fish consumption. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) will engage teachers, students, community organizations and families in the Dragonfly Mercury Project, a national-scale monitoring, research, education and community science project, to help reduce the community’s exposure to mercury through fish consumption. Staff will partner with community organizations, students and teachers to conduct mercury testing using dragonfly biosentinels and then to develop education materials to inform the community of their research results.
Applicant: Merrimack River Watershed Council
MCP Grant Award: $5,000
Total Project Costs: $9,375
Trash and debris are visible, demoralizing, and persistent harms to the Merrimack River and its tributaries. The Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) recognizes the need to coordinate consistent cleanup events in a strategic manner throughout our river system. The MRWC will a) build an informed multi-year trash reduction strategy, b) develop curriculum around plastic consumption, debris containment, and advocacy, c) prepare and implement four land-and-water cleanup events in 2022, and d) work with key municipalities to customize an approach, content and schedule for disseminating relevant information and the specific findings of our strategy. These efforts are vital for all communities, but particularly underserved individuals who might lack access to information about the health of the river and how to reduce plastic consumption.
Applicant: Ipswich River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $2,500
Total Project Costs: $17,328
The Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) began the RiverWatch program to address water quality threats to the River, and now 50 volunteers monitor 42 sites across the Ispwich, Parker and Essex River watersheds. The results of testing conducted by trained citizen-science volunteers is uploaded to the EPA Water Quality Exchange for sharing with state agencies that track the ecological health of waterways. The IRWA will continue this established program, expanding it to include a bacterial pathogen testing program. Throughout 2022, data will be compiled monthly and reviewed against quality control guidelines. Results will be converted into a scoring system as a basis for a river health index which will be used to report on the current state of the river, with recommendations on how conditions can be improved.
Applicant: Nashua River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $3,643
Total Project Costs: $4,616
Nashua River Nature Detectives:
Using city parks and trails in Nashua, the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) will provide an engaging clue-based program series for teaching youth about protecting land and water and the importance of the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers. One Saturday each month during January through May 2022, staff will lead 20 participants ages 6 -14 on an afternoon “investigation” at a selected park or city trail. Using the assigned “sleuth sheet,” families will follow clues to discover and explore connections between water, land, nature, and city history. NRWA staff will lead each exploration. Participants’ discoveries, photographs and sketches will be curated for display at the Nashua Public Library.
Applicant: Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Inc.
MCP Grant Award: $4,450
Estimated Total Project Costs: $8,950
The Wonders of Land Conservation
The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) will present a new series of 8 – 10 public educational and outreach programs to showcase how urban land conservation in Lowell is contributing to water quality in the Merrimack River watershed. Public programming will be offered at LP&CT conservation properties to highlight above-ground and below-ground research that is contributing to climate science, entomology, geology, urban ecology, herpetology, and aquatic chemistry, among others. Citizen scientists will contribute to real research project data and youth from nearby schools will be exposed to conservation professionals in the field. After these programs, LP&CT will host a panel presentation featuring how LP&CT properties are actively used in conservation research in Lowell.
Applicant: Mass Audubon
MCP Grant Award: $5,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $16,906
Rivers to Sea
Mass Audubon’s Rivers to Sea program will serve students in elementary and middle schools in Lawrence. It is designed to familiarize students with the Merrimack River watershed and the aquatic ecosystems within it, connect them with community members who are working to protect it, and give them the chance to design and carry out action projects to ensure the watershed is healthy for the human and wildlife communities that live there. The program will take place after school and will run in blocks of 10-week sessions, meeting daily, and Mass Audubon educators will join once each week. Students will participate in community stewardship projects that benefit the river and watershed, such as water quality monitoring, planting of native vegetation, macroinvertebrate study and more, and share their work with their families and the greater public.
Applicant: Seaside Sustainability
MCP Grant Award: $4,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $137,145
Green Scholars is a project-based learning curriculum that educates students on environmental science, including water-based content and watershed science, and empowers them to take action. By engaging students in the research of sources of pollution, they are motivated to create solutions and undertake active roles. The use of project-based learning practices inspires students to pursue careers focused on protecting water systems. In 2022, Seaside Sustainability will expand the reach of this program by transitioning the in-person curriculum to a web platform to increase the number of students who have the opportunity to learn how to directly impact their local community and environment. The web platform will also allow participation at a lower subscription price, expanding affordable program access for schools in underserved communities.