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Enrollment for volunteer lake, stream monitoring open

Mullet Lake
Teresa Homsi

Water quality data for various Michigan streams and lakes is used to make policy and management plans, but a lot of that data actually come from regular people. A state-led program is now looking for more volunteers to help monitor water bodies near them.

Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of streams - but only so many biologists. That’s why the state trains volunteers to help test and report water quality.

The MiCorps Program has a network of about 500 volunteers, who monitor 300 lakes.

Erick Elgin is with the MSU Extension Service, he manages the volunteer program. He said the data collected by volunteers is used by lake residents, state agencies, and researchers.

“This is a great program to get out on the water, and not only enjoy our lakes, but then also to help understand and protect them," Elgin said. "It’s a great way to build community as well, having more volunteers, the merrier.”

Elgin said volunteers are trained, and their data are reviewed for quality assurance.

“When we look at the proportion of data collected by volunteers and compare it to biologists, there is a lot more volunteer data," Elgin said. "The volunteer data makes our understanding of lakes way more rich.”

Enrollment is now open for the program, and anyone - regardless of prior experience - can participate.

For new volunteers, Elgin recommends water clarity as a good parameter to start with. Volunteers can also get together in groups with a program team leader.

For more information on volunteering, visit the MiCorps website. In-person and virtual training is in May.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at