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Monmouth University has launched a Coastal Lakes Community Observing Network (CLONet) focused on improving the health of Monmouth County lakes, thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation. Through the project, Monmouth University School of Science and Urban Coast Institute staff and students will partner with municipalities and community groups to organize citizen science efforts, workshops and on-campus conferences dedicated to understanding the causes of environmental problems facing these seaside water bodies.

Monmouth County has 12 lakes along its shoreline that have historically provided a variety of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors and served as important habitats for fish and wildlife. However, intense development around the lakes has introduced pollution from stormwater drainage, litter and other sources, degrading these aquatic ecosystems. As a result, many of the county’s coastal lakes suffer from neglect, experience harmful algal blooms, and are often valued less for the natural resources and recreational opportunities they offer and more as an element of local stormwater drainage systems.

A number of coastal lake organizations and commissions have formed to preserve and restore their local lakes. The effectiveness of these organizations in achieving their goals has varied from place to place depending on the availability of funding, local interest and scientific expertise. Through the CLONet project, Monmouth and UCI staff are working alongside and training members of these organizations to monitor physical (for example, depth, sediment thickness, temperature, salinity), water quality (dissolved oxygen, pH), and biological (algae, bacteria) parameters in their waters. The University researchers developed standardized monitoring methods and quality assurance protocols for the community groups.

Community workshops will be held in the lake areas under the guidance of University faculty, staff and students to mentor each community group on the use and applications of the project’s analysis techniques and future restoration plan development and implementation. The project will also yield lessons and best practices that can be applied to other coastal lakes.

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