The 2021 Sampling Season is Almost Here!

Monitoring begins the week of April 25. Your supplies should arrive in the mail in early April. Sampling calendars are available below:

General Sampling Calendar Lake of the Ozarks SW Missouri (Table Rock, Taneycomo, Bull Shoals, Stockton, Pomme de Terre)

Volunteers Needed

Interested in monitoring a Missouri lake? Do you know someone who might be? We are always looking for folks to collect water samples around the state. We are also actively looking for volunteers at a few lake sites, including:

  • Blue Springs (Jackson County)
  • Table Rock Site 14 (near Point 16 at Hydes Hollow)
  • Table Rock Site 5 (near Point 13 at the mouth of Piney Creek)
  • Taneycomo (at Powersite Dam)
  • Mozingo (Nodaway County)
  • Truman (ideally at dam)

Map showing the 115 lake sites monitored by Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program participants during 2020

2020 Data Summary

We at the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our volunteers! The 2020 Data Report is coming soon, but here's a brief summary of our volunteers' efforts.
In 2020 we received nearly 800 water samples from volunteers. That is quite an achievement, especially during a pandemic. We have added a few measurements during the last few years. If you are not collecting samples for cyanotoxin, nitrate, ammonium, or measuring temperature at depth and would like to, let us know and we will provide you with the training and tools to do so.

  • Almost 3/4 of volunteers collected cyanotoxin samples
    These samples help us determine which lakes have two of the toxins commonly produced by cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae).
  • Over 1/3 of volunteers collected Nitrate and Ammonium samples
    While all volunteers collect samples for total nitrogen analysis, nitrate and ammonium samples help us understand how much of certain types of nitrogen are available to algae in our lakes.
  • Nearly 1/3 of samples were accompanied by a temperature/depth profile
    This information lets us know when lake stratification occurs and how deep the thermocline is. We're still looking into how to present these interesting data to volunteers.

Improving Our Data Quality

Every year the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program gains new participants, and our returning participants build on their existing experience.

For data continuity, it’s vitally important that we make sure we are all moving in the same direction. Specifically, we sample our sites at nearly the same time and use the same methods. Understandably, after a long winter of not sampling, we may forget some aspects of monitoring. We now have a series of YouTube videos that can help our volunteers remember how to perform all the sampling tasks and reduce sampling error. 

Fortunately, many of the errors we find are correctable. For example, if a volunteer fails to record their lake name or the sampling date, we can usually get their data in the right spot by examining handwriting and looking for gaps in the final data. Unfortunately, in some cases the data must be discarded.

Nearly everyone performed all tasks perfectly in 2020, but there is room for improvement in a few cases. Here is a highlight of the most common errors observed with the 2020 samples.

  1. Failure to fold filters (Exhibit A)

    This is a big problem! If the filters are not folded in half before securing them in their paper “houses”, material will transfer from the filter onto the paper housing. This results in an underestimation of the material in the lake. In these cases, we must discard the filters. Folding the filter also ensures there is enough room to staple the paper filter house closed without stapling through the filter.

  2. Writing on the filter house with the filter inside (Exhibit A)

    This creates holes in the filter that allow material to pass through and results in an underestimation of chlorophyll or suspended sediment. These filters must be discarded.

  3. Exhibit A: It's important to not record information on the filter house while the filter is inside. This filter is also an example of what happens when the filter is not folded. The material we measure stuck to the paper house and peeled off. This filter was discarded and the data not used.

  4. Failure to record lake, site, full date. (Exhibit B)

    This really slows us down in the lab. We can usually match the water bottle or filters to the sample, but it takes time. It helps us immensely if the appropriate information is recorded on the field sheet and the corresponding bottles and filters. Additionally, please make sure you’re recording the same info on everything.

  5. Using something other than a Sharpie to write on bottles. (Exhibit B)

    Many volunteers have used ballpoint pens or other pens to write on the plastic sample bottles. When the bottle thaws, condensation causes the ink to run off. Usually, I’m able to catch these and rewrite the information in Sharpie before putting the samples in our freezer. However, this takes time and occasionally I miss a couple. In those cases, the samples are often discarded.

  6. Exhibit B: The site number was not recorded for this lake. Some lakes have multiple volunteers monitoring several sites; including the site number is especially important in these cases. Additionally, the volunteer did not use a Sharpie, so the ink ran. We were able to match this bottle up with its information and can use the data. (lake name blocked out for privacy!)

  7. Overfilling cyanotoxin vials

    If the small glass vials are filled more than halfway, they tend to break as the freezing water expands. As a result, the sample is lost.

  8. Using TSS filters from a previous year

    The TSS filters are numbered in a way that indicates the year (1-20, 2-20, 3-20, etc.). Each season we hold back some filters for each site so that we can calibrate our machines. If you use filters from a previous year, it is unlikely that we have any of those calibration filters on hand.

  9. Ripping or tearing TSS filters. (Exhibits C1 and C2)

    Obviously, it’s best if the filter doesn’t tear. However, if a piece of the TSS filter tears off, you can place the torn-off piece on the filter and fold it inside. These filters are analyzed by weight and if all the filter is present (even in two pieces) we can still weigh it.

  10. Exhibit C1: Sometimes pieces of the filter break off. We can work with this! (see Exhibit C2)

    Exhibit C2: Place the broken piece on top of the filter and fold it inside. When we weigh the filters, everything will be present.

  11. Under or overfilling nutrient bottles

    If the nutrient bottles are overfilled, the bottoms bulge out and then they roll around the lab. Conversely, we often need every bit of water in the nutrient bottles. If they are underfilled we can run out of water for our analyses. Ideally, these bottles should be filled to the bottom of the shoulder. We mark the nutrient bottles with a “Fill” line to help show you how much to fill them.

The vast majority of samples received from volunteers leads to high quality data that helps us monitor the health of our lakes. While we hate throwing out data, we sometimes have to in order to maintain the integrity of the dataset.

You put a lot of time and effort into collecting and processing your water samples. By making sure to follow the proper procedures, you can ensure that the data generated will be meaningful.

Thanks, and have a great summer!

View the LMVP training videos on YouTube

Brought to you by the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program