Friends of the Mad River staff train volunteers at Lareau Park for the upcoming Mad River Watch season. Photo courtesy of FMR.

Friends of the Mad River is recruiting volunteers for this summer’s Mad River Watch Program. Volunteers help keep the community informed about the health of the river, its tributaries, and the surrounding lands. They collect data and make careful observations about the chemical, physical, and biological conditions at sites around The Valley.



Mad River Watch has been running since 1985 with the support of community volunteers. “Some of our current volunteers have been part of the program since its earliest days,” said Friends of the Mad River (FMR) stewardship manager Ira Shadis. “They have seen the river, and the challenges facing it, change over time. Because of the long-term measurements they recorded, we’ve been able to identify important trends about the health of the river. We know that when it rains, some pollutants wash off the surrounding land and into the river – which is why it makes sense to wait 24 hours after it rains to go swimming. We can see that the river is warming year over year. And we’ve been able to see pH levels change following the passing of the 1990 Clean Air Act.”

In 2021, Friends of the Mad River began a multi-year project to update the Mad River Watch program. These updates aimed to reflect lessons learned from the last 30 years of the program as well as incorporate new methods that better reflect changes to the climate and landscape. “Over the last few years, we’ve started using a custom-built mobile app to record data,” said Shadis. “This app allows us to capture, record, and pull together data and observations much more efficiently than we have in the past. We have also started using other apps to support our observations, like iNaturalist or Merlin, which both help with wildlife identification.”

A training for new and returning volunteers will happen at the end of May and the first field days are scheduled for June 11 and 12. Friends of the Mad River invites community members interested in volunteering to visit their website -- and get in touch with Shadis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..